Shia LaBeouf's directorial debut, HowardCantour.com, had premiered online today. The short film, which LaBeouf also "wrote" (more on that in a minute), takes on film critics (specifically Internet film critics). It's not very nice to them, but Internet film critics, wanting to show that they're totally in on the joke, were quick to praise LaBeouf's work:
LaBeouf offers a pleasantly entertaining take on the inward struggles of a veteran film critic
For having a runtime of less than fifteen minutes, Howardcantour.com offers an impressive display of filmmaking talent from LaBeouf
Melancholic in its splendor
LaBeouf has written an incredibly clever script
Hot Short Film
-- Eric Reynolds, longtime editor of Daniel Clowes
Wait, what? Yes, BuzzFeed's Jordan Zakarin noticed that HowardCantour.com is remarkably similar to Daniel Clowes' 2007 comic "Justin M. Damiano." (To see part of Clowes' comic, head to BuzzFeed, where it has been reprinted with permission)
LaBeouf, who's done some fairly blatant (an unapologetic) plagiarism in the past, supposedly wrote the film, telling Short of the Week:
In trying to come to terms with my feelings about critics, I needed to understand them. As I tried to empathize with the sort of man who might earn a living taking potshots at me and the people I’ve worked with, a small script developed.
The film has several direct quotes from Clowes' comic. Also the plot is the same. It even looks the same. But Clowes isn't credited anywhere in the film, and seemed quite surprised to find out that something like this was out there, telling BuzzFeed:
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 6 or 7 years ago and passed it off as his own work. I actually can’t imagine what was going through his mind.
Want to see LaBeouf's film for yourself? Well, you can't. It's now password protected. (UPDATE: BuzzFeed's article is now hosting the film.) You can still, however, read Norman Mailer's son John Buffalo Mailer's overwrought essay ("GENERATION HASHTAG?" Really?) about the film:
For many [critics], 'Great' appears to be the closest thing to something they've never seen before.
Maybe that's true of critics. For Shia LaBeouf, I suspect, it's the opposite.
Update, 2:05 a.m.: LaBeouf has offered up an apology of sorts on his Twitter account:
Copying isn't particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else's idea to produce something new and different IS creative work.— Shia LaBeouf (@thecampaignbook) December 17, 2013
In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur filmmaker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation— Shia LaBeouf (@thecampaignbook) December 17, 2013
Im embarrassed that I failed to credit @danielclowes for his original graphic novella Justin M. Damiano, which served as my inspiration— Shia LaBeouf (@thecampaignbook) December 17, 2013
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.— Shia LaBeouf (@thecampaignbook) December 17, 2013
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— Shia LaBeouf (@thecampaignbook) December 17, 2013
About an hour later, LaBeouf just went with:
I fucked up.— Shia LaBeouf (@thecampaignbook) December 17, 2013
Update 9:22 a.m.: Now it seems that LaBeouf may have even plagiarized his apology.
His tweet, "Copying isn't particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else's idea to produce something new and different IS creative work," is remarkably similar to a post on Yahoo Answers from four years ago, that reads in part, "Merely copying isn’t particularly creative work, though it’s useful as training and practice. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work"