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AI Filmmaking: Bucheon Film Festival Contemplates Its Future, Runs AI Short Film Competition

Given simple or complex prompts from users, programs like Midjourney can create surprising and intricate images. AI model Sora, developed by ChatGPT creator OpenAI and not yet available to the public, goes even further, creating fluid video content in expansive and photorealistic worlds.

Social media channels are now flooded with AI-generated images and video content, and it’s constantly improving. Of course, it’s a small step from there to AI-powered feature film production.

The first Korean film festival to recognize this is the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BiFan), which this summer is hosting the country’s first AI film competition during its 28th edition.

A still from the AI-generated Japanese animation Who Said Death is Beautiful?

Seeing the writing on the wall, BiFan has gone all in on AI this year. In addition to its new AI short film competition, the festival will showcase the AI-generated Japanese feature animation Who Said Death Is Beautiful? and organize a three-day AI International Conference with artificial intelligence experts from around the world.

But the festival doesn’t just screen AI content and examine its dangers and potential – it also develops its own.

It held a 48-hour AI workshop during which participants learned from mentors and got access to world-class AI tools to make their own films. One of them, the short film EGGpremiered during the opening ceremony of BiFan+, the festival’s entertainment industry program.

In addition, BiFan commissioned an AI-generated “Identity Film”, which serves as a trailer for this year’s festival. Set against a backdrop made up of a dizzying array of AI-generated moving images, the film asks, “AI, who are you?”, and answers: “I’m just your mirror.”

While many companies and innovators in the content creation industry in Korea and elsewhere welcome BiFan’s apparent embrace of AI, there are those who are more cautious, and many still reject it outright; the latter cite concerns ranging from job security and copyright infringement to content quality.

It’s the idea of ​​AI being a mirror to those who use it that is key to understanding why BiFan has jumped on board the AI ​​bandwagon so quickly.

Filmmaking will cease to be a struggle for money, it will only be one of creative challenges

Shin Chul, BiFan festival manager

Long before the advent of AI, content creation had moved from a producer-centric model to a user-centric one. As users, we have more control over the digital products we use than ever before, whether that means uploading content to social media channels or publishing books on Amazon.

AI is expected to greatly accelerate this change, as it is designed to be intuitive. Used correctly, it can be a tool that enables a creator to achieve or expand their vision with greatly reduced resources.

In his remarks at the opening of BiFan+, festival director Shin Chul was optimistic about AI’s potential to empower creators and democratize an industry dominated by those in control of the wallet.

Festival director Shin Chul at the opening of BiFan+. Photo: BiFan

During his days as a film producer, he realized early on that he had two choices ahead: “Do I stand in line to get money, or do people stand in line to get money from me?”

He believes AI will change this rigid industrial binary “because now there’s a whole new way of making movies”.

“Filmmaking will stop being a struggle for money, it will just be one of creative challenges,” Shin says.

This is an admirable position to take, one that builds on the creative potential that AI can unleash. But even if we put aside ethical and legal concerns, it’s still not clear to what degree these tools will enable creators to achieve their visions.

A still from Snowfall, a 10-minute short film by Bae Junwon, in the BiFan 2024 AI Film Competition.

Today’s AI-generated content, while undeniably new and impressive, is still rudimentary, and it’s hard to say that it accurately reflects the intentions of the people plugging in the calls.

AI pushes aggressively in its own direction, borrowing liberally from all conventionally generated content that has come before it. How pronounced is the human element? Are these AI tools really a mirror?

One of the keynote speakers at the AI ​​International Conference was Sten-Kristian Saluveer, founder and CEO of Storytek, a content and media technology incubator, and head of programming at Cannes Next, an innovation-focused business and networking platform within the Cannes film market held in connection with the annual Cannes Film Festival in France.

Saluveer outlined the broad, confusing and rapidly evolving realm of AI-powered content. He went over the pros and cons of generative AI, outlined the challenges facing the content creation industry moving forward, and envisioned where that path would take us in the coming years.

When describing how we perceive and approach AI today, Saluveer uses the analogy that it is like ice cream. It’s tasty and exciting, but also has a tendency to be uncontrollable, just as ice cream melts in its cone and drips down the sides.

A panel discussion during the AI ​​International Conference at Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival 2024.

Saluveer explains how AI has come at a very sensitive time for the content creation industry. In what he calls a “polycrisis,” the industry is still reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the disruptive rise of global streaming platforms and the aftermath of the biggest labor disputes Hollywood has seen in over a decade.

These problems have severely affected the content creation value chain and deprived many corners of the industry of crucial financial resources. Many major studios don’t have access to the money they once had.

Enter AI, which, while still in its infancy, provides many ways to drastically reduce costs.

A still from Where Do Grandmas Go When They Get Lost?, a two-minute short by Leo Cannone, in the BiFan 2024 AI Film Competition.

Like those facing redundancy due to automation, many people, from techies to creatives, fear for their livelihoods as AI’s vast potential to lower costs and save time on content creation becomes increasingly appealing with each new iteration of AI-powered programs .

On the other hand, as Shin, the festival leader, argues, much like cheaper digital video technology, AI has the potential to empower and help legions of creators who might not otherwise have a path to content creation or access to meaningful funds.

Perhaps we could stretch Saluveer’s AI-as-ice cream analogy even further. Eating it too quickly can give you a brain freeze, temporarily shutting down your ability to function normally. We should therefore eat it slowly.

Then again, can ice cream ever be more than a simulation of the flavors of real food and a source of empty calories that stimulate our senses without nourishing us?

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