Can AI make cinema a visual treat without compromising on storytelling?

Artem Golenkov and Valentin Generalov, creative directors of 'The Enfilade of Worlds', the UAE film shortlisted for the ‘Audience Choice’ award in the Artificial Intelligence Film Festival, weigh in


Anamika Chatterjee

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

Published: Mon 4 Mar 2024, 9:52 AM

Last updated: Mon 4 Mar 2024, 9:53 AM

Artificial intelligence is no longer a buzzword; it has penetrated into every aspect of modern life, including the world of entertainment. Reams have been written about how AI will change the course of filmmaking, an evidence of which can be seen at Expo City Dubai’s Artificial Intelligence Film Festival, where projects from across the world that have used AI for storytelling are competing for top awards. The Enfilade of Worlds the UAE film shortlisted for the ‘Audience Choice’ award in the Artificial Intelligence Film Festival. In an interview with City Times, its creative directors Artem Golenkov and Valentin Generalov talk at length about why AI will enhance storytelling in cinema without compromising on emotive elements films are known to evoke. Edited excerpts from an interview:

Tell us a bit about your backgrounds.

Alexander Chalenko and Oksana Gil are longtime business partners and are among the leading producers in the world of commercials with affiliated offices in Dubai, London, Moscow and Los Angeles. We have been in the business for more than 20 years, and have produced numerous commercials for the top 10 World brands.

We have also been involved in the music clips and feature films production. We head an international production company that is developing and producing around the World.

As independent filmmaking relies more and more on having key relationships in distinct territories, we have been able to utilise our years of experience making award-winning content to help connect top storytellers with the connections they need around the World.

We specialise in the development and production of digital formats for a global audience.

Artem, you had been a journalist and an art critic before turning your attention to video art. How is using AI for filmmaking a natural progression for you as an artist?

For me, be it journalism or art, meanings have always been more important than tools.

With AI, the possibilities are enormous; the AI models are so impressive, it can make your head spin. However, you still get to decide for yourself: “What is this work about? What is this film about?”, and only then: “how are we going to make it?” And if the priorities are set correctly, AI will help you. In my opinion, AI is the natural progression for filmmaking and this has been showcased through the Artificial Intelligence Film Festival by Expo City Dubai.

In turn, the prevailing cultural norms among audiences guide both the content and execution of artistic endeavours. I have always been interested in tools that help in storytelling, that help you grow visually and make the spectacle more breathtaking. AI will attract more audiences, no doubt, especially the new generations with a more limited attention span. It gives us a new form of media and more depth to storytelling. I can’t wait to see what more it has to offer.

Artem Golenkov and Valentin Generalov
Artem Golenkov and Valentin Generalov

Valentin, you have worked in the broadcasting industry. What eventually drew you towards the potential of artificial intelligence in storytelling? When did the idea for The Enfilade of Worlds take root?

That's right. The advertising industry is vast. One of the hallmarks of good advertising is communication with the consumer and we have learned to do this very well. The enormous experience of our company allows us to solve complex production and creative problems. We decided to share our experience, knowledge, and professionalism with another area of communication: the creation of video content for children and teenagers. But other production companies do this as well, so we thought about what we can offer to our target audience and what our USP is (Unique Selling Proposition).

We quickly realised that we have partners who develop neural networks (artificial intelligence). We asked ourselves what will happen if we combine our creative and production potential with AI development and the outcome should be a product that is interesting to children and teenagers all over the world. What do children of different nations have in common? What are they interested in seeing? Probably something they haven't seen before us. The answer was: Space and the Future. Thus, we began to work in this direction.

The film has been described as "an exploration of the lives of those who have travelled between the worlds". In what ways is it a deviation from the cartoon series, if at all? And what is the larger message for human beings living in modern societies?

As the creators of this project, we think it is important to address topics that sooner or later will be of concern to everyone on the planet. Are we alone here in the Universe? And if not, what do inhabited planets that are far from us look like? Who are the creatures that live in the worlds invisible to us? We thought it would be interesting to show these worlds through the eyes of ordinary children who were lucky enough to see them. Think back to when you were a child: many of us wanted to go on space adventures with a 100 per cent guarantee of returning to Earth. So, we offer this amazing opportunity to our viewers. By submitting the film to be part of Expo City’s AIFF, this message has now reached an even bigger audience.

Storytelling in cinema is also about evoking emotions. How does the use of AI help in that process?

Books, theatre, cinema, animation, any quality content is always a release of emotions. We emotionally identify ourselves with the characters of our works and, just like them, we unconsciously experience the entire spectrum of human emotions. The stronger and more talented the work of art, the stronger the experience, the more serotonin is released.

Yes, we make people happier with the work of art. You may ask how AI helps with this and it is exactly AI that created those invisible worlds of the Universe, which we did not know about. The AI tool showed them to us with amazing accuracy and clarity. Now there is no doubt, these worlds are exactly like that: diverse, fantastic, cosmic. The popularity of multiverses nowadays is not a coincidence.

The UAE has been at the forefront of embracing the AI disruption. What sort of infrastructural help did you receive in the making of the film?

The UAE is a fantastic country, a country of the future, almost from our animated series. What we see here, what is being done in terms of popularising and promoting AI, is amazing and inspiring. The broader response to this question is that the UAE sets the direction of development and shows the depth of penetration of AI into life and creativity. An example we are especially grateful for is AIFF by Expo City Dubai, organised in the UAE.

How has Expo City Dubai contributed to you realising your movie?

Expo City Dubai served as a catalyst for our project. We spent quite a long time patiently preparing an animated series made in the traditional way – in 2D. We had been contemplating integrating AI to some extent. The invitation to participate in AIFF became a real accelerator and a challenge for us. We decided to go full speed with our idea to make it fully with AI, thanks to such an opportunity of demonstration on the Expo City Dubai platform.

AI can dramatically improve the visual appeal of a story. But is there a danger of the storytelling aspect getting compromised in the process? What should filmmakers keep in mind?

It is important to remember that AI is just a tool to be used in human hands. Naturally, we believe in humanistic messages and in utilising AI for the betterment of humanity. AI can offer visualisation of images, spaces, non-existent worlds, in such a way that it would not occur to us ourselves. In skilful hands and bright minds it is a powerful tool. Nevertheless, you are right when you say that the content can be lost behind the form. Like in any creative work, there is always such a risk. We believe that after all, man controls AI, and not vice versa... at least we hope that. Storytelling should remain our priority, as everything else follows. However, we still think that AI will be able to help with that tremendously.

What makes The Enfilade of Worlds a distinctly UAE story?

We have 10 planets in The Enfilade of Worlds - these are different worlds our characters end up in. We are ready to make the UAE as the 11th planet in our fantastic World; we can discuss the serial number of appearances separately. You understand that there is some truth in this joke: what happened in the UAE in the last 20 years is amazing. There has been a real futuristic World created there. We’ve been inspired a lot by the country and its success story.


More news from Entertainment