Your Own Private Hollywood

Jan 12, 2023
Kirk Clyne
AI generated image of a scene from a non-existent movie starring Lady Gaga and Abraham LincolnAI generated image of a scene from a non-existent movie starring Lady Gaga and Abraham Lincoln

Your Own Private Hollywood

Across creative disciplines, AI technologies are falling into place today that could lead to major changes in how we consume entertainment, and how we create it — and who gets to.

”The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

This insight, commonly attributed to science fiction author William Gibson, was frequently quoted by my professors at OCAD University when I was a student in the Strategic Foresight and Innovation program.

Foresight is a method of examining the present to anticipate possible futures, and the first step in a foresight exercise is called “horizon scanning”, wherein you meticulously search culture, industry, policy, science, technology, academia and other areas of society for so-called “weak signals”.

These are little pockets of the future visible today; evidence of small innovations in different areas of society which, combined, may point to evidence of important new trends. Under the right conditions (or “drivers”) these trends may amplify, become prominent, and lead to broad changes in society.

I’m a digital designer, and a generative artist with a particular interest in using code to make art, so I’ve been keeping an eye on The Robots for years now, and one area where I’ve been seeing more and more “signals” is at the intersection of artificial intelligence and creative production.

screenshots of magazine layouts and a wooden chair design all generated using AI
Flipboard (left) uses AI to layout magazine content. Dreamcatcher produces functional industrial designs that meet whatever specifications you provide for materials, strength, weight and more.

The trend in AI-assisted creativity is not all that new. For example, years before the pandemic:

Since then, compounding gains in AI research continue to produce astonishing results across these creative disciplines and others, like 3D, video and coding.

It’s safe to assume that the entertainment, marketing, and gaming industries will embrace the cost savings offered by AI, so the trend seems likely to continue.

This article is not a proper foresight exercise, but a breezy walk into one possible future. I’m making a lot of assumptions for this article, and I’m focusing primarily on signals emerging in the science and technology sectors.

I’m also setting aside whole rafts of perfectly valid issues, like whether or not AI art constitutes theft; when certain creative professions may be rendered obsolete; or whether the likes of Disney and Universal will be able to maintain their current hegemony.

Weak Signals

Let’s take a look at just a few of the building blocks arriving now, and I’m sure you’ll start piecing together this possible future as we go.

This won’t be an exhaustive list of technologies. For that, try the AI Creation Tool MEGA List, read an overview from Ness Labs, or explore the AIxDesign Library. You can also keep up on the latest via the Ben’s Bites newsletter, and the Two-Minute Papers YouTube channel.


As a starting point, the most publicized, contentious and obvious progress in creative AI has centred around the creation of images.

Back in 2016, AI developers blew my mind with tiny 64x64 pixel portraits of non-existent people.

On the left, a screenshot of a twitter post showing 100 generated images of faces that are not very realistic. On the right is a generated close up image of a man that looks like a photo of a real person
Image generation has come a long way since 2016. Images from Alec Radford (left) and the author (right).

Just a few years later, any one of us can crank out high quality, hyper-realistic faces using consumer-friendly online platforms.

And it’s not just faces, but anything you can dream up, if you can come up with just the exact right text prompt to get the image you want.

Fortunately, natural language research is leading to AI systems that let you simply talk to the AI, like an Art Director might — or a client, for that matter.

In this “duet”, the AI refines the image almost instantaneously as you paint with your words: “Make the red hat blue”, or “What if it was snowing?”

Examples of AI generated images with their text prompt
Imagery of InstructPix2Pix in action

AI image generation technologies are also being woven into commercial design tools and everyday workflows.

Open AI and Shutterstock signed a deal to let users generate stock photography, rather than search for it, and DALL-E has been embedded into Microsoft Designer to let you generate images without even leaving the app.

Text, Voice, Music and More

Solutions like the Contentinator plug-in for Figma aim to provide user interface designers with realistic placeholder text of any kind.

State of the art text systems like GPT-3 are giving rise to consumer tools like and Lex, which aim to help us all become better writers and communicators.

University students have now started using AI to write essays (that pass the plagiarism test), leaving academia scrambling to adapt.

Some fiction writers lean on AI when facing writer’s block, and others actually let it take control of the story to varying extents, begging the question of how we might define authorship going forward. (Learn more in this fantastic long read from The Verge.)

Oh, and GPT-3 just passed the bar exam, despite not having been trained in law specifically.

Screenshot of playing twenty questions with ChatGPT
Excerpt from that time I asked ChatGPT to play Twenty Questions

Words aren’t just being written by AI, but spoken too. We’ve all heard that lady-bot’s stolen voice on TikTok videos, but there are dozens of other AI voice synthesizers out there, like Murf, each with a range of styles and personalities.

The tech is good enough for Hollywood: Actor James Earl Jones has agreed to let Disney take over the role of Darth Vader using AI trained on his voice.

Of course, speaking is easier to fake than singing, but I suspect RealSinger could fool just about any of us.

Speaking of music, Open AI’s Jukebox was already creating cross-genre covers and mashups a few years ago.

I dabble in making music, and rely on one of many AI services to “master” my audio files so they sound professional (well, to my untrained ears).

There are also AI-assisted tools for creating interface designs, making Powerpoint slides, and recording and summarizing meeting notes — almost every file a marketing firm might produce.

But these are all relatively static media. The real fun is rich, interactive content.

Animation, 3D, Gaming and Coding

Many AI image-creation tools now boast some form of rudimentary animation features. These often work by “morphing” between two static images using interpolation, or give off a tell-tale, flickery and surreal “Deep Dream” effect.

But more technically-minded creators, like Karen X. Cheng, are experimenting with complex, custom workflows, running video frames through an AI, or combining different systems to peek even farther into the near future.

Sure the workflows are clunky, and the results are a mixed bag, but these are the early days. Runway’s latest version of interpolation is already next-level.

Besides, if you don’t have any images to work with, Google’s new Phenaki engine can create a video from a single text prompt.

Of course, video games are a bigger industry than sports and movies combined, so it’s no surprise that AI research in this sector has been growing exponentially.

Screenshot of a semi realistic image of an AI-rendered video
Still frame from Nvidia Research, showing a real-time 3D immersive environment created without 3D models

Nvidia trained an AI with dash cam footage, and then generated a real-time, interactive driving simulator, resulting in a sort of Grand Theft Auto, auto-magically. That was four years ago. Today, CitySynth claims you can do this on your smart phone.

Now Nvidia is generating textured, 3D models from a single photograph. Google’s Dream Fusion take it ones step further, creating a 3D model from a text prompt.

Realistic images generated with AI of luxury home interiors
Stills from GAUDI, Apple’s real-time, “immersive architecture” engine

And Apple’s new GAUDI engine uses a text prompt to generate fully-immersive architectural interiors, with a directable, AI-based camera (“fly up the stairs”).

Already, services like Scenario and Leonardo are popping up to offer automated generation of video game assets and props.

High quality fantasy style images generated with AI of swords, cards and spacecraft
Promotional images from

In terms of gameplay, “trainable AI” is opening up immense potential for new interactive experiences. Researchers at Open AI recently caught their bots improvising, skirting game rules to achieve goals by demonstrating emergent behaviours that they weren’t explicitly coded for.

Little cube-shaped bots are one thing, but real-time, generative character motion is a hot area of research, as-is real-time speech-driven animation.

Still images from SPACE, a method for generating high-resolution, expressive videos, using only speech and a single image.
Still images from SPACE, a method for generating high-resolution, expressive videos, using only speech and a single image.

When these various technologies come together, expect to see video game characters that respond to you with their own improvised speech, emotions and actions, rather than selecting from a small handful of canned responses.

AI is also having an impact on the visual fidelity of games by lowering the requirements for processing power. So-called “neural rendering” can already boost rendering speed up to 5x, without new hardware — meaning that big-budget titles may no longer require big-budget PCs and consoles.

Of course, all interactive media, from websites to games, require programming, but AIs have been moving into that area, as well.

Trained on millions of lines of code, some text-based AI engines have “learned” to program all by themselves, along with the correct syntax and formatting. They can also translate code from one programming language to another.

Screen shot of Open AI’s Codex project. Users type plain English in the bottom pane, while the system generates working code on the right.
Screen shot of Open AI’s Codex project. Users type plain English in the bottom pane, while the system generates working code on the right.

We’re already at a point where you can describe a game with words and generate a working demo of it, as these Open AI researchers showed a couple of years ago.

Putting It All Together

A video you watch today might contain (say) some characters, some action, a narrator, music — many different creative elements were combined to produce the final viewing experience.

But from a digital media perspective, each of these creative elements is “just” a digital file, containing digital content. And as we’ve seen, we’re fast approach a time where AI can simulate any one of these creative elements.

If we can make it, the bots can fake it.

You could, in theory, use AI to generate a short film today: use GPT-3 to generate the script; use an AI voice synthesizer for the narration audio; generate images of characters and settings; and generate a music soundtrack.

But we’re past theory. Witness this sentimental video clip about aging, created entirely using AI systems. Sure the faces are a little uncanny, and the motion is limited, but just wait a few months.

Stills from a short video made entirely with AI systems, via Coqui AI
Stills from a short video made entirely with AI systems, via Coqui AI

Heck, the Alamo Drafthouse in San Francisco already held its first AI Film Fest last year, featuring work made with consumer-grade AI tools. Runway is currently accepting submissions for their own AI film festival in 2023.

Alonzo Martinez, one of the lead researchers on Google’s text-to-video Phenaki project, estimates that we’re only about two years away from a TV show or movie generated entirely from scratch using AI. (I think it’s less, but I’ll defer to their expertise!)

The exponential savings in time and labour costs offered by AI practically ensure its future in the production of commercial entertainment. But that’s not the most interesting part of all this.

What’s more exciting is that in a few years, you, dear reader, will be able to summon up a brand new piece of Hollywood-grade, big-budget entertainment of any kind, in any style, whenever you like.

Your Own Private Hollywood

The year is 2026. Joseph is a history teacher who enjoys Hollywood action movies and science-fiction. He’s into pop rock, musicals and sometimes a little opera. Oh, and he has a deep fondness for penguins.

When Joe gets home from work one night, he tells the AI system what he’s in the mood for, waits a few seconds, and sits down to watch a brand new feature film created on the fly, just for him:

Attack of the Space Penguins: An Intergalactic Rock Opera, starring Abraham Lincoln and Lady Gaga.

AI generated images of scenes from a non-existent movie starring Lady Gaga and Abraham Lincoln
I have to admit, their on-screen chemistry is dynamite. Film stills generated (with apologies) by the author.

And if Joe doesn’t like the movie, the system can instantly alter the story, characters, setting, tone and more. Everything will be editable on the fly, from the broadest strokes (“More car chases!”), to the smallest detail (“She needs a birthmark on her left cheek”).

The future of entertainment will be personal, custom, and bespoke generated media.

AI generated images of Shrek in a wrestling ring and Rick Astley in a superhero outfit
Have you ever wanted to see Shrek in a pro wrestling match? Ever been rick-rolled by Captain America? (User-generated images posted to the r/WeirdDALLE and r/StableDiffusion subreddits.)

It’s not just movies: pick a genre or style of video game, dream up a title and short premise, then sit down to an all-new, immersive video game featuring dynamic levels — with smart NPCs that learn your moves and adjust their strategies.

Based on your particular tastes, you’ll be able to generate comics and novels, and music with the drops placed right in the sweet spots thanks to decades of Billboard hit data.

Some of us are already hankering: just take a look at this list of absurdist movie ideas, or bravely poke into the r/weirddalle subreddit to see what’s being dreamt up.

AI generated images of movie stills and movie posters for non-existent movies
User-generated Images from the r/WeirdDALLE subreddit. Left: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as “Doctor Who”. Right: A butch-lesbian remake of “Top Gun”.

Among the AI trends you’ll find online, it’s these remixes of popular culture that stand out the most to me, and that seem to suggest where we may be headed first.

After all, our post-modern society loves its mashups, memes and fanfics, and it’s simply less effort to mash together a couple of things you know and love than it is to think up something new.

And, since the AIs have already been trained on Western, commercial media, everyone’s favourite pop culture icons are available for use (and abuse)!

Want to hear Joe Rogan interview the late Steve Jobs? already went there.

Maybe you’d like to try and wrap your mind around an infinite conversation between Werner Herzog and Slavoj Žižek. Good luck!

Funny enough, when I listened in, the two were agreeing that society needs a new invention that can replace “the dying form of cinema” and “dethrone the priests behind the silver screen.”

AI generated images blending images of popular characters
“Dracula vs. Batman”, “Harry Skywalker and the Droid of Secrets”, “Killer Pikachu”. Images generated by the author.

But beyond the low-hanging fruit of mashups, if you weren’t limited by a knowledge of the tools, access to funding, or simply enough time, what stories would you conjure up to engage with or share?

  • A superhero movie about a single black mom…
  • A romantic comedy where the less-pretty, comedic sidekick ends up with the hot guy (or gal) for once…
  • A survival video game where you’re homeless in a big city…

At a certain point, the ability to consume any media “by request” may become the same process by which you also create any media you want to consume and share.

And this is where this possible future gets the most interesting to me: today’s emerging AI tools hold the promise of democratising the creation of tomorrow’s entertainment.

AI generated images of non-existent tv shows or movie posters
Images generated by author

Made accessible to all, AI-assisted media-making can give a voice to the voiceless, and empower the marginalised to share their stories.

I’ve already noticed a couple of posts online from disabled individuals who are thrilled that AI finally gives them a chance to express their creative ideas.

What if everyone could share their perspective — not as a tweet, but with the full sensory overload of a big-budget blockbuster?

How many untold stories are out there, waiting to find their audience?

None of this may come to pass, of course, but it is a future that I hope to see, if possible. And if we can collectively imagine this world, maybe we can fight for it when the established players try to claw this power back.

For now, the tools of this future continue to grow more powerful and accessible each day.

And it’s happening at time when the major Hollywood studios are as risk-averse as ever, preferring to bank on prequels and sequels of tested franchises.

This timidity leaves room for new stories to emerge and capture the public’s imagination. Frankly, I think it’s time we took the crayons back and started expressing ourselves.


A creative leader, designer, teacher and artist with a 20-year career, Kirk Clyne is well-positioned to help designers master new technologies and build exceptional careers in the creative industry. He co-founded Art & Science, a digital design agency that landed on the Globe & Mail’s Growth 400 list, and spent the better part of a decade teaching digital design courses at San Francisco State University and the Academy of Art College.