AI tool will tell Hollywood producers when they need more minorities on screen

16 Sep 2016

Daisy Ridley and John Boyega starring in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Image: Disney/Lucasfilm

Using new Google-funded analytics software, Hollywood producers will be able to tell when their film doesn’t give enough screen time to women and minorities.

The AI software was developed by a team from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University in the US to break decades of bias that often results in women and minorities having a limited presence on screen.

As recently as this month, a report released by the University of Southern California found that, in the top 100 films of 2015, only 31.4pc of women actors had speaking roles, while LGBT characters accounted for just 32 of 35,205 characters.

According to The New York Times, the software is called the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient (GD-IQ) and uses video and audio recognition technology to help determine how much speaking time a woman or minority character has in any given film.

Until now, analysis of Hollywood’s rate of inclusion has had to be done manually by researchers, but it is now hoped that GD-IQ can significantly reduce that time and effort by analysing a 90-minute film in around 15 minutes.

‘An extraordinary bias-busting tool’

During its first experiment with GD-IQ, the researchers gave it the task of studying 200 of the top-grossing films of 2014 and 2015.

Including such familiar titles as Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the software found that just 17pc of these films had a women in a prominent position in the film.

None of this should comes as a surprise, considering some of the casting calls that are put out for women – as highlighted by @femscriptintros – but it might force filmmakers to face up to their biases.

Speaking of why the institute set out to develop GD-IQ, its chief executive Madeline Di Nonno said: “The research is a tool to help inspire change. It’s not meant to criticise; it’s meant to have the facts so that content creators can be aware and learn from it.”

The software was developed by a team led by Dr Shri Narayanan that received financial backing from Google’s philanthropic division, The tech giant hopes it could be used to promote careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), too.

Speaking of GD-IQ, Google’s chief entertainment industry educator, Julie Ann Crommett, described it as “such an extraordinary bias-busting tool” and a “really powerful way to look at the whole picture.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic