Perspectives - Embracing Change (Spring 2024)

Section 4: Key Factors in Building a Stronger Industry

AI in the Screen Industry: Time to Get Smart

Understanding AI through the lens of the audiovisual expertise

By: Florence Girot
Senior Manager, Foresight & Innovation, Canada Media Fund

Aftershocks from the earthquake triggered by the November 2022 launch of ChatGPT—OpenAI’s generative artificial intelligence chatbot—continue to rock the global screen industry.

Of course, AI was already a factor in our sector by then, upstream and down, from predictive tools assessing a project’s potential on the basis of its script or cast, to post-production, visual effects, animation, and video games. And thanks to advances in the rendering quality of generative AI (albeit still imperfect) and the rapid adoption of the tool, the industry is now in a position to contemplate automation that practically anyone can use.

The downside of automation is job redundancy, and that quickly became the focus of serious concern. The twin 2023 strikes by screenwriters and actors in the United States brought awareness of the impending danger to a head.

The American screen industry wasn’t the only one to make its voice heard loud and clear. The Writers Guild of Canada alerted the minister of Canadian Heritage to the threat AI posed to screenwriters back in June of 2023. More recently, spokespersons from the television, film, and music sectors have called on the government to protect their industries in the context of the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA, included in Bill C-27 1).

While the challenges associated with AI are well documented, that does not rule out its potential for resource maximization, something that may be scrutinized, especially in times of budget restraints.

In any case, it’s a smart move to run a basic benefit-risk analysis adjusted to the needs of your business.

In the development phase, generative and predictive 2 AI can provide effective guidance in the scriptwriting process, in the creation of sound or visual ambience (including set illustrations, lighting, costumes, etc.), and even in casting and storyboarding.

Once in production, automated indexing and labelling rushes, transcribing interviews for documentaries, and assisting animation all help in boosting productivity.

In post-production and special effects, numerous apps and automated systems have been used for years.

Significant levels of optimization are also possible in distribution, promotion, and broadcasting. In this context, the considerations governing each stage in the production chain remain as relevant as ever for everyone in the industry. Would you be comfortable sharing your work with just about anyone in the early stages of development? Are you willing to share your data publicly using AI without first making sure that the terms of use will be adhered to and that you have a guarantee that your data won’t be used for purposes that contravene the terms of the chain of title? And inversely, without a guarantee that any licensed data is finding its way into your work? Is the AI used by your post-production service providers proprietary or is it “public”?

In addition to securing your data, there are financial considerations associated with the kind of AI screen-industry organisations choose to work with. In-house AI is more secure, but much more expensive.

The time investment should be part of the equation as well. Make sure your teams are competent enough to use the tools efficiently and effectively. Running tests to guard against built-in biases or other sensitive issues is one more smart thing to do.

Another key consideration is AI’s massive environmental footprint. While the screen industry is working toward implementing effective, long-term ecological protocols and incentives, the widespread use of generative AI could well negate all our good intentions. To give you an idea, using generative AI to create one single image generates the same carbon footprint as fully recharging your phone 3.

What does all this mean for the screen industry in 2024? We urgently need to develop an approach to AI that is consistent with our business processes and objectives, both at the individual and sectoral level, based on well-reasoned and enlightened use of the AI tools we have at our disposal.

Just imagine the industry-wide impact when Sora, OpenAI’s upcoming generative model or any other similar generative AI, is ready to be adopted in the filming process. How would this impact foreign prodcos’ future choice to shoot in Canada? And what would that mean for the tax credit policies, from which the local screen industry also benefits?

Results of the Hollywood strikes

In 2023, deadlocks in the three-year contract negotiations between the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) and US labour unions triggered two of Hollywood’s longest strikes, simultaneously. In the end, screenwriters from the WGA (Writers Guild of America) succeeded in ensuring that no content produced by AI could be deemed an original or literary work. On the other hand, screenwriters will still be free to use AI in their work. This puts the importance of a human factor in the creative process on a more secure footing for at least three years. Of course, at the rate AI is evolving, three years might seem like an eternity.

SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), as part of their new collective agreement, established a protective and compensatory framework in cases where members are on screen without having participated in a shoot. Consent and remuneration must be obtained whenever the voice and image of members are used. While human performance has been (re)affirmed in the new contract, a number of players, especially dubbing artists, have made their concerns about loopholes in the agreement heard. AI advances in voice processing, and Microsoft’s patent applications for an automatic dubbing system, are not likely to deal with these concerns.

2 Three different applications of AI to keep in mind

Generative AI: generating text, image, sound or video from prompts to assist at different phases (e.g., it can help scriptwriters to move from the treatment to the full-length script, create images aiming to flesh out producers’ presentation deck, or even generate audio patches to enhance bad quality interviews)

Predictive AI: based on algorithms and large databases, predictive AI identifies forward-looking correlations. Predictive AI platforms such as Cinelytic, Largo or Scriptbook to name a few, provide script analysis, financial and box office forecast, or casting analysis. It allows producers to have informed decisions on e.g., the international markets where the content could perform, the cast that could attract which audiences, tailored localized teasers, etc.

AI-driven recommendation systems: these systems feed users’ behavioral data into algorithms that become smarter over time. This data includes watching history and habits, location information, users’ profiles (e.g., are there children in the household or not), etc. These systems allow video platforms (or other kind of website or applications, including on Smart TVs) to better understand viewers to eventually provide tailored suggestions. And tailored ads.

Montreal-based researcher at the forefront of tracking AI environmental impact

The Montreal-based researcher Sasha Luccioni proactively works for raising people’s awareness about the environmental impact of AI. Climate Lead for the New York-based start-up Hugging Face, Luccioni and her team track carbon emissions of digital practices, including AI. They first developed an online calculator to estimate carbon emissions based on the hardware used, its runtime and location. This first step helped them create codecarbon, the real-time version of the initial calculator able to provide an estimate of AI models’ carbon footprint.

Going green: Sustainability initiatives in the industry

How ecofriendly practices are gaining traction in industry, and what are the areas for improvement

By: Corinne Darche
Coordinator, Foresight & Innovation, Canada Media Fund

The past five years saw a massive shift in awareness of environmental sustainability, with the movement leading to change and initiatives across industries. Although sustainable practices were prevalent in film and TV productions around the world already, they benefited from increased exposure.

Considering the screen industry’s latest challenges, such as rising interest rates, what is the state of sustainability in 2024?

Canadian productions are encouraged to use carbon calculators and report their footprint to meet benchmarks for certain incentives. In addition, this data benefits research and reports.

For example, the Quebec feature film La Meute tracked carbon emissions over the course of its production cycle in 2022. In total, the film generated 102.33 tonnes of CO2, which is the same as driving 350,000 kilometres in a mid-sized car. The report found that the largest contributing departments were transport, materials, and filming location, which can be seen in chart 4.1 1.

P2 EN Chart 4 1

Some proposals to reduce carbon emissions on sets are smaller, day-to-day actions like recycling initiatives, electric generators, and catering services using local food suppliers.

Some, on the other hand, are large-scale solutions, like virtual production. By using immersive technology such as virtual reality (VR) headsets, creative teams can experiment with digital prototyping and location scouting. While these are crucial for reducing the pollution generated by the transport and materials departments 2, little attention is paid to the environmental impact of this technology, with emissions produced by cloud servers required to run virtual production tools often relegated to a footnote 3.

Tax credits are also frequently cited as great incentives for sustainability. California and New York, for instance, have state-level programs. Recently, Hollywood productions began to benefit from the national Green Energy Tax Credit program 4, 5.

But are these incentives and solutions enough?

Producers answer in earnest when asked about the challenges of maintaining a sustainable production set.

In a survey of 300-plus producers around the world, more than half said that sustainability is not an issue. 56 per cent cited high upfront costs, and nearly 70 per cent reported a general lack of awareness about the benefits as deterring factors to sustainability. These and other reasons are detailed in chart 4.2 6.

P2 EN Chart 4 2

But in Canada, producers and filmmakers are vocal about the need for effective sustainability solutions and greater awareness.

In British Columbia, over 40 independent film and TV producers signed on to Producing for the Planet, a coalition that promotes sustainability, which will launch in 2025 7. Ontario Green Screen, in its most recent report, stressed the importance of sustainable practices in the province, especially as more Hollywood productions opt to shoot in and around Toronto 8.

The numerous reports and environmental organizations are a testament to industry interest in sustainability. However, solutions are not one-size-fits-all.

TV series or feature film, fiction or documentary, and filming location are factors that impact a production’s environmental footprint. In addition, filming in 4K instead of the delivery standard 1920×1080 format requires more data and, by extension, more energy 9.

Given the numerous factors to be considered, the lack of robust indicators and metrics, and our multifaceted industry, it is not a surprise that we are still at the early stage of greening. And yet, our sector has been creative in implementing initiatives and training to drive change. However, such significant structural changes won’t be achieved overnight. This is why we need to adopt a long-term approach underpinned by solid planning and defined milestones. We also need to make industry people more aware of their environmental impact and how concrete actions may mitigate this impact. Making changes meaningful is the best way to get people to adopt them.


  1. “Étude de cas – La Meute : Calcul de l’empreinte carbone d’un long métrage québécoise (On Tourne Vert, January 2023).
  2. ”What is Virtual Production? An Explainer & Research Agenda” (University of York, Winter 2023).
  3. ”What is Virtual Production? An Explainer & Research Agenda” (University of York, Winter 2023).
  4. “Sustainability Survey Reveals Blind Spots to Cleaning Up Studio Shoots” (Variety VIP+, February 28, 2024).
  5. “Travis Kelce’s Debut as a Film Producer Is Also the First Movie Financed Using President Biden’s Green Energy Tax Credits (EXCLUSIVE)” (Variety, February 13, 2024).
  1. “Sustainability Survey Reveals Blind Spots to Cleaning Up Studio Shoots” (Variety VIP+, February 28, 2024).
  2. “Canadian film and TV producers form new climate change coalition in B.C.” (The Vancouver Sun, February 2, 2024).
  3. “Ontario Film Industry Must Make Sustainability a Priority, Says Report” (The Hollywood Reporter, September 25, 2023).
  4. “Could video streaming be as bad for the climate as driving a car? Calculating Internet’s hidden carbon footprint” (The Conversation, December 8, 2022).

Why we count: Demographic reporting in the media industry

Laying the foundation for a more inclusive and fair media landscape

By: Diego Briceño
Senior Manager, Data Equity Research, Canada Media Fund

The events of 2020—severe racial unrest and a global pandemic—underscored disparities and prompted media organizations worldwide to re-evaluate their support for ‘underrepresented communities.’ By then, Canadian media had already implemented gender-balance incentives and programs for Indigenous creators; yet, the societal shifts at hand called for a more profound and structured approach to data collection.

Self-identification systems

There are various data-collection systems at work across the globe. Diamond, which collects demographic data from six broadcasters in the United Kingdom, has been reporting since 2016 1. Australia’s Everyone Project started gathering comprehensive industry data in 2021 2.

The Canada Media Fund (CMF) launched its PERSONA-ID system in 2022 for its own programs 3. Telefilm Canada, CBC/Radio-Canada, and others followed suit in implementing their own soon after.

Each system’s foundational goals required different methodologies. Canada’s approach uses data at the application stage to determine eligibility to targeted programs and incentives. It is also used to attain diversity requirements, notably for CBC/Radio-Canada. In contrast, Diamond and The Everyone Project collect data after production for statistical purposes, without directly influencing immediate funding decisions.

The focus of these systems also varies.

Canada emphasizes key roles—writers, directors, producers, and shareholders in the case of the CMF— while other countries capture a broader range of positions. Identity markers may be similar, but the different scales and analytical approaches each system employs make international comparisons and conclusions challenging.

What the numbers say

Globally, gender continues to be a focal point for data collection.

Diamond has the advantage of six full years tracking longitudinal trends. Their data shows that, even if the representation of women working off-screen trends above 50 per cent, there have been fluctuations that speak to broader industry dynamic, such as labour market demand or the economic impact of the pandemic 4.

In Canada, the CMF reports that, from 2022 to 2023, only the minimum goal set by gender-balance incentives was met, with 40 per cent of key roles in linear programs held by women (chart 4.3). The CMF also noted a shortfall of women’s representation in interactive content.

P2 EN Chart 4 3

Indigenous representation is also a pressing issue in Canada and Australia, understood against a backdrop of historical significance.

From 2021 to 2022, Australia used demographic benchmarks to measure success, reporting four per cent Indigenous representation in production roles (chart 4.4). The CMF reported nine per cent Indigenous representation in key roles for its funded linear content, although it lacks comparative benchmarks.

P2 EN Chart 4 4

Ethnicity and race categories gained particular attention post-2020. The CMF’s findings of 18 per cent representation of racialized communities, with Black or Afro-Canadians notably present, indicate a potential shift in industry dynamics or the impact of community-driven advocacy.

In the United Kingdom, a similar trend in Black representation was observed.

For 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, representation above 16 per cent is considered strong in the British and Australian industries (charts 4.5 and 4.6). Conversely, persons with disabilities remain underrepresented, pointing to an area needing targeted efforts.

P2 EN Chart 4 5

P2 EN Chart 4 6

The future of media representation

Long-term monitoring and consistent data collection are essential for detecting demographic trends, and to help guide the development of policies aimed at addressing disparities.

Meanwhile, striving for global and national harmonized standards would facilitate collaborations between organizations and countries, bolstering co-production initiatives, and shared sector-development practices.

In Canada, defining industry-wide benchmarks on representation remains a challenge, contingent on myriad factors including demographic shifts and labour market dynamics.

Nonetheless, the pursuit of a sustainable, data-driven strategy is crucial for evaluating the real-world impact of efforts towards equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility and for developing more effective policies in the future.


  1. “Diamond – The 6th Cut Report” (Creative Diversity Network, 2023).
  2. “Everyone Counts Report” (Screen Diversity and Inclusion Network, 2022).
  1. “Demographic Report” (Canada Media Fund, March 2023).
  2. “Diamond – The 6th Cut Report” (Creative Diversity Network, 2023).