Short of the Week

An Update on HowardCantour.com

SOTW / December 17, 2013

Yesterday we premiered and hosted a short film from Shia LaBeouf called HowardCantour.com. After the film’s launch, it came to light on Twitter, thanks to the sharp eyes of @Gholson, and the reporting of Buzzfeed, that the film was an uncredited adaptation of a work by Daniel Clowes.

As soon as this came to light we decided to pull the film from the internet out of respect to Mr. Clowes. We reached out to Mr. LaBeouf’s team for clarification and the resulting statement came out early this morning in this series of tweets from LaBeouf’s account:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we believe we were misled, we also feel partly responsible having partnered with Shia and his team to premiere the film online and would like to apologize to Mr. Clowes, our promotional partners to whom we passed the film along to, and ultimately to you, our cherished SOTW audience. All indications from the crediting of the film as “A film by Shia LaBeouf” to LaBeouf’s answer to our question of where the concept originated led us to believe it to be a wholly original work. When it became clear that it was not, we took down the film. If it wasn’t for the legions of online Clowes fans who pointed this out, this may never have come to light.

As curators of a powerful but under-appreciated medium like short film where filmmakers often spend years of effort and make little or no money, the recognition a filmmaker receives from their work, and therefore attribution, is often the only benefit they’ll see in return. Correct attribution is very important to us because it means everything to the creators of the work.

Finally, it’s interesting to note that while the film opened at Cannes and continued to screen for more than a year at film festivals around the world, it wasn’t until it reached online audiences that the truth came out. To us it serves as a refreshing look at how far our collective respect for digital media has come from the early days of Napster and mainstream piracy. And now, in some ways, has even begun to push the respect and recognition for artist rights even further.

~
Finding and showcasing the best online short films since 2007.
  • Josh

    Now THAT’S how you apologise, classy. Well done.

  • Jimbo

    Maybe focus on continuing to support the work of struggling up-and-comers rather than established celebrities? They don’t need the extra validation and adoration that many of us so desperately seek as struggling filmmakers.

  • http://www.refocusedmedia.com Refocused Media

    You guys are the last people I’d put any blame on. And the way you’ve handled the whole debacle just reinforces why.

  • Shia who?

    Can’t agree more.

  • http://www.vhbelvadi.com Venkatram Harish Belvadi

    Well put, very true.

  • http://www.vhbelvadi.com Venkatram Harish Belvadi

    Well put, very true.

  • Jason Sondhi

    I feel we do a good job providing a platform for up and comers. Indeed I’d guess that 95% or more of the films we share are from filmmakers of little exposure.

    It’s a balance though, and ultimately the larger SotW becomes, the more widely and effectively we can broadcast the unknown talent we do champion.

  • Jason Sondhi

    Thanks Refocused.

  • Jimbo

    Very true. Please know that I still very much appreciate the work you guys do – It’s just frustrating to see something like this happen when there’s so much work out there that deserves the attention a film like this instantly gets simply because of the names attached.

    Sundance, SXSW, Cannes, Tribeca…at this point, it’s becoming more of a celebrity showcase than a way for filmmakers to get noticed. I just don’t want to see you guys fall into a similar trap, since you’re becoming one of the more reliable platforms for lesser known filmmakers to get their work to a wide audience.

  • Neenay

    Only… he also plagiarised a portion of his apology… smh

  • Shahir Daud

    I think you guys (SOTW) did a great job of promoting the short, and keeping integrity when the issue came to light. As always, keep up the good work on providing such a great, well regarded platform for young filmmakers!

  • Guest

    Yeah… you don’t have to apologize for getting swindled. You owned it, rectified it — all good things.

  • Wallard

    A good short is still a good short despite who makes it and deserves to be seen.

  • HEEHAW

    Someone else pointed this out…just in case anyone missed it…

    Shia describes short film this way: “At their best, short films capture the essence of storytelling without the encumbrance of pop-psychology, over-developed characterizations, and without the unnecessary weight of meaningful subplots & subtexts. Simple, universal stories that cater to my generation’s attention span.”

    Now look how director Keith Phillips describes short film, in the section “short film as art”:

    http://www.firstlightonline.co.uk/make-a-film/step-4/short-film/

  • Steve

    Yes but “filmmakers” such as Shia already have a leg up on everyone else….The dude went to Cannes with it and would still get thousands of views if he posted it to his personal website or something. Why not leave platforms like SOTW to filmmakers who are not in such a position?

  • Steve

    Yes but “filmmakers” such as Shia already have a leg up on everyone else….The dude went to Cannes with it and would still get thousands of views if he posted it to his personal website or something. Why not leave platforms like SOTW to filmmakers who are not in such a position?

  • Michele Reamey

    Mr. LaBeouf violated the first cannon law of all creator’s, he willingly and knowingly stole someone else’s spark of brilliance and tried to pass it off as his own. It is all too easy for him to now claim that he was “inspired” by the true artist behind this work. In doing so he actually insults Mr.Clowes further. His line of reasoning is “I was so taken by Mr. Clowes creation that I felt I had no choice then to steal it and pass it off as my own.” Mr. LaBeouf needs to stop speaking. He has proved himself incapable of perceiving his transgressions. Mr. LaBeouf, just have whomever it is that cleans up your messes send out something resembling a heartfelt apology and write a nice sized check to Mr. Clowes. Oh, and never try your hand at “creating” again. What you thought would be cause for adulation has turned into proof of your true talents, we do not need to see any more of them.

  • HEEHAW

    His “thoughts” on how the film originated aren’t his own, either.

    Shiarrhea says:
    ”I know something about the gulf between critical acclaim and blockbuster business. I have been crushed by critics (especially during my Transformers run), and 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.”

    Kyle Buchanan of Vulture wrote this back in May 2012:
    “LaBeouf would know something about the gulf between critical acclaim and blockbuster business — he’s made three Transformers movies, after all. But his short isn’t an attempt to slag on critics, not really: Instead, he tries to empathize with the sort of man who might earn a living taking potshots at the actor.”

    http://www.vulture.com/2012/05...

  • Dan Reisinger

    Well played guys. Nicely done!

  • Dan Reisinger

    Well played guys. Nicely done!

  • Dan Reisinger

    bahahaha

  • Dan Reisinger

    bahahaha

  • Dan Reisinger

    bahahaha this is getting funnier and funnier!

  • Dan Reisinger

    bahahaha this is getting funnier and funnier!

  • Dan Reisinger

    bahahahaha this is amazing!!!! I seem to remember that he did something similar with his apology to Alec Baldwin a few months back?

  • Dan Reisinger
  • Dan Reisinger
  • Abdul Fataki

    I disagree, to have your short film featured alongside short films from established actors/directors/producers would be a great way to get even MORE recognition/validation. I mean imagine seeing your own short right in between a Ridley Scott piece and Cumberbatch short.

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Thanks Shahir. Sadly, all this controversy glosses over what we still think is a great short film adapted from a great story with an interesting message about online criticism today. Imagine if this was done legit—”Shia LaBeouf directs an adaptation of a Daniel Clowes comic”. It just might have been brilliant.

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Simply put, we look for great work regardless of who made it. As Jason points out, most of the time it’s new, up-and-coming filmmakers creating the most interesting work. But every now and then it’s an established filmmaker trying something new. Both should be recognized

    We still stand by HowardCantour.com as a great film based on a great story. It’s a shame and a loss to us all that it wasn’t made legitimately.

  • Nicholas

    I could not disagree more. the agenda of a site as wonderful as SOTW is not to promote up and coming filmmakers. It is to curate good short films. They are helping to spread the popularity and viability of the short film. They are pioneers online that we can trust to only showcase talented filmmakers. New or established. To turn down a good film simply because a celebrity or famous person created it would be ludicrous, unfair and simply wrong to the filmmakers and to SOTW viewers.

    SOTW did nothing wrong but get duped by a ‘respected’ celebrity who plagiarized a good idea. They do good work and this is not a blight on them in anyway. Shia is an embarrassment to all filmmakers. To think you can straight up copy someone’s work and only apologize because you got caught blows my mind. Integrity can not be developed. You got it or you dont.

  • Nicholas

    I swear I am not picking on you.

    Why would SOTW turn down the premier of a film that has been to sundance, SXSW, Cannes, Tribeca…that makes no sense. They are in the business of short films. They have a website that showcases short films. Anything they can do to bring people to the site is good for short films and the filmmakers featured on their site today and tomorrow. Marketing 101.

    And do not forget how hollywood/film industry works names get eyes. Thats why the first thing people ask when told about a new film is ‘who is in it?’ No name filmmakers do not draw a crowd. Crowds get views, views get dollars. Someone comes for Shia and gets no name charles and gets no name andrea and SOTW gets new fans and more views. Everyone wins.

  • Anna Sefalik

    Oh, you mean THIS quote–which, no doubt, “inspired” Shia:

    “At their best, short films capture the essence of story-telling,
    without the encumbrance of pop-psychology and over-developed
    characterisations, and without the unnecessary weight of meaningful
    subplots and subtexts. Simple, universal stories.”
    ~Keith Phillips, Director, Ideal Films Ltd, Swindon

    Well, he DID change the spelling of “characterisations” and he DID add that bit at the end about attention spans.
    Apparently, when the subject is plagiarism, Shia’s attention span in woefully short.

  • http://politicalfilm.wordpress.com/ Anonymous

    Shia an “amateur filmmaker?” The guy’s got agents, managers, lawyers, contracts up the wazoo. 46 acting credits! I guess it worked for a while until the internet got it out there. Other thieves will no doubt play theirs at festivals and keep them off the net.

    Good job for sorting this out.

  • http://www.gregrichters.com Greg Richters

    I can hear many of you complain that SOTW is featuring the work of an established filmmaker and as a filmmaker myself I get it. But from experience I can say that every up-and-coming filmmaker who has his work featured by SOTW profits VERY MUCH if the work of a celebrity gets featured by the same site. In most people’s eyes celebrities ALWAYS ENHANCE the image of an institution, company, festival, website, project etc. and A) SOTW in my opinion did nothing wrong and B) Even if they were involved in any way (which I doubt) with the plagiarism of Shia’s latest film… The sad truth is that in six months from now everyone will have forgotten about this. If you can get your work featured on the same page as a celebrity, take a screenshot and save it for your press docs… once you’re seeking funding for a film project this WILL impress even if your work is featured besides Shia’s latest short film. That’s just how things are. So stop complaining and go create some original and authentic work!

  • Gunner Willis

    I like this guy!

    *raises gauntlet of ale and cheers a big hearty cheer*