• How Much Is Too Much? Flattery In Filmmaking.

Thirty-six out of sixty-seven. That’s how many days we’ve spent in our champion white Dodge Caravan as we tour around the country sharing stories that are very close to our hearts.

On day thirty-six I woke up, like most of the days on tour, in the local Best Western at 7:30 sharp with 25 minutes to get ready, 10 minutes to head down to the lobby and snag some coffee (hoping to find something Fair Trade), and then a ride over to the workshop venue.

On this day though, as I woke up in Washington, something was off.

As I skimmed through my morning emails, a routine I imagine many of us share, I got email after email with the same sentiment. Friends, colleagues, industry manufacturers – all the same message.

‘Did you see their new website?’
‘Wow, did you catch that?’
‘Seems more than a little odd, no?’

Obviously curious I clicked on the link. And there it was.

Marmoset comparisonThe Music Bed comparison

Marmoset – Site launched Aug 15th, 2013.  The Music Bed - Site launched March 6th, 2014

Hmmm. Eerily familiar, no?

Let’s back up for a moment. As I’m sitting in the Best Western checking all of this out, I was struck with the connection between what I’d found and the tour we were one. The impetus behind these 67 days in a mini-van is to bring our documentary, #standwithme, to the world. It’s the empowering story of a 9-year-old using lemonade to change the world.

While #standwithme explores the issue of child slavery in the world today, what it really leaves you with is the importance in knowing the story behind your products.

It’s so easy for us as consumers, regardless of what we buy, to disconnect ourselves from all of the hands that came together to bring a product or service to life. As Paul Rice (founder of Fair Trade USA and two time Social Entrepreneur of the Year) often puts it, ‘we rarely see the farmer in the bottom of our coffee cup’.

If we did though, if we saw those on the other end of the products we buy, we’d realize just how much power we have every time we make a purchase and vote with our shopping dollars. As Vivienne is building her lemonade stand, day after day, to raise funds to free 500 enslaved children, we have a moment of narration that is one of the most striking and actionable lines in the film.

“If we are the company we keep, perhaps we too are the companies that we keep. When we buy what we buy, whether we know it or not, we play a part of their story. We have an opportunity to empower a market with meaning, with purpose…Because every day we decide how these stories end.”

And so, as I sat here browsing the site, seeing similarity after similarity – I was reminded of the power we all have in knowing the story behind everything we buy.
So I looked deeper. Could it just be a coincidence? Feature after feature, page after page. I don’t play roulette, but I do know that if you spin that wheel a dozen times and it comes up red every single time, that’d be awfully hard to accomplish via chance.

Marmoset feature comparisonThe Music Bed feature comparison

Marmoset feature comparison

The Music Bed feature comparisonWe collectively create the industry we are a part of. Remember, a skyscraper is nothing more than the collection of bricks that hold it up. That’s us, each one of us.It’s so important that we ask ourselves what are we okay with? They say imitation is one of the greatest forms of flattery, but how far is too far?

I’m not sitting here pretending I know the answer. It’s a tough question, and one we all need to look at. Einstein say ‘The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.’ Nothing happens in a vacuum. We live, learn, and grow by what we experience around us.

All of this reminds me of a classic YouTube video featuring Vanilla Ice when he was questioned about the similarity between Ice, Ice, Baby and Queen’s Under Pressure.

Make sure you watch until at least 2:08. Hilarious!!

We know this – we certainly believe in the power of sharing ideas, of helping people tell stronger stories, and in return learning from so many incredible people on how we can tell our stories better.

We’ve spent years sharing our ideas on storytelling and filmmaking in the hopes of empowering other filmmakers. That’s never been about helping you tell stories like Stillmotion, it’s about helping you find your own voice. And over the years we’ve experienced our share of films that are more than just inspired by our work. I’m sure many of you have have also experienced somebody else going a little too far with the inspiration they’ve drawn from something you’ve done.

It’s tough to put yourself out there, to be so completely open, and to have somebody take it too far. But every time that happens – Every. Single. Time – We meet a hundred more filmmakers who have taken that inspiration in a different direction, and used it to reach their own audience, with their own stories, in a more powerful way.

And of course we just keep on sharing, collaborating, and trying to push our storytelling to new depths. In this case, I’d expect that is exactly what Marmoset will do. But when this happens, we also have to take a step back, pause, and realize the role each one of us plays in creating the industry we truly want to be a part of. What we do matters.


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15 Thoughts on “How Much Is Too Much? Flattery In Filmmaking.

    • Excellent link, and a great point. Still, I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to invest so much time, money, and effort into a site with such a unique look and feel, just to have one of your biggest competitors imitate it.

      Luckily Patrick’s demeanor isn’t patented, because I want to steal it and use it whenever I run into a potentially bad situation.

  1. They may have sampled it from Marmoset but it’s not the same thing. If you look closely to the first two screen captures on this post, you’ll see that Music Bed featured the side profile of a man with a brown beard. That’s the way theirs goes. Marmoset features the side profile of an artist with a red beard. It’s not the same! :)

    Thanks Pat, I’m a big fan of your work.

  2. Hey P. I think you handled this whole situation quite gracefully. I can definitely appreciate the level of effort it’s taken on everyone involved putting together Marmoset’s website never-mind the branding process, business structuring.

    Marmoset’s website is definitely innovative. There’s no doubt about that. Winning site of the day on http://www.awwwards.com/web-design-awards/marmoset? It’s a testament to that fact. The search, meta-tagging is phenomenal.

    As a filmmaker seeking music that fits a film we’re creating, I find Marmoset & TMB hold some overlapping sounds in their libraries, but for the most part each are quite different. And that’s a great difference to have; we’re after the music that fits the film. Both brands have a different voice and tone in social and e-mail.

    Unfortunately as of recently, nearly every web-design is beginning to look familiar. http://www.awwwards.com/websites/big-background-images/. That’s not saying Marmoset’s isn’t original (I think it is) – that’s just a point about current design trends. I’d argue that although there’s a lot of similarities (as pointed out in this post), overall, they have a completely different feeling. Really the biggest arguable rip-offs are Marmoset’s features. Search being the centre (yes Canadian!) of the site. Knowing a little bit about having websites copied section by section, I’m happy you’ve taken the public approach of pushing the industry forward!

    Remember those days where you’d find your wedding films ripped shot for shot on youtube? :)

  3. In our industry, when something like this happens it can only mean two, yet important things: 1) Something in the way you’re doing things is right. At least right enough so that people find it inspiring or useful. But, more importantly when such a thing happens, it can also be a hint that its a good time to move. One should not think of copycats as mere imitators they are also good reminders that we must keep moving forward and pushing our boundaries further. When this happens to me I always use it as a motivation to continue creating!

    • Just for the record, being inspired to create new experiences on the web is a totally different animal than moving forward and challenging yourself to tell stories in new and exciting ways with film. It’s fantastic having a positive and optimistic approach, however updating so quickly after launching a really elaborate site would be quite the challenge :)

  4. In our industry, our intellectual property is what makes us who we are. This is a really unfortunate situation, considering TMB and Marmoset are both such useful and unique tools for filmmakers. Each honestly offers very different product licensing solutions, and because of that – each should have their own unique voices. I’m really proud of how you guys presented this situation – in seeing it as a challenge to better the community and even yourselves more so than an opportunity to attack them. I’m hoping for the best to come out of this. We should be collaborating, not competing. So I’m hoping TMB can rise to the challenge to find their voice, because that’s really what will be best for them, for Marmoset and for the creative community they each serve. It’s all about having integrity in how you present yourself and your service.

    Group hug, you guys.

  5. Supremely disappointing to see this, no doubt. There are many newcomers of late to this quirky little niche of the music biz known as Music Licensing and it’s sad when originality and creativity are not the priorities once esteemed by those of us who have built our careers and reputations over decades in licensing and publishing.

    For an industry which suffers from generous heaps of Demo Love (which provokes the all-too-common Shady Ripoff and the Curse of the Soundalike), we need more people with genuine passion for the process and respect for the craft, in all its related forms and outlets, online and off.

    “What we do matters.” Integrity, indeed. Love that.

  6. Dear Patrick, You guys are amazing and famous about beeing creative in your work and how you appear on the net and elswere. I may go fare with the following statement but I say, if I just see a note on the internet, a short piece of a film or a web page I can tell “it’s Pat!.. :)” without knowing if you have your hands in it! That is how different you are!! It’s the overal experience which can’t be copied even if you tell them how and what to do. :) I know it’s very hard to deal with situations like this but I think you just did the right thing, put it out, communication.. I think most of us will not judge TMB for we see. But, instead we will love you even more for you openess and we will take all this with us to better ourselfs in every way. Heads up! ;) Take care. Adrian

  7. This was pretty tough to see. You could probably go through “big industry” sites and point out similarities and even some straight up copy-cat work, but we are dealing with an intimate community of filmmakers and musicians here. I use 2 licensing houses for my work, TMB and Marmoset, and I am assuming others are in the same boat. This really makes me question TMB’s integrity and respect, which is so strange because what drew us to TMB in the first place was the fact that they seemed to really value a unique brand for their business and artists. A move like this doesn’t make sense.

    When I was just getting started I was satisfied with imitation. If I could pull off a shot similar to something I saw elsewhere, that was an accomplishment. However, I quickly realized that this didn’t satisfy me as a creator – I wanted to put my mark on my films, not simply recreate someone else’s. 5 years into filmmaking I am more hungry for originality than ever before and I need to partner with people who understand what that means and will push me in that direction.

    This post leaves me with questions, but I also believe delivers some answers I was looking for. It also challenges me to audit my creative process to make sure that I am continuing to foster one that is my own. Situations like this will come up from time to time and we all need to learn from them.

    • You said what I was thinking when I read this too Matt. I began using TMB due to their integrity with artists, and intimate community feeling. I strongly dislike what I’m seeing, but am torn on what to do. I use both, and have been happy doing so until reading this. Now I’ve got some thinking to do.

  8. Patrick you and the crew are doing a wonderful job with this movie. Your words are so thoughtful and makes me step back and go WOW. Iam just a old hayseed but i can see the hard work you all have done. Tell my son Zachary, Zippy Happy Birthday on the 19.

  9. Great post. It’s hard to see your work ripped off and it’s important to be respectful of the line between being inspired and copying.

    I remember how frustrated I was when I saw a network news piece rip off almost shot-for-shot a piece I had done months earlier. While it’s certainly not fun, being angry wasn’t productive and it eventually inspired me to push myself to do better and appreciate the not-so-gentle poke in the ribs that I had gotten.

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