When I was in High School I read a story I liked a lot. The next week I had a creative writing assignment and I basically used the first paragraph of the story I liked a lot. THe rest of the story was mine, but the first paragraph wasn't. I then twist and turned that first paragraph to try and make it my own but I still knew it wasn't. I don't know what made me do it but for some reason I E-mailed Roger Ebert his opinion on plagiarism and if I was in fact plagiarizing. He replied to me the same day with this,
"The real question is not what I think, but what an employer would
think. If you take someone else's words and present them as your own,
that is plagiarism.
Certainly sometimes it happens unconsciously, and on other occasions
more than one person hits on the same way to express the same idea:
Puns on movie titles tend to turn up in several reviews, for example,
probably none of them plagiarized. The only policy for a professional
writer (or real student) is to never ever consciously plagiarize in
Wow, I thought that was so cool. Roger Ebert actually replied to me! This was way before social media, when people with public prominence could, or even are expected, to interact with the public. I was just a teenager in the 90s with a random question and took the time to answer me. I was a huge fan of his before that, but I became one of his biggest fans for life after that.
The very first movie I worked on was an indie called High Art. I was so stoked when Siskel and Ebert reviewed in on their show. I felt like I had really made it in the business. It respect I hadn't, and I am not sure if anyone every really makes it in the movie business since we can all be looking for a new line of work the next day, but to that high hoped 20 something year old that was it, I had the movie I worked so hard on reviewed by Siskel and Ebert.
The greatest movie review I ever read was Roger Ebert's review of the movie Torque. It basically started out, "Why am I reviewing this movie, does it matter if I like it? People who are going to go see Torque are going to go see Torque." He then went into how the B movie and the A movie had swapped places over the years. The B movie, the Swamp Thing, the drive in movie, was the low budget movie and the A movie like Gone with the Wind packed the audience in, but the late 70s had changed that and in current cinema the B movie had the big budget and teh crowds and the A movie was an indie in a small theater. It was fascinating but the part that made it amazing is by the end of the review you realized he somehow gave you his review of the movie Torque somewhere in there. Even rereading it you don't know where he did it, but by the end of that "review" you knew exactly what he thought about the movie Torque. The review was educational, it was fun, it was honest, and it was surprising. Its not just the best review I ever read, its one of the best things I've ever read.
Over the years I've traded a few E-mails with Ebert. Not many, at most ten, but they all meant a lot to me. He is one of the major reasons I grew up loving film. He's gone now but he lead a full life and influenced many, including myself. RIP Ebert, you had a good ride.