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Writers Guild Member on Why He Used ChatGPT to Create Musical

The lights went down inside Santa Monica’s Morgan-Wixson Theatre on Aug. 13 ahead of the sixth and final 10-minute play of the evening program at the Brisk Festival. An artificial intelligence robot, played by Tom Szymanski, walked to center stage outfitted in a gray bodysuit, shiny helmet, sneakers covered in red web lighting and an oversized power button in the center of its chest. A scientist, played by Julia Finch, endows the robot with advanced AI and watches it flourish — before suddenly feeling the weight of what she’s created.

The production — directed by actor and writer Will McFadden — speaks directly to a threat at the heart of the WGA strike. Not to spoil the ending, but My Little A.I. has fatal consequences for one of its protagonists. Did we mention that it’s a musical? Oh, and one more thing: McFadden told The Hollywood Reporter after the show that he used ChatGPT to write the thing, giving the burgeoning technology a joint “created by” credit.

Julia Finch stars in Will McFadden's My Little A.I., Will McFadden appears in a portrait and Tom Syzymanski stars in Will McFadden's My Little A.I.

Julia Finch, Will McFadden and Tom Syzymanski, the creative team that toplines My Little A.I. My Little A.I Courtesy of Will McFadden/Midjourney ; McFadden: Courtesy of Ashley Randall Photo

Judging by the audience reaction, the musical was the hit of the night and based on attendee votes, it moved on to the Brisk Festival finals scheduled for Sept. 2. McFadden is aware that his fellow creatives may be less enthused. “I used ChatGPT to help me create this show and to be clear, the script that it generated is not good in my opinion. The characters are one dimensional, the dialogue is clunky and a lot of the lyrics don’t really make sense. I went ahead and produced the show to highlight the weaknesses and limitations of AI when it comes to creative work,” he told The Hollywood Reporter following the show. “The only reason why this show works at all and comes together in any cohesive way is because of the creativity, talent and imagination of all the humans involved. But these tools are here and they aren’t going away, so I’m doing what I can to understand them and utilize them so I can do everything I can to resist being replaced by them.”

His other intention with the show? To inspire discussion around the ethical use of AI tools, says McFadden, a Brisk Festival veteran who previously won first place with one of his plays. “First off, I think there is a serious need for regulation and oversight regarding the use of artificial intelligence. My hope is that these powerful tools can be used by creators to enhance their work or produce content that previously would have been too expensive or time consuming to create, not wielded by suits to replace artists and increase profits.”

Julia Finch, Will McFadden and Tom Syzymanski attend Brisk Festival in Santa Monica.

Out of costume: Julia Finch, Will McFadden and Tom Syzymanski catch up on the red carpet at the Brisk Festival in Santa Monica. For more information about the finals of the festival, click here. Courtesy of Will McFadden

This story first appeared in the Aug. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.



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