Press Release

Morrison & Foerster and the Motion Picture Association (MPA) Co-Host Panel on Artificial Intelligence at 2019 Berlinale Film Festival

13 Feb 2019

Berlinale Film Festival Attendees
(f.l.t.r.: Jean M. Prewitt, Independent Film & Television Alliance; Paul Friedman, Morrison & Foerster; Kimberly Marteau Emerson; Sven Bliedung, Volucap; Kathleen Schröter, Fraunhofer HHI; Alexandra Lebret, European Producers Club; David Mees, U.S. Embassy; Christiane Stuetzle, Morrison & Foerster; Christian Sommer, MPA; Nicola Bruening, BMW Group Germany; Christiane von Wahlert, FSK Voluntary Self-Control for Film; Ralf Winkler, Qualifiction; Derek Wax, Wild Mercury Productions; Fiona Evans, U.S. Consul General, Düsseldorf)

BERLIN (February 13, 2019) – Morrison & Foerster, a leading global law firm, together with the Motion Picture Association (MPA), have continued their long-term cooperation and co-hosted another high-profile panel session on “Film Goes AI – Innovation and Accountability”, on the occasion of the 69th Berlinale Film Festival.

The panel session, attended by more than 170 guests, was organized and opened by Christiane Stuetzle, partner and Chair of Morrison & Foerster’s Global Film & Entertainment Practice and Christian Sommer, Country Representative Germany for the MPA. Christiane Stuetzle summarized the multiple open questions associated with the “buzzword” AI — a word everyone talks about, not always knowing exactly what it really means or how it has already become part of our lives.

This year marked the fifth anniversary of our cooperation with the U.S. Embassy and David Mees, Cultural Attaché, U.S. Embassy Berlin, gave a welcome speech highlighting past and current correlations between technological developments and corresponding futuristic storytelling. Mr. Mees outlined the broad array of U.S. movies and TV shows depicting AI-related subjects such as the Netflix show “Black Mirror”. 

During his introductory video message, Stan McCoy, President and Managing Director, MPA EMEA, gave various examples of how AI-related techniques are already used in today’s film post production process, showing impressive green screen shots and subsequent VFX results. His quote of MPAA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin: “We live in an AI world with AOL ‘rules’,” kicked off the panel.

Prof. Dr. Klaus Goldhammer, founder and managing director of the Berlin-based research institute Goldmedia, outlined areas that already rely on AI technology, such as VoD platforms, credit scoring and sports journalism, and pointed to further media-related areas of AI application developments (e.g., music and works of visual art/film created by AI, as well as cinema pricing).

The panel session focused on the links between AI and film from three perspectives: film as a story-telling medium, film as a driver for AI developments in other industry sectors and AI applications serving the film industry.

Sven Bliedung, CEO of Volucap Studios, showcased the studio’s work by impressively placing a 360° virtual person between the panelists. Volucap’s partner Frauenhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, represented by Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications Kathleen Schröter, explained the institute’s research on algorithms enabling more advanced control of a scanned person’s movements, as well as the aspects of film-related applications that are becoming increasingly relevant in other sectors, such as life sciences, thereby highlighting the importance of the film industry as an innovation driver for other industries.

With regard to the accountability aspect of AI, Nicola Bruening, Head of Representative Office BMW, made a point about AI-controlled autonomous cars not being designed to weigh two potentially endangered lives against each other in case of a crash, but to instead avoid a collision at all costs — with the caveat that AI-controlled cars are likely to reduce the number of accidents significantly anyway. Turning from factual AI applications to fictional ones, Derek Wax, Managing Director of Wild Mercury Productions and executive producer of acclaimed TV series “Humans”, introduced a new aspect to the discussion: in the TV show, humans employ AI robots as housekeeping or medical support staff, but are at the same time scared of being replaced (even emotionally) by these “Synths”. Ralf Winkler, CEO of Qualifiction, presented an algorithm that analyzes and predicts book bestsellers, but he also emphasized that they evaluated “commercial success” and not “genuine creativity”. Jean M. Prewitt, President of IFTA, showed concern about AI currently being in “the hands of a few big players,” thus potentially presenting a challenge to market entry for less technologically-advanced stakeholders. In contrast, Alexandra Lebret, Producer and Managing Director of the European Producer’s Club, outlined the positive aspects of AI, and described AI as a chance to secure film financing through publicly available data by way of forecasts regarding a film’s success.

Christiane von Wahlert, Managing Director of self-control body FSK, which will change their viewing-based age rating system to a completely AI-based and computer generated age-rating system, concluded: “AI is a pretty good decision maker. This is a shock for humans, it’s a humiliation.”

Christiane Stuetzle and Christian Sommer wrapped up the panel by concluding: “AI is there, it is not to stop anymore. We should embrace it as a tool that supports us and yet make sure that we will subdue it and not be subdued. The panel has shown that the film industry is, and remains, a driver of innovation which are of importance for many other key industries, such as the automotive industry and the life science sector.

The panel discussion was followed by a reception with more than 350 high-profile guests from the international film & entertainment industry, using the opportunity to continue the dialogue and leverage the networking platform. Paul Friedman, Morrison & Foerster’s Managing Partner for Europe, opened the reception with a word of welcome on behalf of the firm.

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