Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense: Ars is excited to be hosting this online debut of Sunspring, a short science fiction film that’s not entirely what it seems.

Sunspring screenplay sample

Benjamin is an LSTM recurrent neural network, a type of AI that is often used for text recognition. To train Benjamin, [researcher, Ross] Goodwin fed the AI with a corpus of dozens of sci-fi screenplays he found online—mostly movies from the 1980s and 90s.

As the cast gathered around a tiny printer, Benjamin spat out the screenplay, complete with almost impossible stage directions like “He is standing in the stars and sitting on the floor.” Then Sharp [the director] randomly assigned roles to the actors in the room. “As soon as we had a read-through, everyone around the table was laughing their heads off with delight,” Sharp told Ars.

Sunspring

For Sharp, the most interesting part of the Benjamin experiment has been learning about patterns in science fiction storytelling. Benjamin’s writing sounds original, even kooky, but it’s still based on patterns he’s discovered in what humans write. Sharp likes to call the results the “average version” of everything the AI looked at. Certain patterns kept coming up again and again. “There’s an interesting recurring pattern in Sunspring where characters say, ‘No I don’t know what that is. I’m not sure,'” said Goodwin. “They’re questioning the environment, questioning what’s in front of them. There’s a pattern in sci-fi movies of characters trying to understand the environment.”

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Sunspring: a short film written by an algorithm

In the wake of Google’s AI Go victory, filmmaker Oscar Sharp turned to his technologist collaborator Ross Goodwin to build a machine that could write screenplays. They created “Jetson” and fueled him with hundreds of sci-fi TV and movie scripts. Building a team including Thomas Middleditch, star of HBO’s Silicon Valley, they gave themselves 48 hours to shoot and edit whatever Jetson decided to write.

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