Now & Next Podcast S2E1 – Jack Zhang Is Paving the Way for Filmmaking’s AI-Driven Future

Jack Zhang, founder of Greenlight Essentials, joins Leora Kornfeld in the studio to talk about how artificial intelligence could completely transform the filmmaking industry—from the creative process to international distribution.

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How AI could reshape audiovisual production

For several decades, placing long-shot bets and hoping for the best was pretty much all there was when it came to making TV shows and movies. Then along came data and analytics.

In this episode of Now & Next, we hear from Jack Zhang, who believes he’s found a better way to tackle the problem of matching supply with demand. He’s a recent Waterloo grad who started a company called Greenlight Essentials to combine his love of math with his love of movies. Zhang calls his system ‘audience demand analysis’. It uses an AI-based system to develop probability models that determine the demand for a movie, before it’s made. It’s a ‘Moneyball for movies’ of sorts.

So far, the tests Zhang has run look promising. He created a trailer for a movie that didn’t exist using the database he created that itemizes over 40,000 attributes found in movies. With little expectation of anything happening, he posted the trailer to Facebook. It ended up getting close to 3 million views and tens of thousands of comments. That movie is now in the process of being ‘packaged’ (the industry term for bringing together writers, producers, directors and on-camera talent) by executives in Los Angeles.

Jack Zhang sat down with Leora Kornfeld in the studio to discuss:

  • When he first realized data could help transform the film industry (05:09)
  • How he got Hollywood’s attention (09:40)
  • How his company ended up being involved in film production after demonstrating its success online (11:49)
  • The challenges and uncertainties inherent to a new world of human-AI collaboration (14:15)

Click here to download a transcript of the episode

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About Now & Next

Now & Next is a podcast featuring in-depth interviews in which experts take a closer look at emerging trends and the digital transformation of the media and entertainment industries. Now & Next is brought to you by the Canada Media Fund, produced by Katie Jensen and recorded in Toronto at Vocal Fry Studios. Leora Kornfeld hosts the series.

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