How a Short Film We Made Got Copied in a Fancy-Pants Hollywood Movie

I have a friend named Will Schutze. He's a puppeteer, stage performer, and writer. He's been performing all over the country with a skeleton puppet named "Mr. Bonetangles" for about 5 years now.

In 2010, Will lived in Los Angeles and, to make a consistent living outside of acting in commercials, he'd perform at various spots in Los Angeles, California - Venice Beach, the intersection of Hollywood and Highland streets, and the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

In December of that year, Will and I made a verite-style short film of him performing with Bonetangles in downtown Dallas. The film had a loose narrative but was also a document of his performance. We were both still relatively amateur filmmakers but I remember both of us being pleased with what we'd crafted.

On January 17th, 2011, we posted the video on YouTube and people seemed to like it. It got 600 hits over the course of a month or so. We figured that'd be the extent of the video's impact.

So, our story begins on Easter Sunday in 2011. Will was wrapping up a street performance on the 3rd Street Promenade and he heard a man's voice.

In Will's words:

"I looked up after finishing a show and [Jon Favreau] was just staring at me.".

Apparently, Mr. Favreau was out for a stroll on the 3rd Street Promenade with his family. If you live under a rock, Jon Favreau is famous for directing the movies Iron Man 1, Iron Man 2, and Elf, as well as countless roles as an actor(IMO, most notably as the protagonist in Swingers). 

"I said, 'Hi, thank you for sharing our video.' ". Will was referring to the fact that on March 9th of 2011, Jon Favreau had shared the Bonetangles video that Will and I had made on twitter.

"He said, 'Don't mention it boss, you got skills... Do you have a card?' I did. I handed it to him. [Favreau] just took it and said, 'Yeah. We'll work something out.' "

Will told us, his friends in Dallas, what'd happened and, for about six months, we(his friends) all expected that any day now, Jon Favreau was going to call Will up and make him rich and famous. Because that's how things in Hollywood work, right?

But that's not exactly what happened.

Two years later, Will was contacted by one of Mr. Favreau's people, a producer named Karen Gilchrist, who asked Will if he was available to be in Jon's upcoming project, a back to basics indie-style movie about a chef who quits the restaurant business to start a food truck, finding himself and reconnecting with his 11-year old son in the process.

Will said yes, and traveled to Los Angeles to be in Jon Favreau's movie, which was titled, simply enough, Chef.

Here's a vine(a 6-second video, rock dwellers) of Will working on set:


Will and Jon Favreau on the set of the movie Chef.

The film premiered at SXSW 2013 in Austin, TX. They didn't send Will a ticket to attend, but, seeing as he was in Austin, TX at the time to do some street-performing, he decided to go down there and see what's what. Jon Favreau, while being interviewed on the red carpet, recognized Will and someone in Favreau's entourage pulled Will over the velvet rope.

Will watched the premiere seated next to Jon and his family, celebrity chef Roy Choi, and John Leguizamo.

So why am I telling you this?

Well, to brag of course.

It seems that when they shot Will's scene in the movie, they basically just reshot the video that I shot in 2011(we co-edited but I shot the video obviously, as Will and Bonetangles were the subjects of the film). 

Don't believe me that a Hollywood motion picture copied the shots from our little YouTube short film? For comparison, here's a series of screenshots. The first one is from the movie, the second from our short film.




So there you have it. How two 24-year olds, Will and myself, made a YouTube short film that was copied in a Hollywood movie with a million-dollar-plus budget.

As an epilogue to the above story, it turns out that Favreau had been scouting Will for even longer than that. As Will tells it, Favreau actually told him that the first time he saw him was when Will was performing at Hollywood and Highland streets, when Favreau was driving by and sent his assistant out of the car to read the cardboard sign Will had made and placed on the sidewalk in front of his show, which said, "Mr. Bonetangles".

It was after that initial encounter that Jon googled "Mr. Bonetangles" and retweeted our video. And the rest is, if not exactly history, a neat story that deserved to be told.

You can follow Will and his work on YouTube, on twitter at @mrbonetangles, and facebook

Also, if you want to watch Will's scene from Chef in it's entirety, you can watch it below:



And our short film, Bonetangles: