By Grayson Walloga
Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece? Can a robot produce a beautiful and impactful movie script?
In 2016, there was an attempt. Sunspring is a short science fiction film written entirely by an AI that named itself Benjamin. The director, Oscar Sharp, fed hundreds of sci-fi screenplays to the AI and then instructed it to create its own. Was it any good? Well, it did place in the top ten out of hundreds of entries in the Sci-Fi London contest. The film was enjoyed by many, though mostly for the wrong reasons. Sunspring is entirely incoherent. Most of the dialogue is littered with grammatical errors, the plot is non-existent, and the characters have whole conversations on what seems like an alternative plane of reality. That being said, the film is quite fun. Most of the praise should go to the actors who did their best to interpret the mess conjured up by Benjamin. They turned a script composed of utter nonsense into a gripping tale of romance and murder by their own tone and body language which allowed for Benjamin’s story to be realized in some way.
Solicitors, released in 2020, was another short film written by an AI. Two senior student filmmakers from Chapman University used GPT-3 (specifically, the tool “Shortly Read”) to create most of the film, but started off the script with just the following lines: “Barb’s reading a book. A knock on the door. She stands and opens it. Rudy, goofy-looking, stands on the other side.” GPT-3 is a 175 billion parameters Transformer deep learning model from OpenAI that has been used for translation work, writing scripts for films, and even the creation of fake blog posts (not this one).
Solicitors, unlike Sunspring before it, actually manages to make a bit of sense and adhere to a basic three-act structure. It even throws in an M. Night Shyamalan plot twist for good measure! There are times when the dialogue becomes odd or characters contradict themselves after a while, but for a machine-written work it is very impressive. The GPT-3 tends to be more effective on shorter content as it usually has problems retaining a story’s tone. While that means an author might run into issues trying to get a whole novel created with GPT-3, he can still find great success using the technology to overcome writer’s block when working on a particular scene.  Authors should still make sure the machine-written scene makes sense before adopting it into their work. Just because a machine can write a story doesn’t mean it will be any good.
Of course, there is also the problem with interpreting the machine-written story too. Both Sunspring and Solicitors explore the necessary inclusion of human beings in AI writing. For Sunspring, the actors were the ones who turned the poorly written jumble of words into an overly dramatic, so-bad-its-good experience like The Room. The more tightly written Solicitors was half the run time as Sunspring, and had parameters set with the initial scenario being pre-written.  As it stands right now, machine-written works can only truly work through the combined efforts of humans and artificial intelligence.
Eager to find out how entertaining a machine-written story might be, I set out to find one that I could use free of charge. DeepStory is an AI-driven script & story generator that is freely available online. You can write something entirely from scratch or choose from some preloaded prompts. Wishing to be inspired by a new take on a personal favorite tale, I had the AI generate a modified scene from The Lord of the Rings. This scene is set during the Council of Elrond, where the fate of the One Ring is being discussed. DeepStory can generate actions, characters, and dialogue at the touch of a button. The results were…intriguing.
I generated a few actions right after Frodo places the Ring for all to see. Instead of the lengthy discussion of what should be done, the stone floor cracked open and revealed the eye of Sauron! And then another eye of Sauron appears at the front gate. And then the eyes started shooting fireballs at everyone. The scene ended with “glimpses of violence and destruction.” Not exactly in line with the established canon, but divorced from the lore it was certainly entertaining.
I reset the scene and tried again to see if the AI could do something drastically different. This time, DeepStory decided to have Gimli stand tall and march straight towards the Ring, not unlike the film version. A few other characters go with him, one of whom is not even supposed to show up until the next book, but then Pippin “holds the ring like a grenade…” as he nervously inspects his comrades. Frodo then stands up and exclaims, “It is time. The battle of Endor began many years ago. It is time we are all on the same side.” DeepStory seems to have mixed up its nerd franchises. While both AI-generated scenes have their problems, they still have their uses. AI-generated content like this is useful in helping a writer figure out his own style, voice, or themes for his own work. At the very least, you can see an example of how not to write your story, though maybe you’ll find a diamond in the artificially generated rough.
 Annalee Newitz, Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense, Ars Technica (May 30, 2021), https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2021/05/an-ai-wrote-this-movie-and-its-strangely-moving/.
 Sejuti Das, OpenAI’s GPT-3 Now Writing Screenplay For A Short Film With A Plot Twist, Analytics India Magazine (Oct. 26, 2020), https://analyticsindiamag.com/openais-gpt-3-now-writing-screenplay-for-a-short-film-with-a-plot-twist/.
 Przemek Chojecki, Why GPT-3 Heralds a Democratic Revolution in Tech, Built In (Nov. 3, 2020), https://builtin.com/machine-learning/why-gpt-3-heralds-democratic-revolution-tech (last updated July 13, 2021); see Kim Lyons, A college student used GPT-3 to write fake blog posts and ended up at the top of Hacker News, The Verge (Aug. 16, 2020), https://www.theverge.com/2020/8/16/21371049/gpt3-hacker-news-ai-blog.
 See Jacob Vaus & Eli Weiss, How We Made a Movie by an AI Script Writer, Built In, https://builtin.com/media-gaming/ai-movie-script (last updated July 13,2021).
 See ShortlyAI, https://www.shortlyai.com/ (last visited Mar. 10, 2022).
 Newitz, supra note 1.
 Das, supra note 4.
 Vaus & Wiess, supra note 7.
 DeepStory, https://www.deepstory.ai/#!/ (last visited Mar. 10, 2022).
 See Jason Boog, How To Write Movie Reviews with AI, Toward Data Sci. (Feb. 3, 2020), https://towardsdatascience.com/how-to-write-movie-reviews-with-ai-d17f758f2ed5.
Image source: https://blockgeni.com/an-ai-that-can-write-books/