We have been made aware of the recent allegations of plagiarism of the Adam Ellis’ comic in our short film, Keratin. We have been unable to respond to the situation until now, as we were dealing with the fall out of a high volume of social media abuse, against both ourselves and our cast/crew members and even family.
We take the allegations very seriously and feel it is extremely important to us to address this allegation head on and so we wanted to share some context around the creation of Keratin. As independent creators ourselves, we wholeheartedly support others in the industry and have always made every possible attempt to credit inspiration and source material from other creatives.
We are long time admirers of Adam’s and reached out to him several times during the process including when we had first seen the cartoon, in order to ensure we could properly credit his work as an inspiration for our film, but we never received a response. After several attempts, we did receive a response (in October 2020) and we genuinely had hoped that he would engage positively with the film. In this response, he stated he did not wish to be associated with the film and asked for the film to be removed completely from circulation as he believed it to be a direct copy of his work. After Adam’s response, we sought legal advice on how best to proceed. This advice confirmed that there was no evidence of copyright or IP infringement, something which we believe is clear when you watch the film in its entirety. Having taken this advice, we accept we should have reached out to Adam and let him know our further intentions. The decision was solely of the Directors Andrew and James, and not the producer, production team or wider cast and crew. They were not contracted to the film and have no affiliation to Backbone films as employees and should not be considered as such.
When asked by Directors Notes what the inspiration was behind the film, we did not make reference to Adam Ellis, and instead stated that this was inspired by a piece of work seen online, without explicitly mentioning Adam. We wanted to do so but did not because of what he told us in regard to how he felt about the film.
We have never denied that this work was inspired by a comic strip seen online. As we discussed in our original interview with Directors Notes, this comic, amongst many other influences, provided a springboard of inspiration for the themes explored and the world featured in Keratin. When certain frames are seen out of context and compared to the cartoon, there are undeniable similarities. But throughout the 8-minute duration, the world, characters, tone and story are different and have been greatly expanded and developed.
The concept of humanity being created from earth is a theme drawn from ancient Greek mythology and as the film suggests throughout – it is a process that has happened over years. The themes of survival, isolation and constant obsessive repetition which are at the forefront of the film were incredibly important starting blocks for us in terms of the tone and direction the film would take - and was inspired by themes that appear in many films including ‘The Survivalist’ and ‘Swiss Army Man’. As in ‘The Witch’ the film’s woodland location which we establish at great length in the opening shots and develop throughout the film became a way for us to draw on our influence of old tales of Folklore and allowed us to combine blood and earth imagery which is one of the key parts of the film – Man’s blood being a catalyst for creation. Our decision to place the main character predominantly in an old decrepit caravan in the middle of the woods was inspired by the film ‘The Road’ as we wanted to create that same isolated, yet timelessly recognisable and relatable world. The Road’s protagonist was also our main inspiration for Keratin’s lead. An old, unclean bearded man, obsessed and determined, named only as ‘man’ - as in Keratin. The concept of regeneration and repetition is also incredibly important to the film – particularly the final scene which feature teeth being extracted, we wanted to portray a sense that this was not the end of the journey, but just the beginning. The film’s overall eerie, dark and bleak tone is drawn from all of the above-mentioned influences.
We do feel it is necessary to make clear that this is a low budget short film, 8 minutes in length, that we created purely for the enjoyment of the collaborative process with colleagues and friends, as well as to sharpen our own skills - we are not a large film company with a lot of money as has been suggested. We have not profited in any way from the film or its inclusion in festivals, and this was never our intention.
It has been difficult to watch the way this has developed online - especially the professional and personal character assassinations of our colleagues, friends and family, who were not involved in the decision-making process. As small, independent creators we were ill equipped to deal with the high volume of highly personal abuse we have received in the past 48 hours, leading us to temporarily silence our online channels in order to properly take stock and now address the situation. We have taken the decision to remove contact information from this page and have turned off any comments and messaging facilities to protect the wellbeing of the cast/crew, family members and ourselves. This also applies for all social media channels.
As soon as we were made aware of the post from Adam, we took the decision to remove the film from online circulation and contacted affected film festivals to apologise for any online abuse they had received. We have reached out to Adam as a matter of urgency to speak to him directly on the matter, where we hope we will reach a place of understanding.