The Audacity of Creative Fraud

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Flattered? Not even. 
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HF Yambao’s short film, ripped off from my script.
I was mindlessly scanning my Facebook news feed yesterday when this short film by filmmaker HF Yambao (an apprentice of director Brillante Mendoza) flipped my stupor into rage.

The short film, uploaded on online video platform Viddsee, was an unabashed ripoff of the script which I wrote in 2010, based on a story I wrote in 2009. 

A bit of history: back then, HF and I were working in the same public relations agency. I found out that he was an aspiring filmmaker (he took a four-week digital filmmaking course at New York Film Academy), and I told him that I had a story which I wanted to turn into a short film. 

The story I wrote was a surreal account of a relationship gone awry–about a girl who obsessed about the dye stains in the bathroom of the depressed guy she used to date. 

In December 2010, I sent him a rough script based on the story which I penned. 

Originally, we intended to produce the film together, but I eventually lost trust in his creative vision, which started when he tried to alter the characters (for one, he tried to make my main character, Gab, a public relations executive from being a journalist.) That is when I decided to stop working with him on the project.

I’ve posted some of our exchanges below, from two years back:

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As you can read in our thread, despite me telling him not to do the film, he still did it anyway. He begged that I allow him to use the material he had already produced for a private Joey Samson fashion show. For friendship’s sake, I relented that he use the story, on the condition that he will not use it after the event. 

Imagine my surprise, and subsequent anger when, two years after he had promised that, this popped out of my news feed:  

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Not only has HF reneged on an earlier promise that he will not use the short film after the event–he has also blatantly claimed ownership of a story which I had made. 

To compare, here is a part of the script which I wrote: 

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If you skip to 3:48 of the video, you will see that he has used it, verbatim: 

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; margin-bottom: 5px; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

I was so enraged by the audacity of this creative fraud that I couldn’t help but comment on the post in which he tagged some of our friends: 
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The comment has since been deleted, and he has sent me a message, with not even a hint of remorse: 
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For the record, it’s not even credit I’m after. No. I don’t want to be associated with this work. It makes me cringe that my name appears at the end of the video, for all the world to see.

What I find infuriating is that he has stolen something which is very personal to me and passed it off as his own, thereby treating my life and my work as something so trivial, which he can use and abuse without my explicit permission. 

What makes me feel absolutely livid is that he, a person who has lived a life of privilege, will call foul when someone protests that he has committed theft.  

As I said in my recent 2nd Opinion article: “The creative person is like the hunger artist in Franz Kafka’s story, pushing himself to his limit just to see until how far he can bring himself to starve, committing himself to his work unto obsolescence for a morsel of attention and affection.” 

But I refuse to perpetuate this Kafkaesque tragedy. 

And so should every creative professional who thinks of slinking away in silence as other people take the glory for something which they do not remotely deserve. 

It is time that true creative people stand up for their work, and call people’s bullshit out. 

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