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Mixed reception to debut of AI films at Tribeca Film Festival

The Tribeca Film Festival is hosting a first-of-its-kind AI shorts program, and not all filmmakers are enthusiastic.
Inside the Tribeca Film Festival
Posted at 9:36 PM, Jun 10, 2024

Filmmaker Gabe Michael is a first adopter. In film school he was called a traitor for buying a digital camera while his classmates professed the sanctity of film.

“'How dare you do that to film,'” he says they told him. “Like I was personally doing something to ruin film. And I get those attacks every single day.”

But the attacks aren’t about film versus digital anymore — now critics lambaste Michael for his use of AI. Gabe Michael’s short “Let Us Explore” is one of several films playing at Tribeca that utilize AI in some form.

The most presence of AI at the festival this year is a first-of-its-kind shorts program premiering Saturday, June 15 called Sora Shorts. The program is the first partnership between Open AI and a major film festival. For this program, five filmmakers were commissioned to produce short films using Open AI’s new advanced video generation model, Sora.

Many were not happy with the announcement of the Sora shorts program. Filmmaker Luke Barnett said in a post on X, “I’ve been fortunate to have two films premiere at Tribeca. I love the fest and the people who put it on. It changed pretty much everything for me. So, as an alumni, I’m incredibly disappointed to read about their 'AI Shorts' program. I hope they decide to cancel it.”

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Another film that utilizes AI at Tribeca this year is “How I Faked My Life With AI,” a feature documentary directed by Kyle Vorbach and produced by Jeremy Boxer about the endless possibilities and potential dangers of using AI to improve your life.

Vorbach sees AI as a tool to fill in the gaps when lacking in budget and resources.

“If you have the money, hire people. If you don’t have the money, like in our case, I think it’s a way to potentially make art if you have zero facilities with you. I was just a guy in my bedroom at the beginning of this,” Vorbach said when asked about the opportunities AI presents.

He’s not blind to the dangers of it.

“I think that there is of course a tremendous danger of people’s jobs being displaced with AI across the board. You know, just like blue collar jobs being displaced by automation, this is sort of that for white collar jobs. The people sitting in offices, suddenly their jobs are on the line too, and that’s terrifying. I think we need to figure out how we can use this to multiply the amount of work we’re doing and reduce our overhead," he said.