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I love music, books, movies, blah, blah, blah! I love people, learning new things, and always progressing to be a better person.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A fine line between parody and plagiarism

"Almost everything I've done, I've done through my own creativity."
 - Quote by Buddy Rich

Something has been bothering me lately like 
an itch at the back of my brain that has slowly but surely come screaming to the surface.

I have been in film school for three years now, and with my new collected knowledge and experience I can honestly say that it is very, VERY hard to create something original.

There is a theory in literature and media that there are only seven plots total in storytelling.

They are
[wo]man vs. nature
[wo]man vs. man
[wo]man vs. the environment
[wo]man vs. machines/technology
[wo]man vs. the supernatural
[wo]man vs. self
[wo]man vs. god/religion

So, it's not hard to see why bringing an original idea to the screen can be one of the most intellectually and creatively taxing experiences to be a part of. But, just because there are only seven plots that doesn't mean you can't create an original and compelling way to tell them. 

With that said, here's what has been bothering me.


Kid History is a very popular series of YouTube shorts "created" (and I use that term lightly) by two brothers from Utah. The entire concept behind Kid History is the two brothers interview their younger nieces and nephews about family stories and then recreate those stories for YouTube. They take the audio of the children’s interviews and overlay it upon scenes they act out with adult actors pantomiming and mouthing the children's crazy storytelling.

Wow! What a crazy, original idea right? 
That's what I said...two years earlier when I saw Derek Water's Drunk History at the Sundance Film Festival and on Funny or Die.

Drunk History is an award-winning series of short films created by Derek Waters and starring such talents as Jack Black, Don Cheadle, Will Ferrell, and many more

In Drunk History, writers, comedians, and history buffs get fall-down drunk and then are interviewed about historical events. They then recreate those stories by taking the audio of the drunk person's interview and overlaying it upon scenes they act out with well-known actors pantomiming and mouthing the drunk's nonsensical storytelling.

So, the makers of Kid History have taken (and this is by their own admission) the entire concept, production, and execution from Drunk History and made a slight change to the interviewee.

Now I understand the concept of parody and that, to some, imitation is the highest form of flattery. But it fails to be a parody when the original concept is itself a parody and when imitation is a frame-by-frame rehash of another persons idea. If that is what you've done then what you are is nothing more than a hack.

Here, I'll let you be the judge. 

(Note: Pay close attention to the concept, the beginning and end credits, and how the overall pieces of both films are cut together)

Kid History (Also note that the creator's YouTube username is stolen from Pinky and The Brain...have you no shame?):

Drunk History:

What bothers me the most is that the creators of Kid History are now selling DVDs on Bored Shorts TV, collecting advertising money on YouTube, and are selling out local theaters on a stolen concept. They even have people lauding them with festival awards and using terms such as "creative" and "visionary" when they stole the idea from an already award-winning concept

So I ask you: If they are so "creative" then what have they really created? 

To summarize their interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, the "creators" of Kid History said that they wanted to enter a local film festival, so they went online for an idea of what to shoot and found Drunk History (HOLY SH*T! THEY ADMIT TO STEALING THE CONCEPT).
They made Kid History using the template set forth by Derek Waters and have won several local festivals all while riding the coat tails of another person's hard work and creative concept. 

To me this does not deserve praise, awards, and certainly not money for something they have creatively plagiarized. The fact that people are buying into this is astounding to me not only as a member of a similar creative field but also as an observer.

And the creative hijacking doesn't stop at Kid History. It continues with the BYU film department.  

I'm sure you've all seen this commercial.

Old Spice Commercial:

It's fantastic! It's funny, eye catching, and best of all very hard to do! It's won several awards and has completely changed the face of commercials for the past year.

Now watch this...

BYU Library Ad:

Notice anything similar? While this can technically be classified as parody, I just don't see it that way. Because, yet again, a parody of a comedy is ridiculous, pointless, and a scapegoat for not having any true creativity.

I'm not saying BYU film didn't do a good job making this video, because they did a great job. But how hollow of a victory is it to find success through another person's original idea?

They didn't come up with the idea or the concept. They saw an already award-winning advertisement and said, "That was awesome! We should do that."

Sure, they have succeeded in carbon-copying a great idea. But in my book that doesn't deserve respect or admiration. If they spent just a little more time coming up with an original idea the experience would have been more rewarding. They would've not only be challenging themselves creatively but they would still have their integrity as well.

Let me be clear. By bringing up this topic I am in no way saying that I am the most original when it comes to creativity nor have I shattered any genres in my field. But, at least I am trying my hardest to do something different. I strive to be different in my writing and film making in hopes of finally breaking that barrier between creative inspiration and true art. Have I done that yet? Of course not. But at least I am not six steps behind by making cookie cutter versions of other people's genius.

But if that is what the public wants, who am I to resist?

"Almost everything I've done, I've done through my own creativity."
 - Quote by Buddy Rich - Neil Hiatt

Now all I have to do is sit back and wait for the praise to roll in.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Newfound Celebrity...Of Sorts


What a fantastic creation that links the world together and allows access to information at the click of a mouse.

Information like:

"Who won the first world series?"
Answer: The Boston Americans (Later renamed the Boston Red Sox).
"How many packets of Kool-Aid would it take to fill the ocean?"
Answer: 732 quintillion packets "Oh Yeah!"

Google is also incredibly successful. As of 2011 Google's net worth is $190 Billion dollars.

To put that into perspective, if you were to produce the movie Avatar, buy the world's most expensive house (Antilla), buy a private island, A Private Jet, and a Tiger, then donated $300,000,000 to charity, and purchase The Batmobile (The Dark Knight Version), You would still have $188 Billion dollars left over.

Google is so popular that it is now a verb (examples: Google the answer, Google the site, I just googled myself).

Speaking of googling myself, that is another amazing thing that Google supplies us with,
immediate self-masterbatorial narcissism. With a simple click you can search all of the information the internet has about YOU! Where you live, your facebook page, and even links to your blog.

The final item that Google is good for, apparently, is porking me in the ass.

You must be confused.
"But Neil, you were just saying what a great invention Google was. Why are you being so negative toward Google now?"

Well, let me tell you.

Yesterday when my wife googled my name she found something interesting.

She found this:

Now you probably don't see anything wrong with
this picture...so let me narrow it down for you.

What you see in that picture is a link to a website called www.icelebsdb.com

From what I can gather, www.icelebsdb.com is a bullshit site.

It is a fake site that takes information from anyone who has an IMDB.com page and then post it on their website in order to link it to a celebrity porn site.

So now, when you google search my name a link pops up and claims to have "Nude Pi
ctures" and "Naked Hot Scenes" of me. And on the first page. Make no mistake...it's me that they are talking about. They have my full name, birthdate, and home town on record.

So, obviously there are no nude photos of me on the internet.
I mean seriously, the closest thing to a nude photo I even have is this...

And while I am flattered that they have lowered the standard of the word "celebrity" to include this pudgy, 26-year-old college student, I don't appreciate a site claiming to have nude photos and videos of me. The funny thing is...why are they using my name to promote their site, and is that strategy even working?

In all seriousness, if they wanted nude photos, all they had to do was ask.

Obviously this is a recent picture.

I really don't know what my legal recourse is here, but for the moment I guess I could find the server that houses the site and hope to God it's in the U.S. Maybe the site will be short lived and get shut down by people even more famous than myself. Or, for now anyway, I could just leave it be and use it as a conversation piece.

I can see it now: I'm somewhere in time and space, talking to a prospective client or colleague and when that inevitable dip in the conversation happens, I can pull out my ace in the hole: "Hey, (insert prospective client or colleague here) if you Google my name you will find a fake link to non-existent naked pictures of me."
Then we all laugh and become friends.

Or something like that.