The Artifice Girl Director and Stars Talk Taking on Little Miss AI

Apr 27, 2023

When a team of special agents (Sinda Nichols and David Girard) discover a revolutionary new computer program that can bait and trap online predators, they team up with the program’s beleaguered developer, only to learn that the AI is rapidly advancing beyond its original purpose. That’s the intriguing premise behind The Artifice Girl, director Franklin Ritch’s new film, which also stars Tatum Matthews as the AI everybody’s concerned about.

Ritch’s sci-fi indie film premiered at the 26th Annual Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal last summer and nabbed the Gold Audience Award for Best International Feature. That was before M3GAN became a hit. But Tatum’s performance as “Cherry” was heralded and the subject — an A.I. creation designed to catch online child predators — has generated intrigue.

Franklin Ritch, Sinda Nichols, and David Girard shared more about the film in the exclusive MovieWeb interview below.

Let’s AI, Shall We?

Director Franklin Ritch has long been full of ideas and after spending many years as an indie filmmaker, he craved a project that could take his creativity to new heights. The Artifice Girl was that project. He says the idea for the film sprang organically. He had read several articles over the years about how technology and AI was being used to combat criminal activity, especially with predators.

“I thought that was just fascinating. What a cool way to use technology for good,” said Ritch, who also stars as AI developer Gareth in the film. “I was wondering what kind of conversations developers were having behind closed doors and thought that would be interesting to explore.”

His idea sat dormant for a while until he determined a thematic connection between the budding adolescence of AI and childhood trauma. “Suddenly, once that idea kind of struck, it was like, ‘Alright, this is a story I have to tell.’”

Related: Joe Russo Predicts Making Movies With AI Will Be the Norm in Two Years

Childhood trauma? We wanted to know more. “Obviously, we’re talking a lot more about AI now than we ever have been. But back in 2020, when I began this, it was still this kind of ambiguous thing that we weren’t sure if we should be afraid of, or excited about,” explained Ritch. “Like any kind of technology, it’s a reflection of the people who use it. And I’ve always felt that children are reflections of ourselves, and that we pass on the best and worst parts of ourselves to children in the same way we would do with AI.

“So, if an AI had been developed for, you know, selfish purposes, then that’s what AI would do,” continued Ritch. “If it was developed for altruistic reasons, then AI will probably have a better moral ground. Regardless, the way it’s developed is important. So, if one of the developers puts his trauma into it, the AI is going to reciprocate that. That’s just how trauma is. It’s always a cycle. I thought that that would be a really interesting kind of idea to explore.”

As an indie filmmaker, Ritch also had to keep financial resources in mind, so he approached the project from the perspective of what he could explore in a single conversation in just one room with three characters. That’s a bold move, especially for today’s fickle movie audiences, but Ritch felt it would creatively amplify the piece and give viewers something to ponder. “From there, everything started to just sort of fall into place,” he mused.

Sinda Nichols and David Girard on AI

XYZ Films

“I was blown away when I first read the script,” praised David Girard of Ritch’s film. “I thought it was beautiful, very well written, and thought-provoking. I knew he wanted me to play the character of Amos, but I got a little worried because I’m not as smart in real life as Amos is. I wondered how I was going to pull that off, especially with a lot of the tech jargon. It was one of the more challenging roles I’ve ever had.”

Amos and Deena (Sinda Nichols) are special agents hunting down child predators here. Is Gareth (Ritch) one of them? They soon discover that she created “Cherry,” a young girl, completely AI, to hunt down predators. But how far will the AI advance?

“I was really gobsmacked after I read the script. It was weighty and so deep,” shared Nichols. “It also had a message in it. And I think it has some poetry, too.”

Related: Best Movies About Sentient Artificial Intelligence

She went on to say that she was also taken aback by the nuances in the script and felt challenged by all the dialogue Ritch so superbly packed into the script. There’s nary a moment to breathe in the first half of the film, in fact, as the characters go at it.

“In terms of the topic, I felt like it was real, and that it was presenting something that people can get overly emotional about,” added Nichols. “It was presenting AI in a more sophisticated way, sort of saying, ‘Why don’t we think about our relationship with AI? And if we were to approach them as human beings, how would that benefit both of us?’”

XYZ Films

When asked how she felt she’d fare if she was suddenly thrust into a situation that revolved entirely around AI as it is in The Artifice Girl, Nichols was candid:

“I’m pretty comfortable pushing the boundaries of the unknown or going out on a limb. But in some ways, I don’t feel like Deena at all. In other ways, where she’s a visionary and a pioneer of humanitarian efforts, she’s willing to say, ‘You know, we must open our minds, and we must be willing to push aside our discomfort and our embarrassment and go ahead and try AI, try talking to this AI as though it’s a human, because why not? What do we have to lose? Nothing.”

“If I was in a similar situation, nowadays, I would approach it with bravery and creativity, as Deena did. But I don’t know,” continued Nichols. “I might freak out and say, ‘I’m really uncomfortable with this!”

The Artifice Girl opens in theaters April 27.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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