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|Directed by||Oscar Sharp|
|Produced by||Andrew Kortschak, Walter Kortschak, Andrew Swett, Allison Friedman|
Sunspring is a 2016 experimental science fiction short film entirely written by an artificial intelligence bot using neural networks. It was conceived by BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Oscar Sharp and NYU AI researcher Ross Goodwin and produced by film production company, End Cue along with Allison Friedman and Andrew Swett. It stars Thomas Middleditch, Elisabeth Grey, and Humphrey Ker as three people, namely H, H2, and C, living in a future world and eventually connecting with each other through a love triangle. The script of the film was authored by a recurrent neural network called long short-term memory (LSTM) by an AI bot named Benjamin.
Sunspring narrates the story of three people - H (Middleditch), H2 (Grey), and C (Ker) - set in a futuristic world and entangled with murder and love.
Oscar Sharp originally created the film for the 48hr Film Challenge contest of Sci-Fi-London, a film festival which focuses on science fiction. For the challenge, contestants are given a set of prompts (mostly props and lines) that have to appear in a movie they make over the next two days. It eventually contested in the festival and was nominated among the final top ten films
Sharp collaborated with his longtime associate Ross Goodwin, an AI researcher in New York University to create the AI bot, which was initially called Jetson. The bot, which later came to call itself Benjamin, wrote the screenplay including stage directions and dialog. The garbled script was then interpreted by Sharp who directed the actors to construe the plot points themselves and enact the play. According to Ars Technica, the final plot turned out to be a tale of romance and murder, set in a dark future world.
Benjamin, the automatic screenwriter
Called the world's first automatic screenwriter, Benjamin is a self-improving LSTM RNN machine intelligence trained on human screenplays conceived by Goodwin and Sharp. It was trained to write the screenplay by feeding it with a corpus of dozens of sci-fi screenplays found online—mostly movies from the 1980s and 90s.
The film contains a song from Brooklyn-based electro-acoustic duo Tiger and Man, with lyrics written by Benjamin using a database of 30,000 folk songs. As well as a score written by composer Andrew Orkin.
CNet called it "a beautiful, bizarre sci-fi novelty." Critic Amanda Kooser said, "...probably won't start a rush for replacing human screenwriters with machines. Some day, neural networks may get better at imitating the art of coherent storytelling, but we're not there yet. That doesn't mean "Sunspring" isn't entertaining or worthy of viewing. It is. It's a thought experiment come to life, a novelty." As of April 2019, it has surpassed 1 million views on YouTube.
- Buder, Emily (June 10, 2016). "An Algorithm Wrote This Movie, and It's Somehow Amazing". No Film School. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
- Newitz, Annalee (June 9, 2016). "Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense". Ars Technica. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
- Benjamin (2016). Sunspring Final. American: DocDroid. p. 5.
- Kooser, Amanda (13 June 2016). "AI-written film 'Sunspring' a surreal delight, upchucked eyeball included". CNet. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
- "Ars Technica Statistics". Social Blade.