Definition December 2022 - Web


LEGACY Gerry Anderson produced iconic children’s TV shows, including Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet

T hings that are fake are generally not praiseworthy,” says Benjamin Field, head of development at The Format Factory. “Fake news, fake watches and fake tan, to name but a few. Fakes are designed to mislead, trick and deceive. Is it understandable then that ‘deepfakes’ get the same negative treatment?” It’s a fair question, because deepfake, arguably, has a worse reputation – especially as it’s synonymous with blackmail, fraud and pornography. However, there have been some more positive examples where deepfake technology has filled the role of CGI, by recreating the likeness of unavailable or deceased actors. The recreation of the late Peter Cushing in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), who passed away in 1994, is just one example. Field is convinced that filmmakers can reframe perception of this powerful tool and use it for good. “Where deepfakes differ, in my view, is the context in which they are used,” he adds. “It’s about the filmmaker’s honesty with the viewer.” ‘Fakery is honesty’ is a 21st-century paradox, but Field explains how this formed the basis for his discussions at

“Where deepfakes differ is the context in which they are used... it’s about honesty with the viewer”

a Turing Network Development Awards conference, which he was invited to off the back of his documentary, Gerry Anderson: A Life Uncharted . Anderson and his wife Sylvia created the classic British science-fiction series Thunderbirds back in the mid-sixties. MAKING HISTORY This feature documentary, produced by The Format Factory in association with Anderson Entertainment, was the first film to utilise machine learning to bring a central contributor to the screen long after their passing. “As soon as Britbox announced the film back in October 2021, I was inundated on various social media platforms (Twitter is a great place for rational and logical debate) with questions about the ethics surrounding deepfakes,” says Field. “They all generally asked the same question: why did we think it was

either appropriate or necessary to bring Gerry Anderson ‘back to life’ to appear in a documentary, and were we about to set a ghoulish precedent for filmmakers to run roughshod over the deceased under the banner of ‘creativity’?” The answer to the last question is no, but he does feel obligated to explain the rationale behind the decision, why deepfake was so important to the film and what it means for the future of content. Field says that in order to understand, it’s important to first look at what the film was about – and how the producer managed to get it funded. “Commissioners and acquisition executives love authenticity when it comes to factual content,” he says. “They also love ‘new angles’ and approaches to material, so with Gerry Anderson we sort of hit the jackpot.” Working with Anderson Entertainment and specifically Gerry’s youngest son,

31. DECEMBER 2022

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