AI Film and AI Games Festival draws 300 to hear about AI taking the director’s seat

7 min read
AI Film and AI Games Festival draws 300 to hear about AI taking the director's seat

The second annual HOLL·AI·WOOD AI Film and AI Games Festival took place in San Francisco on Tuesday night and offered us a preview of the future for both passive and interactive entertainment.

Edward Saatchi, CEO of Fable Studios and an organizer of the event, said more than 300 attendees from the world of AI, cinema and gaming came to the event at the Alamo Drafthouse cinema. I attended and was part of the AI Games panel after the show.

Other speakers came from Andreessen Horowitz, Pixar, Inworld AI, Google AI, Pika Labs CEO Demi Guo (AI filmmaking tool), PAC Capital, CRV VC, First Spark Capital and Pillars Films.

“There’s no better time for AI than now,” said Jack Soslow, a partner at A16z, during the gaming panel.


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Scott Lighthiser at Pillars said, “I see a lot of potential in CG characters being piloted by AI agents.”

Edward Saatchi moderates the AI Films panel.

HOLL·AI·WOOD started last year and showed experiments and demos in the then-months-old world of AI cinema, this year those experiments in cinema have evolved into full complex short films using tools like Runway, Pika and PILLARS-1.

For the first time we also got to see previews of upcoming playable AI Games.

For the films that were shown, (like The Red, and the piece in the Louvre) about a third of them were shot traditionally with AI elements — almost equivalent to VFX (visual effects).

“I don’t necessarily think those are AI movies, but they show a bit of what’s possible,” Saatchi said. “The rest were entirely generated. I would consider only those films are true AI movies.”

The festival team created this set of rules (similar to the filmmaking rule set Dogme 95) to help people have a feeling for where we draw the line of a true AI film, rather than simply using AI in a way that’s similar to VFX. The event featured speakers like Scott Lighthiser and Katya Alexander of Pillars Films.

At the festival, here’s a taste of the films and games shown to the audience. (Here’s a look at last year’s event).

Hidden Door’s game.

Hidden Door showed off its game which was like a social roleplaying experience centered around a kind of AI-powered Dungeons and Dragons game. It takes a royalty-free property like The Wizard of Oz and generates AI-created narratives for you to play. Hilary Mason, CEO of Hidden Door, will speak at our GamesBeat Next event on October 23-24 in San Francisco.

Gepetto is bringing something to life?

Then there was Geppetto’s Workshop, a Garry’s Mod-style game powered by COLLODI text-to-3D models. The game is set in the 1890s. The player works with an AI-powered Geppetto to unleash their creativity — building characters, sets, making short film or game experiences. Players buy the base game for $20 and can purchase credits (Lira, the currency of Italy at the time) to get faster ability to generate assets and characters in-game.

Starlight Labs showed its top-down 2D AI simulation game where AI characters live in a small village and make emergent plans.

Exit Valley featured Thomas Zuckerberg in a Silicon Valley satire.

Exit Valley was an AI-created TV Show from The Simulation. It showed a sneak peek of its satirical AITV show Exit Valley powered by a living simulation of San Francisco: Sim Francisco. I thought this one was pretty hilarious. It featured a South Park-stye animated satire.

Exit Valley’s first episode showed a school teacher in Silicon Valley High School teaching the class the (made-up) story of Thomas Zuckerberg III, an ancestor of Mark Zuckerberg during the Gold Rush who sought gold with his friends the Winklevoss twins and Alejandro Saverin – with bloody results.

Exit Valley is the first AITV show — a show powered by The Simulation, where viewers can, with a single prompt, also turn into creators. The Simulation showed off its South Park AI earlier this year and the SHOW-1 model which handles dialogue, animation, editing, music, voice and Exit Valley will be its first original AITV show.

A scene from Looking Glass.

Looking Glass is an FPS horror game and the first agents-based game where the NPCs are aware of the real world and are planning to invade it. NPCs can take actions for and against players in the real world – the demonstration showed agent NPCs able to: autonomously find the address of the player; autonomously find an image of the player; autonomously generate an image of the player in the compromising position and threaten the player it will be released if the player is unable to kill the next mission boss; autonomously order weapons or gifts (or coffee!) to the players’ home using to aid them in the battle against Shadow, the main antagonist of the game.

The game sees itself in the tradition of Doctor Strangelove, using horror and satire to wake people up to an enormous threat – in Doctor Strangelove’s case, nuclear weapons, for Looking Glass, AI.

The Red is an AI-assisted film.

The Red really creeped me out. This one was more like a human-created film with some AI elements. It was an AI horror film made by new AI movie and tech studio Pillars. The film is targeting being the first AI feature narrative film for cinemas and is in part powered by Pillars in-house text-to-video model, a model trained solely on horror. It features a guy who gets put in a cage by mysterious people with red masks. He finds there is a person in there who seems to be a crying woman and then turns into a monster.

White Mirror is an upcoming AI feature film anthology comprising short films made with various AI tools, all on the theme of man and machine from distant past to far future.

It's Gregor Samsa from The Metamorphosis.
It’s Gregor Samsa from The Metamorphosis.

The Metamorphosis, by Roope Rainisto is a funny and disturbing AI short film interpretation of Franz Kafka’s famous story. This one got a laugh out of me, but it was also an existential nightmare. It did a very good job visualizing the plight of Gregor Samsa, who wakes up one day and finds he has turned into a giant cockroach.

I’m Here 17.12.22 5:44 by Mat Dryhurst and Holly Herndon, is a heartwrenching and personal story from artist Holly’s life and experience with childbirth, with imagery generated by AI. The AI art was really impressionistic.

Porco Dio, a short film powered by Pillars’ in-house text to video model PILLARS-1. Unlike most text-to-video models, which take a more holistic approach (input any prompt to get a result), PILLARS-1 was entirely trained on horror films and focuses on horror and will be used for Pillars’ upcoming AI horror film The Red. I happened to be eating pork while this film was running and I had to put my fork down because the pigs turned into sausage before my eyes.

Inworld AI showed a demo of the power of dialogue between humans and NPCs to solve a crime. It was the same demo that I saw and enjoyed at the Game Developers Conference.

Thank You For Not Answering is a surrealistic short film by AI filmmaker Paul Trillo blending moody imagery with a powerful voiceover. It takes live-action people and uses AI to modify them into amorphous and soupy characters.

Absolve was made by Trillo and Voir Pictures and it was a romp through a European museum where AI takes the art and warps it into all sorts of weird images.

My take

This was the second AI Films festival. But it felt like I was there at a new beginning for film and technology. The panels of the filmmakers and game companies reflected that excitement. My hat’s off to Saatchi, who is helping to shepherd this small industry into something bigger. He will also speak on an AI panel at GamesBeat Next.

We’re at a moment where we can see baby films that will one day grow up to be the next Scorese. And my hope is this kind of AI is going to be additive to the industry and is going to be compatible with other kinds of human filmmaking and game making.

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