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AI, The Strikes, and The Meta Marketing of Barbenheimer
Also: SEC vs XRP, The Roaring 20s, and Mantra
Like many, I’m watching AI unfold alongside the creator strikes. I don’t know how to always approach AI, both worried about how it might impact the livelihoods of creators while also being so excited about having tools of creation run closer to the pace of imagination.
SAG went on strike this week with Fran Drescher saying that “We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines”. The primary reasons, like the writers strike, is that the streamer-era of media does not have the same residual/royalty structure as before. There’s no upside or poor success metrics.
It seems pretty egregious that there’s proposals to allow studios to use the likeness of a background extra, in perpetuity.
They propose that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day's pay, and their company should own that scan of their image, their likeness, and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity.
It’s the right fight, and Mat from Spawning + HaveIBeenTrained.com fame says that our right to our likeness should be inalienable. I agree. Especially not having the rights be sold in perpetuity at this stage. People might be signing away rights and not fully understanding the impact.
I think it’s very important that creators fight for being fairly remunerated, including trying to get rid “Hollywood Accounting”.
It will get better and more refined. There will be AI tools that follow the Save The Cat beatsheets and hold your hand along the way to writing something good, but, I don’t feel and believe that there will be a fully automated content-mill without actual people being involved. Might there be fewer people? Maybe.
But… there’s a threshold where more people in your production process actually results in more people seeing the media because of their network effects. It’s because media has context and the primary context for media is the people consuming it.
Which takes me to Barbenheimer… the accidental marketing success behind two fairly opposite of the spectrum films being released at the same time next week: Greta Gerwig’s Barbie + Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. Which one will you see first? Whose side are you on? While counterprogramming (releasing tonally different films on the same day) isn’t new, the fact that it’s from different studios and hyped to this extent, is new.
It’s boosted the prominence of both films accidentally. I’m pretty sure marketing execs are looking at this and wondering how to recreate this. People are already trying to make new variations happen, like Wonkpoleon (Wonka with Timothee Chalamet + Napoleon and Joaquin Phoenix).
Barbenheimer only *really* works because of the people involved in it. Both Greta Gerwig and Christopher Nolan are renowned filmmakers working alongside stellar casts such as Cillian Murphy, Margot Robbie, Robert Downey Jr, and Ryan Gosling. They act as memetic tentpoles, drawing in interest and thus spreading the premise of the opposites of the film to audiences.
I know that Mattel wants to strip farm their IP with things like Hot Wheels being in production with JJ Abrams, the question to still ask is: if you made this exact film with AI, and you could even produce exactly the same quality but it had none of the renowned directors or actors in it, would it still be as popular? Would Barbenheimer even be a thing? It won’t.
But, I know that’s not necessarily the question that studios are asking. Talent is expensive, and if they could potentially do this at the same quality without the talent (big IF) with a smaller budget at the cost of losing marketing efficacy, would they do it? Maybe. Would they potentially strike a deal with the actors to use their likeness without them actually having to do the acting? Then, bring in the actors for promo tours (kind of like how Jack Black was on the Kung Fu Panda tour in countries where his voice was dubbed over)? Maybe.
If all that matters is marketing turtles all the way down, does that mean that some people involved in the creative process will get the boot? Maybe. And, I think that’s the more important battle. Selling the why throughout the stack of the creative process. We’re already accustomed to behind-the-scenes, but it might increasingly open up, purely to provide context for the consumer. We’re also accustomed to the meta experience of media: the reading of reviews, watching YouTube videos, hanging out on subreddits, reading the wikipedia.
The process might become increasingly important, not necessarily because it matters to the actual media that’s created, but to sell the eventual media. Humans are weighted to appreciate things that take a lot of *understandable* energy and time regardless of what actually comes out of it. It’s rooted in our desire to communicate things that language struggles to do.
Thus, AI might not have as a serious impact on film/media as we think and we neglect the importance of great marketing and distribution (as is already the case today). It’s more important to retain appropriate royalties and rewards for sharing in the success of the media, not pulling the shows as tax write offs, and getting rid borderline fraudulent accounting to avoid getting people paid.
Time will tell. What do you think? Also: Barbie or Oppenheimer? I’m leaning to Oppenheimer. 😅
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Beware The Impersonators
I wonder if there will be need to end-to-end verify a caller. Something like a biometric check of sorts?
SEC vs XRP
Some big news in crypto land this week as a split decision on a summary judgement came down surrounding certain aspects of securities laws. In short, the maximalist approach that a lot of crypto tokens are defacto securities in the US is not the case, and that ultimately, once this all lands (could take years if there’s no legislation), it would be where it should be: it depends on expectations.
Threading this needle is never easy. Some people prefer there to be enough guardrails that no one can ever make a stupid decision. On the other hand, tossing out sane innovation and burdening it with onerous enforcement requirements means that only well-financed firms can actually compete and that only serves to increasingly entrench the financial industry away from the every man.
Programmatic, protocolized money and tokenization IS still a worthy cause to pursue and at minimum, reasonable clarity is helpful, at least in the US. So, to me, it’s an exciting step in the right direction. Too much of either gets us nowhere.
A Month on Tour
I enjoyed this video from Adam Neely. I caught this tour in DC, and was lucky to meet some of these amazing musicians (thanks Plini)! It does look taxing, though. Day in and day out of this? I understand why many musicians are calling it in.
I love Andor. It got nominated for Best Drama Series at the Emmy’s. A good opportunity to reshare this great fan edit. Goosebumps.
I get the feeling that many people are waiting for a way of feeling that will guide them out of this era: whether you subscribe to the inevitable Strauss-Howe Generational Theory or just want to get out of this current mode of being.
Maybe it’s this. Maximalist Metamodernism: unabashed sincere vibrancy and self-awareness of it. None of the carbon copy-paste grey minimalism, catering to the lowest common denominator vibes. Not lightly salted chips because everyone will eat it. It’s celebrating pluralism. It’s dynamism. It’s mass SMEs (in the US).
It’s MSG Sphere, Icon of the Seas, Barbie, and Quantum Computers. It’s decarbonization without degrowth. YIMBY. It’s abundance of media with creators getting paid. It’s radical inclusion. It’s sustainable and equitable governance.
It’s global with a re-emphasis on the local. It’s the information highways to touch grass.
Anyway, I’m just rambling now. 😅
Gen Z and Gen Alpha take the wheel!
Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul - Mantra
Today’s song reminds me of Ibibio Sound Machine. A fresh mix of funky electronica. Charlotte Adigéry was born in France, growing up in Belgian with ancestry in the Caribbean and Nigeria. Bolis Pupul also has shared heritage from Martinique.
And take some time for a sunset. :)
See you next week!