Say you’re the writer-director of a small, independent thriller film that has lucked into interest from a major U.S. studio, which is interested in picking up your movie for a wide theatrical release. It’s a dream come true, except for one sticking point—the studio wants to release your film with a PG-13 rating, and your movie is sprinkled with more than 30 F-bombs. What does one do? Well, if you’re director Scott Mann of Lionsgate’s upcoming Fall, you’re quite fortunate to also be the co-CEO of another company that can provide what is probably the cheapest and most efficient solution: Removing the “fucks” via technology.
Mann co-wrote and directed Fall, which is hitting theaters this weekend on Aug. 12. But it almost could have missed its opportunity, as the modestly budgeted, $3 million climbing thriller was apparently packed with F-bombs, making a PG-13 rating from the MPAA functionally impossible. Does this speak to our rather absurd, continuing fixation on “bad language” in the U.S. as a primary driver of film ratings? Absolutely, but it still put Mann in a bind. However, Mann is also the co-CEO of London-based film tech/editing company Flawless, which was ultimately able to provide his own, AI-based solution.
Flawless is the creator of an artificial intelligence-based dubbing system called TrueSync, which works similarly to the mode of A.I. visual editing we’ve come to refer to as deepfakes. The system was created in order to make dubbed foreign films seem more natural by subtly altering the mouth shapes and movements of the performers in order to fit new, English dialog—a process the company apparently refers to as “vubbing.” The same TrueSync engine could also be used to remove countless permutations of “fuck” from Fall—a word that does tend to crop up when you’re a climber dangling from a 2,000 foot tall TV tower with no hope of rescue.
“For a movie like this, we can’t reshoot it,” Mann said in story in Variety. “We’re not a big tentpole … we don’t have the resources, we don’t have the time, more than anything else. What really saved this movie and brought it into a wider audience was technology.”
It’s an interesting case of emerging technology being used to edit a completed feature film with a specific goal in mind, and one that more indie directors could be tempted to use in the future, given that the “neural reshoots,” as the team dubbed them, are far more affordable than going back to the Mojave Desert, where Fall was shot, to do traditional reshoots. Traditional or not, this kind of deepfake-style technology may soon find countless other applications in modern filmmaking.
Fall stars Grace Caroline Currey, Virginia Gardner, Mason Gooding and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. You can see the most recent trailer below.