The Ethics of Content Creation

January 16, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai, Content Editor

We all heard the rumours.

Movie reviewers wrote about how in Star Wars: Rogue One there was use of CGI to recreate some characters who were crucial in this prequel to Star Wars: A New Hope.

*SPOILER ALERT – DON’T READ ON IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ROGUE ONE (but come on, you’re a little late to the game friends).*

A young CarrieFisher/Princess Leia appeared onscreen in her famous white gown at the very end of the film as she receives the plans to the Death Star.

It should be noted that at the time of the movie’s creation, Carrie Fisher had indeed seen her cameo appearance and reportedly loved it.

Then last week, Disney responded to rumours about Carrie Fisher's character being recreated for upcoming Star Wars films in which she did not film for. Their answer was no

However, when it came to Peter Cushing's sinister General Tarkin character, he was revived for Rogue One with fairly substantial screen time.

However, Cushing passed in 1994 and it was his estate that passed on the permission to recreate his image.

In the end there seems to be a big argument with two distinct sides: those who think it’s completely unethical and those who think it serves a creative purpose.

This is what captured our minutes this week.

Here’s why:

1. These two conflicting sides have forced creatives everywhere (not to mention fans) to address the ethics of content creation. 

According to Yahoo Movies, John Knoll, the chief creative officer of Industrial Light & Magic (who developed the CGI idea for Rogue One) vehemently defended the revival saying that Tarkin was “entirely appropriate narratively” and that everything was done with Cushing’s estate’s complete involvement.

Fans, however, objected calling it “creepy” while other critics said the act was grave robbing and done “for all the wrong reasons.”

So where do creators fall in this argument?

It’s impossible to compile all the responses. However it at least gets us discussing the greater topic of employing ethics in content creation.

Reviving a deceased celebrity certainly calls for different depths of discussions than creating a simple content play for say, a new car. Obviously, the two things don’t even come close to one another.

However where the two do intersect (if even for a moment) is when we should and shouldn’t address ethics and how we address ethics.

Here are two important things to always know when things get grey:

a) If there’s even the slightest inkling that the work needs some heavy vetting, go with that instinct and vet away.

b) When having the discussion take it seriously, play devil’s advocate from both sides and consider the implications for more than just your own party.

2. It’s started a conversation about a fairly new topic to us: ghosting.

Ghosting is a type of CGI tech that could theoretically be used to create posthumous performances, solve scheduling errors and more by replicating appearances.

Knoll mentioned that critics’ fears include the recreation of deceased actors’ images not having an end.

As reported by The Guardian, the New York Post said that Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange is replaced by a body double in the upcoming Avengers movie. 

This argument has also been related to Paul Walker in the Fast and Furious series, the upcoming Batman movie and more.

Whenever a new piece of technology takes stage, especially one that deals in the power of revival, it’s important to know how and when it can be used along with what limits it has.

Ghosting can vary in the way it’s employed and those variations are growing in reach.

3. We have to start talking more about the advances in technology and what kinds of powers they lend to creation.

This leads off of our last point. Since ghost technology is growing, creators have to start considering what the tools at their disposal do.

And we mean more than just the obvious.

Whether it’s methods of CGI or something else (language, curating scenes, casting, makeup/costume, etc.), creators have the responsibility of creating responsibly.

Ask the proper permission.

Ask and know why it’s being done.

Do it well.

As a content marketing agency that plays in the creation realm (though we haven’t tried our hand at CGI yet), we recognize our role in contributing to meaningful discussion about what it means to create with responsibility.

Make sure you contribute too.

At the end of the day, people engage with content by lending their minutes. Content is successful when its battery is fully charged with attention.

What will win this week?

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