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Artist says filmmakers of award-winning short directly plagiarized his comic

Adam Ellis says filmmakers 'ghosted' him when he raised concerns.


Audra Schroeder

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 2, 2021

Artist and illustrator Adam Ellis accused filmmakers of festival short Keratin of plagiarizing his comic.

On Monday, Ellis posted a thread about the allegations, laying out several shots from Andrew Butler and James Wilson’s new short film next to nearly identical panels from his comic, which was posted in 2018.

“The filmmakers didn’t ask me for permission to adapt my work,” he wrote. “They didn’t even notify me they were doing so until the film had already been released and was winning awards at film festivals.” He also posted an October email from the film’s producer that claimed it “takes some influence from your work on a previous instagram comic strip.” Ellis says he was “ghosted” after telling them he wasn’t OK with it.

In a January interview with Directors Notes, the filmmakers said Keratin came from a “short online cartoon we saw which we developed further.” Though the interviewer didn’t ask any follow-up questions about that, Directors Notes posted a statement on Tuesday, claiming it removed the interview, allegedly because the filmmakers obscured the origin of the short: “Had the full facts of its genesis been made clear to us at the time [we] would have declined to run the interview.”

The seven-minute short, which concerns “an isolated man’s ritualistic pursuit of creation in the heart of a dark, dense forest,” was released in the U.K. in October. The website for Backbone Films, Wilson and Butler’s production company, is now gone. Several trailers and reviews for Keratin also appear to have been scrubbed from the internet.

After posting the thread, Ellis, who went viral in 2017 with his “Dear David” ghost story, was accused by another artist of plagiarizing his comic, which Ellis denied.

We’ve reached out to Ellis, and the filmmakers, for comment.

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*First Published: Feb 2, 2021, 1:39 pm CST