While he’s known predominantly as an actor, Shia LaBeouf has tried to carve out himself as an amateur filmmaker in recent years. His short film “HowardCantour.com”, about an online film critic (Jim Gaffigan), premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, and now finally ended up online on Monday.
Then, in the last 24 hours, things went to hell. Viewers of the short quickly pointed out that the short is extraordinarily similar to Daniel Clowes’ 2007 comic “Justin M. Damiano”. LaBeouf neglected to credit the source either in the film, or whilst promoting it. LaBeouf never spoke to Clowes about adapting the book, the author telling Buzzfeed:
“The first I ever heard of the film was this morning when someone sent me a link. I’ve never spoken to or met Mr. LaBeouf. I’ve never even seen one of his films that I can recall – and I was shocked, to say the least, when I saw that he took the script and even many of the visuals from a very personal story I did six or seven years ago and passed it off as his own work. I actually can’t imagine what was going through his mind.”
The film has since been pulled, LaBeouf tweeting and apologising for the apparent plagiarism saying:
“In my excitement and naivete 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 deeply regret the manner in which these events have unfolded and want @danielclowes to know that I have a great respect for his work”
Things didn’t end there though, because as Wired put it: “LaBeouf may Have plagiarized his apology for plagiarism”. It seems that one of his tweets, “Copying isn’t particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work” was found to have been lifted, almost verbatim, from a 2009 Yahoo! Answers response.
One of the sites that hosted the short tells WIRED that they would consider restoring it under certain conditions:
“We were led to believe by Shia and the filmmaking team that the story and script for HowardCantour.com was completely original. This was a film that screened at Cannes and dozens of other festivals around the world for a year and a half with no outcry about the uncredited use of Daniel Clowes’ work. That didn’t come until it hit online. If it wasn’t for the legions of online Clowes fans, this may never have come to light. As curators of a powerful but under-appreciated medium like short film where filmmakers spend years of work to make little or no money, the recognition you get from your work, and therefore attribution, is often all you have, so we take it seriously. Until Clowes grants permission and is credited in the work, we’ve pulled the film offline.”