Well. It’s certainly been something of an interesting 24 hours in the world of online film-writing and film-criticism.
Yesterday, actor and desperate bidder for credibility Shia LaBeouf released a short film he directed online, called HowardCantour.com. The film starred comedian Jim Gaffigan as an online film critic/writer (who bears a passing resemblance to our own critic/writer/film-loving samurai Damon Houx) in what we expected to be a clichéd attack on film critics from an actor who isn’t exactly a critical darling. And while the film wasn’t exceedingly kind to the profession, it did appear to at least try to examine the complex relationships between film critics, their profession, their love of cinema, and filmmakers. Further, it also nailed the transient awkwardness of film junkets.
Turns out the surprising complexity wasn’t so surprising after all, as it didn’t even come from LaBeouf—news soon broke that the short film was an almost shot-for-panel wholesale theft of a Daniel Clowes comic entitled Justin M. Damiano. The film’s credits do not mention Clowes at all—not even an “inspired by” or an “acknowledgement to the works of” like at the end of The Terminator. Just the simple, bold implication that the filmis LaBeouf’s vision, and not a 99% recreation of another man’s ideas, thoughts, opinions, work, and art.
So, of course, the video went down almost immediately. Hours later, LaBeouf offered a rambling apology via Twitter:
Copying isn’t particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work. In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur filmmaker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation. I’m embarrassed that I failed to credit @danielclowes for his original graphic novella Justin M. Damiano, which served as my inspiration. I was truly moved by his piece of work & I knew that it would make a poignant & relevant short. I apologize to all who assumed I wrote it. I deeply regret the manner in which these events have unfolded and want @danielclowes to know that I have a great respect for his work.
And, amazingly enough, LaBeouf’s apology itself seems to be an act of plagiarism from a Yahoo Answers post about the nature of plagiarism. Seriously.
Why did Picasso say “good artists copy but great artists steal”?
He meant that every artist is influenced by what has been done before their time. If not by direct exposure, the information the artist is exposed to through other people, media, etc. influences them. We are all a product of our times and have the benefit of those who have walked similar paths we are now on.
We all borrow because it has all been done before and we are not the originators. To merely copy is to take an existing interpretation and not run away with it. To steal an idea is to take something of value and make it yours. To make an artistic element yours you have to interpret it your way with your own approach.
This cannot be done when you are merely copying the idea. When copying the idea you are just doing everything exactly like it was previously done. When you have done it your way you have used the element and not simply duplicated it.
It is not required that you advance the element. You can go sideways and even backwards with the idea and you can be stealing the element and not copying it. On the contrary, when merely copying the element you have failed if you do not match the original.
Bottom line: LaBeouf copied and pasted another artist’s work, did not credit that artist, and released it under his own name. Once caught, he offered up a rambling excuse that he was creating something “new” (I suppose he did, in that he transferred a comic format to a borderline identical film one) and that his “amateur” nature as a filmmaker is what led to the mistake (an amateur who has directed five short films, and has worked under such filmmakers as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Michael Bay, Lars von Trier, John Hillcoat, and Oliver Stone, and has worked in show business for 15 years).
What do you think of the LaBeouf goof?
Source: Gawker [See how we noted the source of this article just now? Took two seconds]