Reinventing Creativity

By Imran Khan

My visit to Berlinale (and the European Film Market: EFM), one of Europe’s ‘big three’ film festivals, was full of the requisite drama. Not just because the Berlin Minister of Culture decided she needed to clarify that she was only clapping for the Israeli part of the the Israeli/Palestiinan award winning duo for the Best Documentary Film: No Other Land (how ridiculous does that sound). But also because of the intense focus on artificial intelligence and how it is changing the face of creativity. Unless you are in a highly specialized field, chances are that AI will have a profound impact on the way you work and your industry at large. This is particularly true of Television and Film. In fact, there are such fears about how AI will be used to disintermediate the creative class that it was at the heart of some of the main sticking points in the recent writers/actors strikes in Los Angeles.

In Berlin; however, there seemed to be a more hopeful tone around AI and how it could support creativity. The prevailing narrative thus far has been around how AI would either be used by studios to replace writers; some even felt that AI would be used to exploit the image of certain actors and famous figures in order to avoid having to hire them (and therefore bringing down the overall cost of creating content). Berlinale had a different take on generative AI and how it could be harnessed to enhance the creative process and in fact allow creative individuals the opportunity to influence the development of AI technologies. Just to clarify, generative AI is defined as technology that is capable of generating text, images, videos, or other data using generative models, often in response to prompts. Generative AI models learn the patterns and structure of their input training data and then generate new data that has similar characteristics.

Sessions such as “Working with AI: The Human Factor” and “Dream Factory Onwards! Building Worlds and Opportunities with AI” gave festival goers a deeper understanding of how generative AI could in fact make the creative process more frictionless and even accelerate the ability for writers/producers to bring their ideas to life. One of the notions that stuck out to me was that “we need AI and AI needs us.” The idea that (at least for now) human beings are still required to feed the inputs for large language models and in addition are necessary for creating the prompts (the questions/queries) that return ideas and text from these technologies. Meaning that for now our AI models are only as good as the information we feed them as well as the questions we ask of them. Presumably, we could get to a place where the models wouldn’t need our inputs any longer but we are fairly far out from that scenario.

I marveled at how a year ago in 2023 there was barely any talk of AI at film festivals, but in 2024 there were no less than five individual EFM sessions dealing with the topic. For me personally, I’ve been an early skeptic and an early adopter of AI technology in my day to day business. I think of tools such as Chat GPT and Midjourney as essential in making my one man show of a business as efficient as possible. For my company, Chosen Family Media, generative AI serves three main purposes: it is a handy assistant to take care of mundane tasks, a sounding board for creative ideation and an invaluable tool for fine tuning my sales collateral.

For example, when I had to write a tedious email in German to take care of some business tax ID related topic I would have normally procrastinated and pushed off doing so until I absolutely had to. Now I can describe to Chat GPT 4 what I’d like to say, who I’d like to address it to, and what outcome I desire and the AI will spit out a decently formulated email. Invariably, I still need to tweak it to my voice and needs but it gets the job done. Especially, as a creative who would much rather spend my time working on stories this frees up my mental energy for creation.

Furthermore, there are times when I am working with a writer and I get stuck on the exact right formulation of a logline or sentence in a pitch. Previously, I had to sit and think of ten new ideas and ways to express myself; however, now I can get AI technology to make suggestions that I can then refine. And then the writer (often my creative partner) can use those suggestions to articulate their concepts in their own voice.

Finally, in the past it would take forever to generate the visual and written tone of a series for the sales materials we would share with networks. Any independent producer (and some well-backed ones) knows that this can be an arduous process. Now, I can quickly start to refine rough ideas before even starting on the visual design with a graphic designer. This makes the process with the designer more seamless because I have a clearer visual language to describe to them when ideating (and it brings down my hourly costs of working with a designer). This ultimately makes me not only more cost effective but also able to work much more quickly to get my ideas to market.

All these workflows are relatively new to my day to day; however, if the sessions at Berlinale are any indicator they are going to become my norm. And not only that, they will become the new standard by which creative individuals like myself operate. As the adage goes you have to “innovate or die” and the creative class is no exception. If we presume to do business the same way it has been done for the last hundred years without acknowledging how technology is going to radically change our processes then we are going to quickly become obsolete. And it seems like the film industry is also bullish on AI and has already begun adapting this same perspective. I for one am hopeful that these new technologies will prove to make us even more productive and allow us to unlock forms of creativity that we didn’t even know existed. It doesn’t mean, however, that there shouldn’t be standards and ‘fair use’ practices that protect authors, actors and creatives of all types.


Before launching Chosen Family Media, Imran was responsible for the development slate at Big Window Productions, Joerg Winger’s new label at UFA Fiction GmbH in Germany. He has worked at CBS Television, Warner Bros., and Turner Broadcasting in various roles including scripted series development and sponsorship marketing. After successfully selling his startup, Imran was recruited by Google where he spent the next eight years working across three continents. He has been recognized for his efforts with prestigious Cannes Lion awards for his work on P&G Secret’s Mean Stinks anti-bullying campaign and for P&G Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign. Imran has two diametrically opposite degrees in Biochemical Engineering and Musical Theatre from Northwestern University in Chicago and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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Image credit: © Deepak Pal, free download from Flickr.

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