Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

Sorry, Shia, but your film? It's been done before
Actor Shia LaBeouf can't spend his entire career playing Transformer-style characters. A fifty year old man doing action adventure just isn't going to be box office boffo. So, wisely, he's dipped his toe into the behind-the-scenes portion of his industry and made himself a little film.

What he could not possibly know, being an actor capable of memorizing lines written by others, is that the writers actually have to come up with an original idea, or get permission to use another author's work. Then when the credits roll at the end, the audience can read the card that gives that author some credit for coming up with the plot and some of the narration. Oh, yes, and the author gets paid for the use of his work.

But what would an actor know of such backlot antics?

Because no one ever told him how the script got into his hands, Mr. LaBeouf failed to follow protocol when he lifted "Justin M. Damiano" and turned it into a short film that he calls "".

The title was his own idea. Doesn't that make the whole thing his own as well?

The title was about all that was original. The story and some of the spoken words were first composed by Daniel Clowes, a Chicago-based writer of graphic novels. He wrote and illustrated "Ghost World", which was made into a film for which he received credit and payment. Apparently Mr. LaBeouf never stayed to watch the credits, or he was not a fan of actress Thora Birch. THen again, he might have people to do his research and it's nearly impossible to get competent help these days. It's not as if everyone is familiar with Google searches.

At any rate, he made his film and absorbed the applause at the Cannes Film Festival and then found himself on the receiving end of a fierce backlash. His first attempt to branch out into production has been met with charges of plagiarism.

His first attempt at film production will soon give him an education in copyright law and lawsuits and settlements. He may also be schooled in the art of editing, in which he makes corrections to the credits so that the real author, Daniel Clowes, gets what he's due for being the true creative force behind the movie.

It's all a learning process, when you switch careers. Sometimes, as in this case, it turns out to be a very expensive and humiliating education.

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