An emotionally-laden story about a young police officer who travels to the UK in the 1950s from the Gold Coast to seek a new life illustrates the profound impact AI could have on the future of factual filmmaking.
AI was used to recreate half of the visual scenes from researched documents.
Titled, The Chairman, the promo of the story tells of a series of key challenges faced by the 25-year-old. From career changes, starting a family, seeing his children placed in foster care, to eventually giving up hope in the UK and returning to Ghana where he’s courted by politicians and CEOs.
The creator, David Dunkley Gyimah, a Reader/ Associate Professor at Cardiff University, produced the short biopic to test the potential of AI in historical factual storytelling and raise discussions about its application. “If you can IA it” (Imagine it ‘appening), he says “you can AI it”. The feedback has been overwhelming.
There are real concerns in AI says Dr Gyimah ethical and social which is heavily documented and should be taken seriously. But for some communities and less resourced individuals aspiring to make films AI offers interesting gains.
For instance the 1934 Laval Decree, which ended in 1960, barred African directors from filming in French-speaking countries on the continent less they develop anti-imperialist ideas. AI can help develop impressionistic archive.
Aside from its use to create historical scenes in The Chairman, it’s also a story boarding tool facilitating new methods for production for experienced filmmakers and novices.
Gyimah knows The Chairman story well because it’s actually about his late father. “The most personal offers the most creative” is a quote attributed to filmmaker Martin Scorsese. The Chairman is also a painful story and when Gyimah first set out to create it, it attracted comments on social media with people posting their family’s photos. @JoLewisHolmes wrote
“This is making me cry. My dad just started to tell us history about or what he went to move into the UK. He finally felt ready to tell us we had no idea”.
A lack of media and archive was one of the main reasons for AI’s adoption, and the approach is already attracting attention from groups engaged in international research seeking to turn their projects into films.
Earlier this year Gyimah catalysed The Chairman from his involvement in the UK creative industries Creative Festival. Later, on research leave in Ghana he was invited to share his findings with the former President of Ghana John Kufuor, and several Media CEOs.
AI filmmaking has attracted particular attention in the last few months, not unsurprisingly with Nicolas Neubert’s amazing GENESIS.
Gyimah says even foreseeing greater enhancement in Gen AI he doesn’t believe AI filmmaking will replace human input in storytelling anymore than previous tech leaps have done. It’ll likely yield another complementary industry just as the Net did with content creation.
Problem solving in storytelling will probably adopt a centaur approach, mixing human strategy with AI, with broader AI mimicking Kirk’s methodology. This is a reference to Star Trek’s Captain Kirk’s interaction with an AI in the1960s series.
That said it’s important there’s a strong understanding and blended knowledge across creative, educational sectors and communities that have tended to be disadvantaged in resource-driven storytelling. And by engaging you become part of the solution to addressing inherent biases.
AI is so far still a tool, it’s not sentient, so it’s the thinking process towards creativity which is the new knowledge-intelligence economy and has huge currency. Systems thinking, design thinking are a few of the methodologies used to enhance this future filmmaking form which is being taught on Cardiff’s programme.
Gyimah’s work spans several disciplines, a former foreign correspondent, producer and video/ mobile journalist. It’s attracted praise from national figures and experts for his work, such as broadcaster Jon Snow, film maker Mark Cousins and Apple for innovation in different styles and areas of storytelling. Snow once referred to him as “an original” when he used to produce him at Channel 4 News. His mobile film on British Bass Culture premiered at the Regent Street Cinema.
The Chairman is part of a wider, ongoing UK Innovation Project housed at Cardiff in the Story Lab, in which Dr Gyimah brought together UK leading innovation experts across a number of industries and universities and rising talent to share their ideas and thoughts on innovation.
AIs ability to fact-checking media in real time thus potentially erasing the use of misleading comments on air.
Evolving innovative use of podcasts; hacking education learning programmes; and a project on Black Women Innovators visualised by AI, were some of the outcomes.