Valentina Simon, Contributing Photographer

Yalies poured into the Loria Center Thursday evening as “Rogue One” Director Gareth Edwards visited campus for a pre-screening and conversation about his new film, “The Creator.” 

Following the film’s screening, Edwards joined Ted Wittenstein ’04 LAW ’12, lecturer in Global Affairs and the executive director of the Jackson School’s International Security Studies research hub, for a discussion about the movie. The event was hosted in partnership with the Schmidt Program on Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies and the Yale Film Society.

The film, which was released in theaters Friday, envisions a future war between humans and advanced artificial intelligence robots. 

“It was noteworthy that [Edwards] was eager to visit Yale and engage with our students on the eve of a major studio release, ” Wittenstein wrote to the News. “I was impressed with Gareth Edwards’ creative vision, and his desire to make a film that not only was commercially successful but also thought-provoking on questions of AI ethics, machine intelligence, and human consciousness.”

While the topic of artificial intelligence feels significant in today’s national conversation, Edwards told the News, he envisions the film as an allegorical tool to address tribalism in human society. 

Edwards said that the film is about having empathy for people that are different.

“It’s not really about technology,” he said. “It is really about humans.” 

Edwards described being influenced by the popular science documentary series, Q.E.D., which he watched as a child. In one episode, he recalled, children were arbitrarily given armbands colored red and blue without being told why. On the first day, the playground was evenly colored with red and blue bands. 

By the third day, all the children with red armbands were on one side of the playground, and all children with blue armbands were on the other. 

“We have this thing inside us to connect most to people that are most similar to us and ban together against the people that are most different.” Edwards told the News. “It probably helped us survive for millions of years, but now it’s a problem. We are smart enough that we should be able to see past it, but we keep doing it.”

Prior to the screening, Nydia del Carmen ’26, president of the Yale Film Society and also a YTV editor for the News, moderated a conversation with Edwards at a Pierson College Tea. 

At the tea, Edwards spoke about his journey in the film industry.  

“Interviewing Gareth was a dream come true,” del Carmen said. “Gareth emphasized the failures he had to endure to get to where he was. I think that really resonated with a lot of young filmmakers within the event. At least for my part it was very inspiring to hear.”

Edwards described his career trajectory, including his background as an independent film enthusiast in central England, his days as a special effects artist working for the BBC and his work on his first major blockbuster, “Godzilla” in 2014.

Edwards spoke to film majors hoping to break into the industry at the tea. According to the director, who graduated from the Surrey Institute of Art & Design, film school is not a prerequisite to making movies — students can rent a camera and start shooting at any time, he said.

“It’s like there’s nothing stopping anyone now.” Edwards said. “I think [film is] really democratized.”

For Edwards, the freedom of directing lower-budget films is what drew him to “The Creator,” After directing the Star Wars film “Rogue One,” Edwards said he wanted to write and direct his own project, without the constraints of a franchise. 

Compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars he had to work with during “Rogue One,” he said, the “The Creator” operated with a relatively small $18 million.

“He was a terrific verbal storyteller,” Matthew Siff  ’25, who attended both the Pierson College Tea and the pre-screening, told the News.

When Edwards wrote the script for “The Creator,” he said he initially thought that the concept of sentient artificial intelligence was “a distant dream.” 

Audiences will watch the film in a world familiar with language models like ChatGPT and rapid advances in artificial technology. For Wittenstein, “The Creator” may indicate a rising social anxiety around AI technology and U.S. geopolitical competition with China. 

“[The film] underscores the importance of developing AI systems that are reliable, safe, and aligned with human values,” Wittenstein said. “Film as a medium – especially science fiction, for which Gareth Edwards has gained world renown — can serve as an important vehicle for reflection on the trends in technology that are shaping our world.”

Edwards, however, said he is unsure of what the consequences of evolving artificial intelligence may be. Edwards said he is fascinated by the concept of creating artificial intelligence that could think like a human. 

He said he believes that the next phase of machine learning will involve the creation of more sophisticated algorithms inspired by human brain chemistry — ones that could resemble human consciousness.

“I think [consciousness is] replicable,” Edwards said. “It might be a hundred years or a thousand years or next year and there will be a consciousness we will be able to interact with that’s not biological.”

Edwards said that even now he feels it can be difficult to draw a line between real human consciousness and software. 

He said that this is particularly true with AI chatbots. 

“I play with ChatGPT and I get convinced there is someone there,” Edwards said. “It makes you question, maybe that’s all we are. Just a load of neuron networks. And I think that’s why people find it so concerning: it’s sort of holding a mirror up to ourselves, and showing that maybe we are not special.”

“The Creator” was filmed in eight countries including Nepal, Cambodia and Thailand.

Valentina Simon covers Astronomy, Computer Science and Engineering stories. She is a freshman in Timothy Dwight College majoring in Data Science and Statistics.