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    Doc Producers Call for Generative AI Transparency in Documentary – The Music news


    During the SAG and WGA contract negotiations, conversation swirled around Hollywood’s use of artificial intelligence as the industry wrestled with what the new tech could mean for the future of entertainment. Now, a group of documentary producers are hoping to bring attention to the use of generative AI in non-fiction filmmaking, specifically as it pertains to archival work.

    “It is time for the industry to establish standards in response to the new technology, so that trust with our viewers will remain unbroken,” reads the open letter from the newly established Archival Producers Alliance. The Alliance is made up of over 100 documentarians that include Emmy and Oscar winning filmmakers that have worked across studios and streamers.

    As the non-fiction market has boomed, largely thanks to streaming supercharging the once sleepy industry, there has been growing ethical concerns among those in the doc community. These concerns have ranged from subjects acting as producers on projects about their own lives to stories being shaped by studios to follow certain narrative structures. A growing concern in the doc community has been the use of generative artificial intelligence.

    Spearheaded by Sub-Basement Archival’s Rachel Antell and Jennifer Petrucelli (In the Shadow of Everest, Ahead of the Curve) and Stephanie Jenkins of Florentine Films (Muhammad Ali), the group is calling on the industry to establish best practices and have greater transparency when it comes to generative AI.

    Among the examples of generative AI use in non-fiction archival work, the group cites the generation of fake newspaper articles and headlines and of recreations and non-existent historical artifacts without identification. Additionally, AI-generated “historical” images that are meant to depict real people and events, “rather than sourcing real ones where available” are being used “in order to save time and money,” the open letter notes.

    “Generated material presented as ‘real’ in one film will be passed along – on the internet, in other films – and is in danger of forever muddying the historical record,” the letter reads.”

    The group’s focus is not on all artificial intelligence used in docs. (Recent docs Welcome to Chechnya and Another Body used artificial intelligence as a storytelling mechanism or to help conceal the identity of interviewees.) The Alliance’s focus is on generative AI (or GAI), which is being used to create new materials like photos, video, or audio. In 2021, the Anthony Bourdain doc Roadrunner received criticism for generating the voice of the late Bourdain using AI.

    The Alliance’s open letter concludes: “We feel that it is imperative that the documentary community lead by example in setting a precedent of transparency and best practices.”   

    Read the full letter from newly formed Archival Producers Alliance below.

    As seen in the recent WGA and SAG strikes, generative AI (GAI) is revolutionizing the film industry. We can’t know the future, but we believe we have a responsibility to use GAI in accordance with the journalistic values the documentary community has long held. Foremost is the implicit promise to the audience that what is presented as authentic media, is in fact authentic. We see that representation being skewed by GAI, and believe it is time for the industry to establish standards in response to the new technology, so that trust with our viewers will remain unbroken.

    We are the Archival Producers Alliance, a passionate group of filmmakers using our collective knowledge to influence policy and affect change within the industry. Our completed works include Emmy-, Oscar-, and Peabody-Award winning films for networks, streamers, museums, and theatrical releases. As archival producers, we collaborate with directors, producers and editors to research, source and license all forms of audio-visual archival materials. In the documentary space, we’re on the front lines of preserving integrity and journalistic ethics for archival material used in the films we work on – and together we’re raising our concerns about how GAI will affect our work, and documentary films as a whole.

    A few examples of GAI use that members of the Alliance have started to see: 

    • A lack of transparency with audiences when historical voices are generated by AI, leading viewers to believe they are hearing authentic primary sources when they are not.
    • Creating AI-generated ‘historical’ images to depict people and events, rather than sourcing real ones where available, in order to save time and money.
    • Generating fake newspaper articles and headlines, removing viewers from fact-based sources.
    • Generating recreations and non-existent historical artifacts without identifying them as such. 

    We recognize there may be good reasons for documentarians to use AI-generated media: to bring to life the stories of people who are missing from history, or to take viewers to a time or place without adequate visual representation. But without standards, use of GAI threatens to distort history and transform the relationship we have with audiences. Generated material presented as “real” in one film will be passed along – on the internet, in other films – and is in danger of forever muddying the historical record. The commingling of real and unreal taints all of it; if neither images or audio can be believed, then the nonfiction genre is hopelessly compromised. 

    The survival of the documentary industry, in all of its power and promise to help us understand and interpret our history and our present, is contingent on maintaining a truthful and transparent relationship with viewers. 

    Particularly in the absence of regulations around this quickly-evolving technology, we feel that it is imperative that the documentary community lead by example in setting a precedent of transparency and best practices.   

    Signed,

    Rachel Antell: Archival Producer – Sub-Basement Archival
    Jennifer Petrucelli: Archival Producer – Sub-Basement Archival

    Stephanie Jenkins: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Florentine Films / Joan of Archive
    Prue Arndt: Archive Producer – Independent
    Lizzy MCGlynn: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Kenn Rabin: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Fulcrum Media Services
    Rich Remsberg: Archival Producer – Freelance

    Sheila Maniar: Archival Producer Documentary Producer – Freelance
    Christine Fall: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Clare Smith Marash: Filmmaker – Freelance
    Eugen Bräunig: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Macrofilm
    Emmy Scharlatt: Archival Producer/ Filmmaker – Esme Films
    Matt McDonald: Archival Producer – Triple Threat TV / McUsbay Media
    Akia Thorpe: Documentary Producer – Florentine Films
    Arsh Harjani: Archival Producer – Vox Media

    Celia Aniskovich: Archival Producer, Director, Producer, Dial Tone Films
    Mika Holliday Lentz: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Freelance
    Melissa Jacobson: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Freelance
    Jillian Bergman: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Megan Robertson: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – FXR Films, LLC
    Andrew Mayz: Archival Producer, Director, Producer – Freelance
    Emily Harrold: Archival Producer, Documentary Filmmaker – Apograph Productions
    Chi-Young Park: Archival Producer, Producer – Freelance
    Rebecca Losick: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Heather Wilson: Archival Producer – Archival Ninjas
    Carrie Nelson: Archival Producer – McGee Media
    Mary Abramson: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Lauren Wimbush: Archival Producer – Documentary Filmmaker, Freelance
    Noah Weitzman: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Avery Fox: Archival Producer – Freelance

    Sascha Weiss: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Freelance
    Frauke Levin: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Rachael Morrison, Archival Producer – Freelance
    Ben Cooper: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Vanessa Maruskin: Archival Producer – Story Producer, Freelance
    Emily Schkolnick: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Freelance
    Cara Fitts, Archival Producer – Macrofilm
    John Haptas: Documentary Filmmaker – Stylo Films
    Kristine Samuelson: Documentary Filmmaker – Stylo Films
    Nick Tyson: Archival Producer, Documentary Filmmaker – Freelance
    Jeff Dye, Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Freelance
    Mary Antinozzi Soule: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Ray Segal: Archival Producer – SegalPix
    Amy Brillhart: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Mattie Akers: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Nick Gilbert: Archive Producer – Freelance
    Kevin Bay: Archive Producer, Documentary Filmmaker – Freelance
    Brian Becker: Archival Producer/Filmmaker – Freelance

    Rob Garver: Filmmaker / Archival Producer – 29Pictures LLC
    Natalie Shmuel: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Meaghan Kelley: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Judson Wells: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Elizabeth Klinck: Archive Producer – E Klinck Research
    Jacqui Edwards: Archive Producer – Freelance

    Paul Dallas: Archival Producer – Producer, Independent
    Katie McGrath: Archive Producer – Freelance
    Victoria Evans: Archive Producer – Freelance
    Joe Siegal: Assistant Editor – Florentine Films
    Margaret Lee: Archival producer, assistant editor – Freelance
    Hannah Shepard: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Madeline King: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Michelle Adler: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Madeleine Lawrence: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Johanna Schiller: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Jo Stones: Archive Producer – Freelance
    Gabriella Gallus: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Rosemary Rotondi: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Hilary McHone: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Solomon Polshek: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Lea Donovan: Archival Producer, Rights & Clearances Consultant – Freelance
    Katy Jones Garrity: Archival Producer – Cabbage Leaf Pictures
    Willy Fines: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Julia Squilla: Archival Producer, Story Producer – Freelance
    Melissa Saucedo: Archival Producer, Editor – Freelance

    Christina D. Bartson: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Kate Sangway: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Max Segal: Archival Producer, Rights & Clearances Consultant – Freelance
    Peter Goldberg: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Chloe Kurabi: Archival AP, Archival Researcher – Freelance
    Michelle Moy: Filmmaker/ Documentary Producer – Independent
    Debra McClutchy: Documentary filmmaker, Archival Producer – Freelance
    Olivia Hamilton: Archival AP, Archival Researcher – Freelance
    Jameka Autry, Documentary filmmaker, Archival Producer – Freelance
    Rebecca Z Stern: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Jennifer Troyer: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Helen Dobrowski: Documentary filmmaker, Archival Producer -Freelance
    Catalina Curbishley Esnaola: Archive Researcher – Freelance
    Laura Tusi: Archival Producer & Researcher – Freelance
    Michael Pickett: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Olivia Di Poi: Archival Producer – Macrofilm
    Kiersten Leigh Johnson :Archival Producer & Researcher – Freelance
    Rochelle Widdowson: Director, Archive Producer and journalist – Freelance
    Gregor Murbach: Archive Producer – Freelance
    Tiffany Hagger: Archival Producer & Researcher – Freelance
    Kate Owen: Archive Producer – Freelance
    Stuart Brown: Archive Producer – Freelance
    Elijah Stevens: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Freelance
    Sarah Katz: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Katz Tale Media
    Laura Coxson: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Freelance
    Wyatt Stone: Archival Producer & Researcher – Freelance
    Susan Johnson: Archival Producer & Researcher – Freelance
    Katy Haas: Archival Producer, Documentary Filmmaker – Freelance
    James Heath: Archive Producer – Freelance
    Josh Margolis: Archival Producer, Filmmaker – Freelance
    Rebecca O’Connor Thompson: Archive Producer – Freelance
    Alessia Petitto: Archive Producer & Archive Researcher – Freelance
    Tirzah Brott: Archival Producer & Researcher – Freelance
    Lucas Frank: Producer – Skiff Mountain Films
    Sabrina Worth: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Manon Blackman: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Freelance
    Zoë Kase: Archival Producer, Researcher, Associate Producer – Freelance
    Michele Ngo: Producer – Freelance
    Lisa Bell Weisdorf: Archival Producer & Researcher – Freelance
    Magda Gora: Archival Producer, Producer – Freelance
    Michele Etcheberry: Archival Associate Producer, Researcher – Freelance
    Maggie Oakley: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Shawna Brakefield-Haase: Filmmaker, Archival Producer – The Brakefield Company
    Libby Kreutz: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Allison Ferner: Archival Producer – ADF Films, Inc.
    Martina Maio: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Alessandra Bellizia: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Freelance
    Maggie Jay Mellor: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Claudia Lopez: Archival Producer, Documentary Producer – Freelance
    Natasha Sharapova: Archival producer, Filmmaker – Freelance
    Stephen Sowers: Archival Producer, Filmmaker – Freelance
    Kevina Tidwell: Archival Producer, Librarian, Freelance – Brooklyn Public Library
    Hillary Dann: Archival Producer -Freelance
    Amory Davis: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Tim McAleer: Producer – Florentine Films
    Jackie Clary: Archive Producer – Freelance
    Cornelia Schnall: Archival Producer & Researcher – Freelance
    Judy Aley: Archival Producer – Freelance
    Clark Burnett: Associate Producer – Florentine Films



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