Film Archive for April, 2010

Why Not to Accuse Another Writer of Stealing Your Crap Unless You're Damn Certain They Did, in Fact, Steal Your Crap

There was an interesting little battle going on today between Gawker’s Adrien Chen and The Guardian’s Marina Hyde, wherein the former went off on the latter for “stealing” Justin Bieber jokes (surely there are more worthy things to worry about stealing than your Justin Bieber jokes, but hey, who are we to judge?).
Chen’s evidence for Hyde’s joke stealing is related to three jokes, one that talks about Bieber and Susan Boyle as YouTube sensations, one about Biebers Twitterability and snooty people who want you to know they are above the fray because they don’t know who he is by commenting “Who is Justin Bieber?” and the third about Bieber’s mall riot.
Despite the seeming simarility of their posts, I have to side with Hyde on this one. None of those jokes was pulled from any intellectual property (or even particularly creative ideas) exclusive to Chen. They are all fairly obvious jokes to make if one is writing a piece on Bieber: It would be remiss to write about him and not include a reference to YouTube predecessor Boyle; an observation about the snootiness of “Who is ‘X'” is hardly an exclusive observation; and Bieber’s mall riot was all over the news — again, it would be remiss to write a piece on him and not include a reference to that.
I suppose Chen could ding Hyde also for poking fun at Bieber (my idea! my idea!) but he’d have to be pissed at a lot of other people for “stealing” that idea too. But I’ll ding Hyde for her smart-ass reference in her response to working for a “real” paper and her implication that Gawker is beneath the Guardian simply because it’s online. Guardian IS a better and certainly more reliable source of journalistic writing than Gawker, but not just because Gawker is online.
When I was working for Cinematical, where we frequently wrote about entertainment news stories, I used to get emails almost daily from this or that website about how one or another writer had supposedly “stolen” a story from them, but I never found any of those allegations to be true. I’m not saying there aren’t writers and sites that crib off other people’s work, but when you have many writers writing stories about the same pop culture topics for many sites, it’s pretty much inevitable that more than one writer will have the same “brilliant” ideas that he or she thinks are completely original and then get miffed when someone else had the same idea and assume there was stealing of intellectual property involved.
This is exactly why I don’t read other critics’ reviews of films I’m reviewing myself, or even talk much to anyone about a film I’m reviewing, until I have my own review written. The kerfuffle between Gawker and Hyde appears to have been resolved more or less amicably at this point, with Gawker being 93% certain Hyde didn’t rip them off, but the whole thing speaks to the perils of so many writers writing and posting about the same things in real time … toes get stepped on, one person tells another to go fuck themselves, and it’s all downhill from there.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon