I directed the above video for The ORWELLS in June. It was released in July on Vice. Of the dozens of music videos and short films I have directed, it is perhaps the piece of work I am most proud of; the video most indicative of my style and point of view.
This morning, the below video was released by DEERHUNTER, a band I love very much. It was directed by some limey named Olivier Groulx. It might look familiar to you.
The similarities between the two videos are not only blatant and shocking but totally unacceptable. Let’s start by listing them:
i. Both shot in black & white.
ii. Both feature black female(s) styled as retro girl-group songstress(es).
iii. Both utilize “ironic” usage of gender-bender lip-singing.
iv. Both shot in a vague, David Lynchian purgatory-esque location of unspecific origin.
Now, if the Deerhunter video had one or two similarities to the Blood Bubbles video, I probably wouldn’t think anything of it. If it featured, say, an Asian man lip-singing to Deerhunter in a field, I doubt I’d look twice. Or, for instance, if it featured a black songstress dancing in a similar location as a cutaway between footage of Deerhunter playing, I also — most likely — wouldn’t notice any likeness.
What this video does however, is appropriate every established aesthetic pillar of the Blood Bubbles video. All four roman numerals above have been stolen and regurgitated wholly unchanged. Not one iota of new insight or even stylistic flourish has been added. The two videos do not share mere similarities. It goes far beyond that. The entire tone, essence and attitude of The Orwells piece has been plagiarized. It is a total carbon copy, hack job. The work of an idea-less director.
There are those who may claim that one video is more fifties/sixties in style and one is more seventies. There will be those who will site the color film, middle portion of the Deerhunter video — where we watch the actress apply make-up in a green room — as a point of contrast between the two. These are negligible divergences akin to saying that the main riff of “Ice Ice Baby” is dissimilar from “Under Pressure” because of the extra bass note.
Until proven otherwise, I am going to assume that Deerhunter had no idea of the resemblances between the two videos and that they merely accepted the director’s “pitch.” I am too big a fan of the band to contemplate otherwise. However, when it comes to the director — Mr. Groulx — I am less forgiving. There is using others’ work as inspiration. And then there is stealing. This is an instance of the latter.
It’s also worth mentioning that if this was a video for a new band with a smaller profile, I wouldn’t feel nearly as offended (perhaps I’d even be flattered). Deerhunter however, is a gigantic force in the music industry (deservedly) and this video stands to steamroll ours with its more established infrastructure of fans and PR bros pushing it out. The idea that our little video (which I paid for myself!) could be seen in the future by Deerhunter fans who assume that it is we who did the ripping off is totally unacceptable.
So, if you’re a fan of The ORWELLS, The TEENAGE Head or original art of any kind, please feel free to write your congressmen and help us overcome this injustice.
[Update: It has been pointed out to me that one substantial difference is that the woman in the Deerhunter video is a transexual. Certainly an interesting disparity. But does it fundamentally change anything? Perhaps to some. To me it's just another bass note at the end of "Ice Ice Baby."]
[Update #2: Deerhunter's very own, Bradford Cox, has very graciously responded to this debacle in the comment section. Take a look for yourself.]
[Update #3: Olivier Groulx, the director of the Deerhunter video, has also responded in the comment section.]
[Update #4: I have updated my thoughts on this matter in light of Mr. Groulx's comments and after having some time reflect.]