Lost and Dark Crystal Screenwriter Javier Marxuach-Grillo Talks AI in Hollywood and Why TV Writers Need to be on Set

Seven years ago, Javier Grillo-Marxuach got drunk with fellow writer-producer Jose Molina and compiled a list of all sociopathic abusers [theyd] worked for, and a list of the good ones. One list was significantly longer than the other.

Though he didn’t specify which of his television work he was referring to, though Lost comes to mind thanks to recently surfaced reports about his toxic writers room, Grillo-Marxuach spoke at ATX Festival’s Beyond the Page panel about how resources and mentorship for younger writers started to decline as the industry moved to a streaming model.

One of the biggest responsibilities a writer has aside from writing screenplays is to make sure that the scripts maintain their integrity throughout the production process. For a variety of practical reasons, a scene that works on the page doesn’t always translate in front of the cameras, and it was universally recognized that TV writers were there to provide on-the-fly guidance on how to make changes that stayed. true to the showrunners vision. But these days, writers are far more rarely paid to come on set.

In streaming shows, you spend six months straight writing scripts, and then everyone gets busy, Marxuach-Grillo said. The only person left is the showrunner and maybe whoever was the least expensive writer on staff. Then production begins and you have to figure out what to actually do.

I had a job during the lockdown. It was a streaming show and they wrote their season. Then the writers were told to leave, and they did, and then [the studio] gave notes. And one of the notes was, can you please remove this subplot that’s a quarter to a third of the season? The writers had all moved on to other jobs, so they called me, can you spend time with the showrunner to sort this out?’

Marxuach-Grillo describes the experience of working completely separate from the production as writing into a vacuum, which hurts the quality of a show and makes it difficult for junior-level writers to gain the experience needed to move up the ranks and become showrunners themselves. Referencing the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike and arguing that on-set experience is critical to the television process, rather than a privilege, Marxuach-Grillo said, “The future of television is that Netflix will understand that they have to make If we don’t go back to a model where we’re doing it because that’s the structure, then we have to put it into contracts and they have to pony up to get the writers on set to keep us as employees of the show for the duration of the writing and of the production of the show.That’s what we were hitting for.

In another panel, titled Artificial Intelligence and Us, he discussed another sticking point in the WGA negotiations: artificial intelligence and how it could end up being used to write film and television. Rather than arguing that AI should be banned from the creative process entirely, she speculated that perhaps there are ethical uses of AI that could benefit both writers and studios.

We can be afraid of this technology, or we can embrace the fact of the matter: it moves at the speed of capitalism. The speed of light has nothing on the speed of capitalism, he said. It’s compiling things and putting them together in ways that can feel creepy. The fact of the matter is that AI will write. So we need to teach people how to use technology to enable us to make better choices, not make choices for us. AI can help us find sources of information we never knew existed, but it’s only as good as who provides it with what.

Before going on strike, the WGA made proposals to limit the economic damage to writers due to the use of artificial intelligence because, says Grillo-Marxuach, our immediate nightmare scenario is: someone will convince AI to write a bad script , and then it will go away. to make me rewrite it into a good script for less money. The studios, collectively negotiating as AMPTP, rejected the proposal and instead offered to hold annual meetings to discuss advances in the technology.

At the panel, Grillo-Marxuach said, “They have a plan.” If they’re just talking about holding meetings now, that means they’re having meetings. They know what they will do with it. We have to come to this. We have to take those tools and say, Hey, look. Here’s what I can do with it. Instead of studies telling us, “Here’s what we think you should do.”

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