Film extras fear losing their jobs as its predicted AI bots will replace them

Movie industry extras fear that Artificial Intelligence will spell an end to their careers.

The recent Hollywood strike was prompted by screenwriters’ protesting against AI chatbots being used to help pen scripts. But so-called ‘background actors’ – extras used on films – now fear that they could face the chop and be replaced by droids.

Screen Actors Guild member Allison Lahikainen warned: “The potential that [studios] could replace us entirely is very real. Not only are you putting people out of work, you’re eliminating an entry point for actors starting out in the industry.

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“Background work is a practical, solid education in how film and TV is made, and if they can do this to background, there’s no reason it won’t snowball into other sectors of the industry, such as stunts. Retaining the human factor has to be a priority.”

Visual effects studios have the potential to use multiple cameras to capture an actor’s entire likeness, which can then be used to create digital humans. It could see an army of computerised extras who wouldn’t need paying and can work all the hours a movie-maker wants.

And the issue is being taken seriously by leading union SAG-AFTRA – The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. In a statement to Empire, they said: “Background actors, as all performers, are currently facing an existential threat.”

They said that they have asked producers’ association AMPTP to at least guarantee extras be paid each time their likenesses are used. The spokesperson added: “The Union’s proposals would ensure that background actors receive adequate and appropriate compensation, not to mention broader protections to ensure that once consent is granted, it is only for the specified use that is being disclosed.”

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Ricky Gervais played film and TV extra Andy Millman in a BBC comedy about extras, giving insight into the daily lives of background performers.

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