Runway’s LA film festival marked an inflection point for AI movies Runway’s LA film festival marked an inflection point for AI movies
Join us in returning to NYC on June 5th to collaborate with executive leaders in exploring comprehensive methods for auditing AI models regarding bias,... Runway’s LA film festival marked an inflection point for AI movies

Join us in returning to NYC on June 5th to collaborate with executive leaders in exploring comprehensive methods for auditing AI models regarding bias, performance, and ethical compliance across diverse organizations. Find out how you can attend here.

The 2nd Annual International AI Film Festival (AIFF), which took place in Downtown Los Angeles on May 1st, marked a pivotal moment for generative AI’s Hollywood integration. 

The showcase, which was produced by New York City-headquartered generative AI video startup Runway, also included partnership support from the well-established Tribeca Film Festival and Geneva International Film Festival (GIFF). 

More than 400 producers, animators, actors, and directors packed the invite-only premiere at the Orpheum Theater not in protest — but to fully embrace what their peers created with Runway’s AI models (Gen-1 and Gen-2) and other AI tools, as well as more traditional filmmaking techniques. The collective experience at times had the crowd gasping in awe — and it was clear this memorialized a pivotal moment in cinema.  

“We got almost 300 submissions last year [for the festival]. This year we got 3,000, and that’s a sign of the times,” said Cristóbal Valenzuela, Runway’s CEO and co-founder while addressing the crowd before screening the ten finalists’ films. 

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It was only a couple of months ago when I attended a premier by a group of Hollywood filmmakers who produced Our T2 Remake — the first feature-length movie created entirely using generative AI. 

While this parody practically celebrated generative AI’s abundant flaws, this year’s AIFF movies exhibited just how far the technology has progressed. 

A Winning AI and Film Formula 

In a note over LinkedIn, director and AIFF judge Paul Trillo wrote that participants were asked to list out all the AI tools — and how they were used — with their submissions. 

He noted that even with the high-fidelity concepts on display, none of them included Open AI’s highly regarded new text-to-video Sora mode. 

While the showcasing films ranged in theme and style, where some included more obvious AI visuals than others, the best entrants displayed compelling narrative-driven foundations with well-integrated AI assets. 

The top Grand Prix-winning short, Get Me Out / 囚われて, portrayed a combination of emotional, human live-action shots along with smart AI visual effects. 

“We used three tools to make the film. This included Luma AI to recreate as well as capture 3D environments, Runway’s video-to-video tool as an overlay to spice things up, and ComfyUI was used to re-skin one of our actors with AI to make it look as if he was purely made of muscle,” said filmmaker Daniel Antebi in an email. 

When it came to grappling with AI’s shortcomings, Antebi embraced repetition and leaning into hallucinations. Just as improvisation happens on live sets, Antebi admits, “We didn’t even attend for the final aesthetic, but it was one of our bizarre tests.” 

Get Me Out exemplified a sentiment expressed by veteran LA producer Joel Kuwahara, who is best known for his long-time post-production work on The Simpsons. During the pre-showcase panel, he said, “I don’t want AI to pull focus away from the character or story…I try to see if I can blur the lines and have it be invisible.”

Hollywood’s Evolved AI Viewpoint

At AIFF, many different ideas surfaced as to how AI will progress cinema’s future. 

Trillo, who recently released Sora-created videos for TED as well as the first commercial AI music video, cited that major industry names will help cement the discourse. “Once a bigger filmmaker uses a new technology then it kind of makes it more palatable — and that’s going to happen.” 

AI is also getting into the action at notable festivals. Caleb Ward, who runs the most well-known AI Filmmaking course, Curious Refuge, disclosed at the premier that he is anchoring a sizeable AI film presence at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival in France (May 14th-25th).

In an interview before the show, Runway’s CTO and co-founder Anastasis Germanidis said that he plans to continue building tools that provide “users with more art-directing control.”

Leveraging these tools, the company’s CDO and co-founder Alejandro Matamala said that we’ll continue to see creators level up their abilities — “writers will become animators, animators will transition to filmmakers, and more.”

Finally, Runway’s CEO Cristóbal Valenzuela sees AI film along two planes. He believes as the technology becomes commonplace, we’ll drop the AI qualifier. “You never go and watch a movie because when the camera was used,” he said on stage.

Additionally, he sees AI preluding to a wholly new, yet-to-be-named medium. “Eventually it’s [AI’s] going to create a new art form and a new media type that we just don’t have the words yet to describe.”

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