When the rom-com Prom Pact arrived on Disney platforms in late March, it debuted to positive reviews and the modest level of fanfare one would expect for a TV film aimed at teenagers. But seven months later, it has gone viral for all the wrong reasons.
On Thursday, a clip from the film’s opening pep rally scene circulated on X, formerly known as Twitter. In a blink and you’ll miss it moment, unrealistic looking digital humans cheer in the bleachers alongside real background actors. The clip has been widely shared (and widely mocked).
It has also struck a chord amid the SAG-AFTRA strike that has shut down Hollywood and in which one of the key issues is the worry that an actor’s likeness could be re-created digitally without adequate procurement of consent and compensation. Background actors, in particular, are worried that dependable work that might last days or weeks on a production could be cut to one day if studios scan their likeness and digitally insert them into scenes.
The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the characters in the shot were not scanned actors driven by AI, but rather were created by other VFX techniques. In other words, these digital extras involved the work of CG artists. Reps for Disney did not respond to a request for comment.
Such practices of creating crowds populated by digital extras are nothing new in Hollywood. Recent films such as Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody and TV shows like Ted Lasso don’t actually employ thousands of extras for stadium scenes.
The difference with Prom Pact is the shot was relatively close, making the digital extras more easily recognizable as inhuman.
For its part, the AMPTP, which represents the movie studios, said Oct. 11 that its latest offer to SAG-AFTRA on AI ensured that performers would need to provide written consent and be given an description of the intended use of a digital replica.