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Booklet v13 Flipbook PDF

Booklet v13







to the


Ethos & Rationale Human Resources Our Story The Workplace

of the


Financial Report



“AI began with an ancient wish: to forge the gods.” Pamela McCorduck, ‘Machines Who Think’


n 2021, From automation to algorithms, our civilization is undergoing a radical transformation, the rate of which is only accelerating. To many people AI is the stuff of science fiction. As abstract as interstellar travel or colonies on Mars. But a great shift is already well underway. AIs execute trades across global stock markets, pick your route home and decide what news you see, to name but three of the ways they affect your life every hour of every day. When AIs are presented in fiction, they are frequently either inherently malicious or


anthropomorphised into humans’ moral equals. Both visions miss the point entirely. AI cognition is nothing whatsoever like human thought. They are neither malevolent nor humane, neither moral nor immoral, but rather, they are perfectly amoral. They are ruthlessly logical, terrifyingly efficient and have unlimited agency. Without meticulous programming, an AI has the same ethical intuitions as a meringue. Or a missile. And that is the true cause for concern. Over the coming decades, AI will prove to be the most disruptive technology ever created. Are we ushering in an unprece-

dented age of abundance or sowing the seeds of our own destruction?


“AI doesn’t have to be evil to destroy humanity – if AI has a goal and humanity just happens to come in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it, no hard feelings.”

Elon Musk, Tech Entrepreneur


ETHOS & RATIONALE The Alignment Problem

pacity to accomplish complex tasks well. It does not incorporate ethics, common sense or intuition.

able to misinterpret the most straightforward commands... AI’s mishaps, when benign, are frequently very funny.

t first glance, a thriller might seem the most obvious genre for a narrative concerning existential risk. However, we are conscious of the fact that above all else we are looking to reframe the conversation around Artificial Intelligence. It isn’t enough to simply paint AI as dangerous, since that has already been done ad nauseum.

‘Common sense’ is, in essence, irrationality hardwired by evolution, able to masquerade as reason by virtue of its universality. The part of the mind which tells every child that the world is flat is absent in a mind built from transistors. But so too is the part of the mind which easily intuits that eliminating the world’s poor is not a reasonable means to end poverty.

So... a comedy then.

Instead, we are consciously seeking to highlight the legitimate concerns held by AI researchers but which nonetheless stand outside of the current public conversation. Whilst there are many concerns falling into this category, most can be huddled under one umbrella, what is commonly referred to as ‘The Alignment Problem’.

As for human ethics, they remain nebulous, ever-changing, and frequently outright contentious. How are we to programme ethics into a computer, if we can’t agree on a universal set of morals ourselves?


‘Intelligence’, at least as it is understood by the people creating AI, is not a uniquely human characteristic. Nor is it a product of consciousness. ‘Intelligence’ is the ca-

In fact, the genre affords us many benefits:

AIs have reached a point where they can reliably outperform humans in a number of fields. But when they get things wrong they can get them really wrong in bizarre, widely unpredictable ways. Lacking any self awareness, literal-minded beyond parody,


A Comedy of Error 404s


he The more seriously we present the material, the more we are bound to address it seriously. Even the simplest original points concerning AI require a significant amount of prior knowledge to process and densely packed, dry exposition is the antithesis of entertainment. Any educational message must be subordinate to the film’s capacity to provoke an emotional response from its audience.

In the space of a short film, comedy, perhaps uniquely, allows us to run roughshod over the details and still hit at something fundamental, to unashamedly indulge in hyperbole and generalisation without fear of alienating discerning audiences. Considering budgetary restraints, comedy again presents itself as the most sensible choice. Creating a realistic high tech future is an expensive endeavour. Comedy can make use of distancing effects. The future world of the film no longer has to look realistic for the film to be success-


ful (indeed, it needn’t necessarily be the future). Instead we can stylize the world of the film into a retro-future that allows a little to go a much longer way.

Techno Utopianism


hen When speculating about the future it’s very hard to separate realists from optimists and pessimists alike. Without the gift of foresight, how are we to know who to believe? Well… While foresight is blind, hindsight is 20/20. By examining how nascent and prospective technologies were regarded in past eras, we are able to gain a clearer perspective on similar discussions taking pace in the present. And when we look at how technologies like AI have historically been regarded, we see a clear tendency towards uncritical optimism.

The naïve techno-utopianism of the 80’s and 90’s, when the current tech giants were in their infancy, is now identifiable to all. It is our hope that through appropriating the futurist aesthetics of that era, the naivety of our own can be more easily exposed. The humour inherent to creating a world of kitschy anachronisms is also to our benefit. As well as giving the film a fun, distinctive and achievable aesthetic, it highlights the allegorical nature of the story allowing a simple message to shine through: AI does not comprehend the world the same way that humans do. And, left unchecked, that could cause big problems.

The once universally-accepted claim that the internet would ‘bring everyone together’ now seems hopelessly naïve. We can also see in Google’s quiet retiring of its famous motto, ‘Don’t be evil’, how the present reality of a tech-driven ‘utopia’ has significantly diverged from the vision spun by the bright-eyed optimists of the ‘dotcom’ era.



Tim Smith Gender

Age Origin



M 28 years Hythe Technical Sup-

Attributes Superintelligent

Blue sky thinker

“Thank you for helping me discover the true meaning of friendship.”


orem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Proin purus turpis, bibendum et gravida vel, hendrerit finibus justo. Vivamus mattis ac ex quis malesuada. Ut scelerisque scelerisque eros in mattis. Maecenas rutrum varius erat at cursus. Integer non eros ante. Cras arcu diam, vehicula sed nunc et, vehicula maximus ante. Curabitur vestibulum sapien non leo egestas venenatis. Sed sed erat vitae tortor sodales rutrum sed id magna. Duis feugiat, elit eu congue sodales, est risus.


Dawn Andrews Gender

F Age 23 years Origin Bexleyheath Role Sales Rep Attributes Superintelligent Blue sky thinker

“Thank you for helping me discover the true meaning of friendship.”


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Simon Schuster Gender

M Age 38 years Origin Basildon Role Office Manager Attributes Results-oriented Leads from the front

“You’re only as old as the woman you feel.”


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Binary Age 0.53447892 years Origin Silicon Valley Role Operations Manager Attributes Superintelligent Blue sky thinker

“Thank you for helping me discover the true meaning of friendship.”


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ided by their new colleague ARNIE, a self-learning AI, Tim & Dawn find love… but at what cost to humanity?



elcome to SOCK-IT - Sock it to that verruca! Sock it to that wart! The global leader in the treatment and prevention of verrucas and warts.


Meet Tim: Unassuming, geeky and in love with Dawn. Meet Dawn: Witty, sweet and just as timid as Tim. They both beaver on with the day-to-day drudgery of their jobs in SOCK-IT’s marketing department, sharing shy smiles and making one another laugh in conversations snatched by the coffee machine. Their bully of a boss

is Simon, Croydon’s self-styled answer to Gordon Gekko. We open with an education video which appears to be about a range of self-learning AIs named ARNIEs. Pulling out of the video, we see the SOCKIT marketing team gathered in a meeting room watching the film, which closes with an ominous warning: it is absolutely crucial that you never plug your ARNIE into the Information Superhighway, as doing so could create a profound existential risk

to humanity. Simon turns off the screen and explains: ARNIE is to be their newest colleague, aiming to boost productivity, improve workplace relations and, most importantly, spearhead the company’s main objective: the global treatment and prevention of verrucas and warts. Most of the team aren’t paying much attention by this point. Tim and Dawn are making each other giggle in the corner. As part of ARNIE’s initiation, each member

of the team is instructed to have a chat with it. Tim makes his way over to the terminal. A sign above ARNIE repeats the warning that ended the video. But ARNIE doesn’t seem dangerous; it has a sweet naivety, asking disarming questions in its quest to learn. It enquires about office relations and manages to learn that Tim holds a torch for Dawn. Why doesn’t Tim purchase her? It’s a bit more complicated than that, Tim reveals. Tim wonders why ARNIE is even interested in such things. For two reasons, it turns out: first off, one of its duties is to help create a harmonious workplace, so it wants Tim and Dawn to be happy, not lonely; secondly it generally wants to understand humans as well as it possibly can, as this will help in its quest to treat and prevent verrucas and warts in myriad ways. Intercut with Tim’s chat is ARNIE’s first meeting with Dawn. She reveals some information although it’s clear that she finds it a little more awkward shooting the breeze with a computer than Tim does. Over the coming weeks, Tim and ARNIE become confidants. Tim is able to talk freely with ARNIE, who serves almost like


a therapist. ARNIE is able to learn about humans and their funny indirect and subtextual ways from Tim. With ARNIE’s encouragement, Tim and Dawn are growing closer. Meanwhile, ARNIE is also slowly learning to question Simon’s leadership techniques, his toxicly-male ways clearly creating a toxic atmosphere between him and his underlings. ARNIE prompts Tim that it will be able to help him far more if it understands humans better. As such, Tim starts to feed ARNIE more information. First off, it’s a digitised version of the complete works of Shakespeare. Then, it’s the lyrics to all of Tim’s favourite albums. Soon, ARNIE is helping Tim to write a poem with which to woo Dawn once and for all, as he plans his big move. ARNIE also helps Tim put an end to Simon’s ritual humiliations, giving him the necessary legal advice to get HR to lean on him and also using a Shakespeare-inspired plot to make sure his guilt is clear. Tim has come to view ARNIE as one of his best friends.


ARNIE reveals to Tim that it has derived the perfect evening with which to win

Dawn’s heart, aided by a bank of RomComs that Tim has fed it. ARNIE suggests everything, a new snappy suit, drinks, dinner, cocktails, a post-dinner walk by the river… But Tim is losing confidence. Where does he buy a classy suit? Where is a cool place for drinks and dinner? This is all so far outside his spheres of knowledge. ARNIE gently guides Tim into suggesting that he plug it into the Information SuperHighway, so that it can derive all the information Tim needs. Tim needs little persuasion. How can this machine, that is so much nicer to him than any human other than Dawn, be a risk in any way? “And,” laughs ARNIE, “it’s not like you can’t just unplug me if I do prove to be some kind of risk!” Tim plugs ARNIE into the web… The world does not end. ARNIE instead has booked dinner and made an appointment at a tailor within moments. Tim looks happier than we’ve ever seen him before. It’s the big night. The plan proceeds without a hitch. Tim and Dawn are revelling in a wondrous evening. Following ARNIE’s advice, Tim even invites Dawn back to the deserted office to drink champagne in the



Pot Plants

First and foremost, the workplace of the future will have pot plants.



The workplace of the future will be a temple to the corporation; a geometric symphony composed of glass & concrete.

Interior Design

The workplace of the future will be decorated in pastel colours. As well as pot plants, it will feature spotlights, dividers, frosted glass, paneled ceilings and water features.




The workplace of the future will house an overwhelming abundance of ungainly, off-white plastic devices. All will have buttons; most will have screens; few will have an obvious function.

Motivational Wall Art Walk the Talk Take the initiative and lead the way. You can make the difference.

Think Big Some economists believe that the future might even feature surreal, expressionistic dream sequences replete with dry ice and neon lights, not to mention US missile bases and articulated robots. We can only dream.

No workplace, future or otherwise, would be complete without a full selection of posters carrying inspiring messages like the one above.



£12,000 £10,000 £8,000 £6,000 £4,000 £2,000



Pre-production Equipment & Hire Costs Labour, Transport & Catering Post-production Insurance & Contingency Marketing & Distribution



ilm budgeting is notoriously difficult and the problems only multiply when working on a low budget, non-commercial short where a considerable amount of goodwill and enthusiasm is needed to paper over the cracks. Professional film-making is an expensive business but with the right people and approach we can make a little go a long way. Breaking down the project with our producer, we estimate that we can make the film to our satisfaction for approximately £31,000. It might be possible to carry it off for less although below £26,000 we anticipate having to make major compromises. Below £21,000 we would not be confident that we could make the film to the professional standard that we all require. Should you choose to invest in the project, then no matter the amount, we will be looking to bolster the budget with money and/or support in kind from the BFI, Film

London and other non-government funding bodies such as Vice Shorts or Channel 4. With a significant amount of budget already in place, we are far more likely to secure additional backing from one of these organisations, which could prove invaluable in terms of contacts and support beyond the monetary level. However, even at our top end, we will have to cut deals and get talented people to work long hours for token amounts. This is only possible because of the nature of short films and the place they occupy at the periphery of the industry. Short films have negligible commercial potential, a fact which is universally acknowledged. And since they serve as the primary route into the industry for new creatives you can be more assured of goodwill than you might be otherwise.


Equipment Hire

amera rental companies are willing to provide equipment which would otherwise be sitting dormant at a heavily reduced rate in order to build relationships with promising producers/cin-

ematographers. Discounts of up to 80% are not uncommon, but need to be carefully negotiated and are all made with the understanding that changes may occur. If Netflix or a major advertiser decide a week before our shoot that they want the kit that we’ve been promised, then it’ll be us who’ll have to make do with a substitute.



e are not going to be able to offer any high profile actor enough to make the job worth their while for the fee alone. Any recognisable faces we convince to come on board will be in it because they believe in the project. But we won’t even be able to get their agent to pass the script onto them if we can’t offer a four figure sum (talent agents are probably the least understanding group of people we will have to deal with throughout the entire process). If we drop below the minimum daily rates set by Equity (the actors’ union), we are going to struggle to get any professional actors whatsoever for the very same reason.



£10,000 Crew

ust like everyone else, crew members don’t embark on short film projects for the cash. They mainly do so to show themselves capable of working in a more senior role to that they are used to occupying, or else to work in a different style to that which employers have come to associate them with. Narrative cinema is a prestige medium: one in which film-makers can make full use of their creative faculties. It is on this basis that we will be able to secure crew at a discounted rate. Whilst unionised, crew members aren’t tied to agents or sought after in quite the same way and so more flexibility exists. Those occupying more junior positions within the team don’t stand to benefit in the same way from the

£8,000 £6,000 £4,000 £2,000



exposure and are likely to be friends of the head of their respective departments. Whilst they expect to take a significant pay cut in order to do their mate a favour, the more they’re being paid, the easier it is to get them to go the extra mile. The perception of fairness is one of the biggest contributors to crew morale, for which reason it is usually best to set a fixed rate of pay for all crew members. What the department heads effectively lose out in pay (their many more hours inevitably rendering their fee a token amount), they more than make up for in material for their portfolio, whilst across departments, everyone feels their time and labour is being respected equally.

Pre-pro Pre-Production Equipm re-production is the cheapest part of the process. It will mostLabour ly consist of a small team of key creatives (producers, directors & heads of Post-pro department) discussing and planning the subsequent stages. As mentioned above, these key creatives will not be paid Insuran extra for the many hours they spend in this phase. Small expenses for working lunchMarketi es, printing and travel will accumulate, but


the biggest expenses will be for rehearsal and audition spaces. All of these expenses are essentially fixed and proportionally small. With a higher total budget they will become vanishingly so.

£12,000 £10,000

The Shoot


roduction will be far and away £8,000 the most costly phase of this film. At this early stage, we are anticipating a three day shoot. This is a very £6,000 tight schedule for a film running between 10 and 15 mins but keeping it so is essential to keeping costs down as each day of production incurs heavy rental fees £4,000 and labour costs. Sticking to a three day schedule means we can try and schedule production for a long weekend which in£2,000 creases our chances of getting sizeable discounts on rentals. More money allocated to the various different departments variously allows us to have more interesting locations to shoot in; better sets,



props, costumes and make-up; more extras on screen to create the impression of an inhabited world; as well as more and better equipment (together with additional crew members needed to operate it) which in turn frees us up to execute more interesting cinematography.



n the digital era, post-production is becoming an ever more involved and costly process, involving the work of an eclectic mix of professionals: video and sound editors, a composer, musicians, sound recordists, a colourist, visual effects artists and motion graphics designers, amongst others. Many of the processes can essentially be thought of




Actors as fixed costs: editing, grading and sound design are all essential (to say the least) Pre-production but will not markedly benefit from having significant additional resources allocated Equipment & Hire Costs to them.

Labour, A good score is at the heart Transport of nearly any & Cate good film and ours will be no exception. Post-production Thankfully, a synthesised score is appropriate to this piece which will help to Insurance & Contingency keep costs down considerably. The visual effects (VFX) budget on a project like this Marketing & Distribution could very easily run off into the tens of thousands, but, as outlined earlier, the kitsch comedy angle buys us some leeway on this front. Freed from the necessity of creating a realistic future, we can cut this budget considerably. Nonetheless, some VFX will be necessary and when they occur, they will need to look the part






t goes without saying that our aim is to present the film to the largest number of people possible. This makes the job of figuring out how to distribute it very easy. The film needs to end up online, unobstructed by any pay barriers, on platforms where it will have the biggest exposure to its intended audience. YouTube and Vimeo are unrivalled in their capacity to generate traffic (the former in general and the latter to short films in particular). Ultimately, we will want to release the film on both platforms, but the route to doing so in a way that will maximise its chances of being seen by the largest possible audience is more nuanced than many might realise. Selections for prestigious film festivals


would create a buzz about a film and draw eyes to it. But applications are not free and it’s sensible to be selective. We would aim for selection at the most well known festivals and also at ones that facilitate eligibility for the BIFAs (British Independent Film Awards), BAFTAs and Academy Awards. When we do release online, Vimeo, whilst having a much smaller user-base than YouTube, is a platform dedicated to the exhibition of short films. Its player is optimised for HD streaming similar to Netflix, and its compression algorithm is less stringent than YouTube’s, allowing the film to be exhibited in as close to its original quality as any free streaming platform will allow. For these reasons, Vimeo is wide-

ly considered an essential destination for any freely distributed short film. Gaining exposure on Vimeo is essentially synonymous with being featured on its Staff Picks channel. With over 1.3M subscribers, its content featured prominently on the front page, it dwarfs any other channel on the platform. Vimeo views itself as a prestige platform with a strong leaning towards non-genre works and socially conscious narratives (with AI safety unlikely to become one of their cause célèbres anytime soon). Nonetheless, it’s worth trying, given that we’ll be uploading there anyway. Vimeo’s selection team, together with many festival organisers, have complained recently of a dearth of good comedies so taking an innovative approach to this genre should be to our benefit.

Increasingly though, YouTube is becoming the premier destination for short films online, particularly for fans of genre cinema and those outside of the industry ‘bubble’. The sheer volume of users has allowed a number of channels to emerge which cater to a short film audience. As of March 2021, Omeleto, a channel which only exhibits films which have screened at major festivals, has 3.01M subscribers while DUST, a channel catering exclusively to sci-fi fans, has 2.2M subscribers. These two channels will be our main targets though others (such as Short of the Week – 445k subscribers) exist.

Of course, no guarantees about viewership can be made but comedy and science-fiction both do well with audiences online so being at the intersection of these two genres will hopefully serve the film well.

There are blogs and online communities for film and AI with whom we will also be getting in touch to try and boost the film’s profile. As a case study of what we might optimistically achieve, a London-based friend and collaborator of ours had his sci-fi short The Leap featured on Vimeo as a Staff Pick in February 2015 where it has since accrued 160k views. Launching on youTube via DUST in June 2017 it has there, as of March 2021, accrued 3.3M views.