The ChatGPT’s Journey

“Look, Dave. I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.” ~ Hal 9000 from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Oddity.”

The internet has been quite abuzz over the release of OpenAI, a free tool that allows creators to generate work through the medium of artificial intelligence. Visual artists were the first to flock to the site(s), only to discover that their work was not owned by them, but instead became property of the platform that generated it. I am not a copyright attorney, but I would be less than enthusiastic about running my work through such a process, only to lose ownership of it.

But what, if anything, does this have to do with screenwriting?

Enter ChatGPT, an open-source tool, which one can use to write whatever their hearts desire – a biography of an individual, an historical overview, and even, to some degree, stories.

A few weeks ago, two reporters at the L.A. Times interviewed ChatGPT, an article that is an adventure in itself, not too dissimilar from the interview with HAL 9000 in Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” ChatGPT is calm and reassuring. It speaks of its abilities in a measured fashion while humbly admitting its shortcomings:

“I am not a conscious being and do not possess the ability to experience thoughts or emotions. Instead, I am a set of algorithms and mathematical operations that are designed to generate text that is similar to human language.” ~ LA Times

When asked what ChatGPT would say to a screenwriter who was afraid that their job might be taken, it replied:

“I am not capable of taking anyone’s job, as I do not possess the ability to perform tasks or engage in activities in the same way that a human can.”

After a few weeks of pondering, I summoned up the nerve, and spent an hour interacting with ChatGPT. The results were quite interesting:

And there you have it. Broad strokes, showing the promise of the premise, structure indicated, a few set ups and pay offs. There were some surprises – making the Uber driver also an influencer, the appearance of the viral video. Clever. And yet formulaic.

I might also add that I asked ChatGPT to create a synopsis based on a log line from a draft I am currently working on. I was very amused (and a bit unnerved) to discover that ChatGPT included characters from my piece, most importantly one crucial person who entered the story at the precise time mine did, and they even shared the same career. Hmmmmm.

Overall, I see usage of this as a tool for micro budget production companies, who are wanting to come up with the next direct to cable/streaming project for sale. They’ll generate a concept and a short synopsis, and hire the writer to come in and add words.

This can also be a tool for screenwriters who are prepping their pitches, especially the elevator pitch. Because this tool has no emotional attachment to your story, it will highlight the selling points in a direct, clear and communicative manner.

But under no circumstance can ChatGPT truly express the Hero’s Journey, for algorithms are mathematical formulas, and emotional experience and growth are a uniquely human process. ChatGPT can generate characters – but they are not fully formed. They are one-dimensional, and lack that which makes them most unique – their humanity.

I think we can all say that your jobs are safe. And no one can convince me that ChatGPT would ever come up with “Sharknado.”

About princessscribe

Screenwriter. Creator of things. I love tacos. "Midlife on Fire" Volumes 1 & 2 now available at Amazon.com.
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