“We see H pull a book from a shelf, flip through it while speaking, and then put it back.
H: In the future with more unemployment, young people are forced to sell blood. That’s the first thing I can do.”
And so begins the script of Sunspring – a romance, mystery, sci-fi film written by an artificial intelligence algorithm that named itself Benjamin.
Benjamin is the brainchild of filmmaker Oscar Sharp and technologist Ross Goodwin, who decided to employ a long short-term memory (LSTM) recurrent neural network to compete in the 48-Hour Film Challenge at Sci-Fi London. After Goodwin created the artificial intelligence – who’s given name was Jetson – he and Sharp fed it hundreds of “sci-fi” TV and movie scripts, from Predator to Solaris to Silver Linings Playbook. Benjamin then analyzed the scripts and created its own.
The Sunspring script is intriguing if not seamless and intelligible. Stage directions include such absurdities as “He is standing in the stars and sitting on the floor,” “He sees a black hole on the floor leading to the man on the roof,” and “He picks up a light screen and fights the security force of the particles of a transmission on his face.” But Sharp and his cast, including Thomas Middleditch of HBO’s hit series Silicon Valley, made due with what Benjamin had written.
“As soon as we had a read-through, everyone around the table was laughing their heads off with delight,” Sharp told Ars Technica. The actors interpreted their lines – and Benjamin’s intentions – as best they could while Sharp attempted to thread together some semblance of a cohesive film. Given much of the script’s absurdity, the result is sometimes funny, often confusing, and even, for a moment, a bit forlorn.
Sunspring won’t likely win an Oscar but Sharp, Goodwin, Middleditch, and the rest of the team should be admired for their efforts of making an entertaining short from an utterly senseless script. Benjamin, on the other hand, might want to enroll in Screenwriting 101.