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A 6-Step Hollywood Action Plan For Sora’s Generative AI Wake-Up Call

OpenAI’s recent “Sora” text-to-cinematic quality video debut is a wake-up call for Hollywood. It has opened eyes in the industry — many for the first time — to generative AI’s immense power. That power certainly threatens jobs, just as any new disruptive technology always does. But it also opens new creative possibilities, new jobs, and new business models. Sora — which is currently limited to producing one-minute micro-short films — underscores that generative AI is in its early innings.

So the key question for all of us, no matter what role we play (business or creative), is how we best prepare ourselves for success in an industry that is increasingly transformed by generative AI. One thing is certain. Passivity plays no positive role in any tech-tonic shift. We must move past fear and paralysis to acceptance and action.

With that in mind, here’s a six-step program to best position yourself for this coming generative AI sea change (more like tsunami). Depending on your mindset, consider it your generative AI “cheat sheet” or “survival guide.”

Step 1: Accept this new AI reality

First, open your mind to what Sora represents — our new transformational generative AI reality. As with any new technology, once it’s out of the box that genie can’t be put back in. New technologies always disrupt established companies, norms and business models. If nothing else, the internet revolution taught us that.

Exhibit A in the world of media and entertainment is Blockbuster Video. Remember that blue, white and yellow behemoth? It was the seemingly unbeatable video champ –- until it wasn’t. Blockbuster execs blithered, dithered and arrogantly dismissed the glaringly obvious Internet revolution in front of them and then, as they say, the rest is history. Thousands of stores were shuttered, tens of thousands of jobs were lost and ultimately the company shut down completely. All that remains is its place in entertainment infamy as a cautionary tale.

At the same time, others more tuned into the emerging force of the Internet birthed entirely new categories of jobs and mega-companies, Netflix being one of them (i.e., what Blockbuster could have been). Today, Netflix finds itself in the so-called “Magnificent Seven” stocks that dominate our 401ks. Only Apple and Microsoft pre-dated all the others in that Internet-laden basket, and that same tech cycle is likely to happen here. Nvidia is proof positive of that, moving from relative obscurity less than 15 months ago to being one of the world’s five-most valuable companies with a valuation that exceeds $2 trillion.

Step 2: Learn about Generative AI

Once you move past acceptance, it’s time to move toward action. Educate yourself about generative AI, because it will significantly impact all aspects of your personal and professional life. The more you know about AI, the more control you will have over it and the better positioned you will be to evolve in these relentlessly changing times. Generalists who demonstrate basic knowledge, flexibility and an openness to new possibilities are far more likely to prosper than those who are complacent, too narrowly focused in (and comfortable with) their expertise, and who ignore the current state of affAIrs.

It’s imperative to track developments in generative AI closely. Read your favorite entertainment publication daily (especially this one!). Listen to your favorite media-tech podcasts (I recommend “Hard Fork” from The New York Times as a taster). Subscribe to the numerous newsletters (shameless plug: subscribe to my free weekly media-focused generative AI newsletter “the brAIn”). Learn about the media and tech industry players leading the change. Equally important, learn the relevant basic jargon (e.g., large language model or “LLM”) so that you can effectively engage in informed conversations. Your expanded AI knowledge base and vocabulary may lead you to your next job, especially since many traditional ones will evaporate.

Remember, Tyler Perry just halted his $800 million studio expansion – which means putting hundreds of new jobs on ice – after watching OpenAI’s “Sora” text-to-video demo. But check job listings. You’ll see no shortage of those in need of AI expertise. So there’s no need to panic. But there is a need to take action and evolve.

Step 3: Use and experiment with the AI tools

Once you’ve invested in this basic foundation, use the generative AI tools that are openly available. Experiment with them. You simply can’t understand the power of this new transformational technology in a vacuum. Start with text-to-text generator ChatGPT and text-to-image generator Midjourney. If you want to experience the latest state of the art specifically geared to creators and the entertainment industry, check out Lore Machine (a company that I previously profiled) and its latest story visualization system. It will blow your mind, as this video demo shows.

I remember when I first used ChatGPT soon after OpenAI unleashed it into our unsuspecting world 15 months ago. Its impact was immediate and visceral, and I immediately knew that nothing would ever be the same. Now, here we are, Microsoft –- OpenAI’s main investor -– is the most valuable company in the world, and no longer the sleeping giant from the North.

Step 4: Meet the people leading the change

With your newfound generative AI curiosity and tech chops, get out of your bubble and practice what I call “active serendipity” – putting yourself in an IRL position to make things happen. Mingle with others who either drive this generative AI change, share valuable perspectives about it or at least are equally committed to taking action. Attend industry meetups. In Los Angeles, AI LA is a great organization that hosts ongoing events. Its next big media and entertainment focused summit is “AI on the Lot” on May 16th.

Organize discussions of your own. For media and entertainment executives, invite generative AI tech startups to demonstrate their wares. They most likely will be happy to do it simply because they may want to partner with you. Similarly, generative AI tech startups should reach out to media and entertainment companies so that both sides can learn. That investment may lead to game-changing opportunities for everyone involved.

Step 5: Elevate and support humanity

Elevate humanity. Support human creators with your energy, time and dollars and, for those of you so inclined, remain steadfast in your belief that true originality flows only from the human mind (rather than the algorithmic reconstitutions of earlier works). This doesn’t mean that you fear technology. To the contrary, it’s an explicit acknowledgement of generative AI’s potential to become an invaluable tool for the creative community.

With this human-first mindset, dig even deeper to learn about evolving basic guardrails like copyright law, advocate for AI “trust and safety,” and support policies that define sensible emerging rules of the game. The entertainment industry’s Human Artistry Campaign is one advocacy group working with Congress right now.

Step 6: Invest in relationships

Most importantly, invest in relationships! Hollywood has always been a business built on relationships, after all. Practicing “active serendipity” increases those odds, together with informed direct outreach. People are generally not as unattainable as you think, so long as you personalize your outreach and demonstrate authenticity and some kind of shared interest. Appeal to something that will interest them (not you).

Ironically, the more that technology takes over our lives, the more that human relationships matter. So long as humans exist on this planet, I believe that humans will always gravitate to other humans to bond and build the next business booms.

That human connective tissue is impenetrable, even by the most adept artificial minds and hands.

Reach out to Peter at peter@creativemedia.biz. For those of you interested in learning more, sign up to his “Fearless Media” newsletter, visit his firm Creative Media at creativemedia.biz, and follow him on Threads @pcsathy.

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