AI for storytellers and creators

By Mark Schaefer

I recently attended a SXSW session reviewing the state of the art of using AI for complex storytelling — specifically, movie scripts.

I saw an example of a script written for a Hobbit-style movie and it was … remarkable. Seriously.

Stories are patterns, and computer algorithms excel at patterns. And while writing bots may not have a human soul, they can process data from a hundred years of movies and detect what makes a box office smash. Integrating user data on emotional responses can teach AI to create peak emotional experiences in a script.

Bottom line, it can be done. And for less complex types of content — like blog posts — AI is at the door.

AI for storytellers

The panel featured Yves Bergquist, Director of AI & Neuroscience in Media at USC’s Entertainment Technology Center, an AI think tank funded by three movie studios.

“Should creatives be afraid of this?” he asked. “Absolutely.”

“Our goal and hope is to keep humans involved in the creative process.”

That statement sent a chill down my spine.

Bergquist emphasized that at this time, the movie studios have zero interest in bot-written scripts for two reasons:

  1. There are bigger problems like asset tracking that can deploy AI.
  2. Studio leaders are not ready to make the psychological leap required to eliminate the traditional human screenwriters.

“Technology is moving beyond many people’s ability to accept it. They’re not yet ready to remove humans,” he said.

But it will happen.

“I believe two things,” he said. “First, Hollywood and Silicon Valley are ultimately in the same business: producing algorithms. Second, to survive and thrive, the media and entertainment industry needs to start thinking algorithmically about stories.”

Implications for corporate content

Shouldn’t smart companies begin to view content the same way: algorithmic stories?

Yes and no.

There are different content strategies that require different kinds of content. If you are looking to only produce boatloads of Google-sufficient posts to influence SEO, you will probably be employing bots very soon. This commodity-like content will push Content Shock into a new orbit.

But if you’re looking to establish thought leadership, you can probably have an AI assist, but a human will have to be involved at some level … at least to approve it!

Which leads us to …

AI and the personal brand

Personally, I’m not worried about being replaced by AI.

I have an audience who loves me because of me. They’re patient with my typos, gracious when I’m wrong, cheering when I’m right, and supportive through my ups and downs.

They love me because I’ve steadfastly built an effective and meaningful presence with my audience over ten years. There is emotion there. My audience isn’t going to hire a bot to give a speech or conduct a corporate marketing workshop — they’re going to hire me because I’ve done the work to build their trust.

In other words, I’ve established an effective personal brand.

It’s strange to me that some people still resist this notion of “personal brand” when it is the lone salvation for creatives in the emerging bot world. A personal brand is what you’re known for (as I describe in the aptly-named book KNOWN: The handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age).

That emotional connection with an actionable audience is the only strategy you have left to remain relevant in the coming years. Get going now before it’s too late.

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for {grow}, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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Originally published at on April 8, 2019.

Keynote speaker, strategy consultant, Rutgers University marketing faculty and author of 9 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Cumulative Advantage.

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