Reddit on a screen

Should the short film Mad Science Experiment 3000 win anything as it works the 2018 festival circuit this year, its screenwriter will have a hard time accepting their award: The film, a brainchild of the technology firm RivetAI was written entirely by A.I., using Reddit comments to produce a parody of the cult classic Mystery Science Theater 3000. And it’s not bad.

“We had to censor some of the dialogue,” laughs Debajyoti Ray, founder and CEO of RivetAI, in an interview with Inverse.

The end result is a five-minute film where three characters riff on the low-budget 1987 fantasy movie Deathstalker II. The way the setup of the silhouettes sat in front of a movie screen as the main feature plays is very similar to MST3K, which established itself as a cult classic and returned to Netflix last year. RivetAI’s version probably won’t win any Oscars, but it contains some surprisingly witty zingers for a movie written by machine.

The technology underpins a new product called Agile Producer, aimed at streamlining a process worth $473 billion in total revenue. The product offers script dissection that shows a breakdown to producers of props, characters and scenes, with instant budget predictions and optimized scheduling that can add up to 20 percent more cost savings and time efficiencies than manual scheduling.

Perhaps most impressive, though, is its ability to suggest dialog and improve plot points by matching the narrative structures to archetypes. It can also produce clips for social media, in a similar vein to the A.I. produced trailer for Morgan two years ago. The platform, including the other features, is available to the first 1,000 applicants for free, starting from Thursday, as part of a beta test program.

Watch a clip of Mad Science Experiment 3000 below:

“It’s hard to overstate the amount of exhausting legwork production teams are responsible for at every stage of the filmmaking process,” Emily Wiedemann said in a statement. Wiedemann is a RivetAI customer and founder of Greencard Pictures, a commercial production company specializing in film, commercial and advertising with clients like Google, Virgin America and Universal. “What’s so powerful about RivetAI is how the suite speeds up production for every single client we have — film studio, advertiser or corporate brand — so we can delight with our creativity.”

RivetAI has links to Sunspring, the nine-minute film written by A.I. that made headlines two years ago. Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch starred in a science fiction film that made even less sense than Primer, written by a recurrent neural network that was trained on reams of classic scripts from the genre. Walter and Andrew Kortschak used their End Cue firm to produce Sunspring, where Ray served as chief technology officer and spearheaded this use of technology in the moviemaking space.

“We’ve significantly evolved from Sunspring, where people were kind of puzzled or really confused by certain things, or laughing at the movie to now really enjoying the movie without necessarily thinking that this came from an A.I.,” Ray says.

RivetAI, spun out from End Cue, has backing from the Kortschaks, but the two firms will operate as separate entities. Also on the team is Sadaf Amouzegar, a former SpaceX data scientist, and Nathan Crockett, an astrophysicist from the University of Michigan.

Can A.I. Help Power Creativity?

The company’s goals sound like the sort of thing that would leave mega-firms like Apple and Google scratching their heads, as they race to develop Siri and Amazon Alexa to handle basic voice commands. But with RivetAI it’s a question of breadth versus depth. While Microsoft and the like will always win on breadth because of access to a broad data set — key to teaching A.I. skill like features like visually identifying a bee — understanding language and narrative structures requires teaching the machine to master much more specific skills.

“For example, in the case of language and narratives, analogies are super important,” Ray says. “You can say the sentence like ‘the drones were buzzing like bees.’ In that case, ‘bees’ is an analogy, but if it’s a general language system it might take that very literally.”

RivetAI is not trying to take the human out of the scriptwriting process, though. Ray likens it to AutoCAD, which enables architects to create designs much faster with computer assisted drawing than they could working by hand. There remain some that prefer the older methods, though CAD is still a standard practice for the industry.

“Ultimately it is human creativity that is magnified, I think really augmenting that creativity rather than coming in and replacing any of that,” Ray says. “The story idea, the judgement, all of that is coming from the person.”

It’s a thought process that bears similarities to other projects, like the “folk-rnn” project that produced Celtic music in London last year, or even legal tools like Attorney IO and DoNotPay that can help lawyers sift through information faster. These projects have the potential to make it easier for creative minds to cut through the mundane and reach the most inspiring aspects faster.

Looks like the MST3K writers won’t be out of a job just yet.

Photos via Mike Brown/Inverse