The Campus Movie Fest is a national competition where film students have a week to make a 5-minute movie. The winning films from each campus then “go to Hollywood” and compete against other schools.
NYU’s winner for the drama prize at this year’s Campus Film Festival was a film called Synchronized. It starts with a sequence of a gas mask clad man sprinting down the street like his life depends on it. He enters a chamber and breathes heavily surrounded by a heavy orange glow until a light changes to green. The man brings home a video camera and has a short fight with his younger sister. They can’t leave the house often because of the dangers outside and the girl is frustrated with their situation. The next morning, the little girl’s bedroom is empty and the video camera is missing. So the man runs out of the house to find her but only finds the girl laying on the ground, completely out of air.
It’s a great plot, but there’s only one problem: Replay, another short film, has the same exact plot.
Matias N Shimada, Tisch film class of 2013 and the director of Synchronized, started a Kickstarter page to raise money for his film. Kickstarter is a website where “creators” can raise funds from “backers” for creative projects they are conducting. Shimada set his goal at $1,700 and successfully raised $1,726 in under 90 days. One backer even gave a single donation of $400-$700.
Note: In their FAQ section, Kickstarter answers the question of “How do I know if a project creator is who they say they are?” with “At the end of the day, use your internet street smarts.”
The film that Synchronized pulls its ideas from is called Replay:
Watching the two films side-by-side, it’s obvious that the films are nearly identical. The gender roles are flipped and Synchronized expands more on the tape recorder idea but the two films are essentially the same film. There’s no point to discussing if Synchronize is a copy of Replay — it just is. And that’s something that Shimada is well aware of.
In a public Facebook note that totaled over 1400 words, which has since been removed, Shimada said, “The BIGGEST mistake I made is not telling anyone where I got the idea, since it is not entirely original. I know people are going to be extremely furious towards me for this and they have every right to be. I have also decided to back out of the festival completely in addition to that, because going would be unfair.”
In the note he also apologizes to many others including Stephen Kaiser-Pendergrast, his producing partner for this film. To his Kickstarter donors, he says that “the apology should be extended to them.” He adds, “They supported this project financially all along and it had to come down to this.”
Shimada denied an interview request from NYU Local but issued a short statement:
Everything I did, I did in complete innocence, and I did not do anything with the intent to harm anybody, but given everything that has happened, I think it is appropriate to seek independent legal advice, which I am doing now.