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(Updated) The Saga of Shia LaBeouf and HowardCantour.com

Yeah, you did.

Yesterday, ShortOfTheWeek.com featured Shia LaBeouf’s directorial debut (update: not the first thing he’s directed, my apologies), HowardCantour.com. Here’s a description of the short as it originally appeared on the site:

Created by actor-turned-director, Shia LaBeouf, as a way of trying to understand a profession that carries a lot of sway in his industry – the film critic, HowardCantour.com is an entertaining short brimming with engaging performances, snappy dialogue and crisp cinematography. Based around the inner-workings of fictional film expert Howard Cantour, LaBeouf’s latest short is a film about principles and how you deal with those beliefs when they come under scrutiny.

The short stars Jim Gaffigan as a film critic and it explores the junket circuit, as well as the inner life of a man who, in this particular case, gripes about films for a living. It’s not a bad film, all told, and some of the details of working a round table really rung true (I have minor experience in that world, at best).

The contention here is that the short was being described as, “created by actor-turned-director, Shia LaBeouf,” which we now know is simply not true. While the film played at the Cannes Film Festival in May of 2012, no one there either caught on to, or mentioned that the film was a near panel-for-panel adaptation of a Dan Clowes (Ghost World) comic called, “Justin M. Damiano.” When comments attesting to that fact started appearing on sites that embedded the short, Buzzfeed reached out to Clowes to ask why he hadn’t been credited. Here’s what Clowes had to say:

“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,” Clowes told BuzzFeed. “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 still appears on ShortOfTheWeek.com, albeit with an update to its original summary:

UPDATE: Shortly after releasing this film and posting this review, it’s become clear that a significant portion of HowardCantour.com was taken without permission or credit from a comic by the legendary, Daniel Clowes. We were led to believe by Shia and the filmmaking team that the story was original. Until Daniel Clowes grants permission for the adaption of his work and is properly credited, we don’t feel comfortable showing the film publicly. Our apologies and we hope you understand.

Many of the comments I read took the password protection to be the work of LaBeouf, so it’s nice to see ShortOfTheWeek.com intervening and taking the credit. Finally, we have a series of tweets by LaBeouf speaking directly to the claims of plagarism:

Inspiration is one thing, but I implore everyone that’s seen the film to read Clowes’ comic and note, not just the direct lifting of dialogue, but the faithful replication of images, again, without crediting Clowes as the source.

Fair.

Too late.

There was a simple solution to avoid just that. A solution I’m certain of which he was aware.

“Respect”.

He ends with the tweet at the top of this article.

There’s a shocking lack of media savvy in this decision, especially when you consider just how long LaBeouf has been working in the industry. I’m  not interested in piling on to LaBeouf anymore than I already have with this article, but I’d be interested to hear, honestly, why it was that Shia tried to pass this off as his own writing. The tweets are an acknowledgement of the problem and a plea for forgiveness without much in the way of a real explanation. LaBeouf has been refreshingly honest about his perceived missteps in the past, so I’m sure this story isn’t over just yet.

Update:

Aaaaand, the apology was plagiarized. Source: AV Club.

But it turns out there may be a deeper artistic intention and/or psychological problem behind this whole thing, seeing as LaBeouf also seems to have plagiarized his apology, again: His first tweet is incredibly similar to a Yahoo! Answers comment from four years ago, written in reply to a question about plagiarism. Which, again, is either deeply ironic, or deeply pathological.

Second Update:

From TheWrap: Shia LaBeouf Hopes to ‘Work Out A Deal’ To Properly Credit Dan Clowes

Thanks to Ambler on the boards for that one.