The Wrong Eyed Concept

I’m not one to throw stones, but this is too unsettling to let fly under the radar. For those in the industry of design and film, namely film titles, you’ll know that Digital Kitchen (a place I once worked) has racked up more Emmy’s than most can boast to have. Six Feet Under, Dexter, Ghost Whisperer (that’s another story entirely), and so on.

And now Digital Kitchen has been solicited by Alan Ball to create the titles for his latest television series, True Blood, due this fall on HBO.

Which is fine, I wish them the best. But when the best their creative director can do is come up with a thin concept which relies largely on the imagery and compositions already put out by a documentary, “Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus,” I have to raise my hand in protest. Have a look at the following image comparisons, then watch the two respective clips, and decide for yourself.

Wrong Blood 01

The ole’ abandoned vehicle in the woods trick. I get it.

Wrong Blood 02

At least they chose baptists instead of evangelicals.

Wrong Blood 03

Props for using the Friday Night Lights art direction (red key, string lights in background.)

Wrong Blood 05

UPDATE. This one is actually ripped from a Chris Cunningham video. Undercranked nude contortionists tightly cropped. Wow.

Wrong Blood 04

I don’t know how this is even remotely permissible. Is it that hard to come up with your own idea?


View Original.

View Copy.

38 Responses to
“The Wrong Eyed Concept”

  1. Jason Voke September 9, 2008 at 10:09 am #

    Preach on brother! Weak move….

  2. eric September 9, 2008 at 11:45 am #

    oh snap.

  3. vince September 9, 2008 at 12:12 pm #

    they are experts at this.

  4. paul September 9, 2008 at 6:11 pm #

    nice catch.

  5. Josh September 10, 2008 at 10:56 am #

    I don’t know man… it seems like the only main similarities are the few that you pointed out… And you picked those shots out of how many shots total in the True Blood titles? This doesn’t seem nearly as blatant or belligerent as you’re suggesting. Kind of comes off as you just not liking the DK folks and looking for a reason to bash them…

  6. invertebrae September 10, 2008 at 11:38 am #


    some of my best friends are from or at DK. so it’s not a personal vendetta. but i do think it’s worth pointing out several blatant rip-offs, in a piece that will be seen and well-liked by many who won’t know where the original material was first created.

    the indie filmmaker who did the original documentary, what’s it going to be like when he watches an alan ball show and sees basically his own shot in the titles? or if chris cunningham checks the show out and sees virtual recreations of a project he did for aphex twin?

    it crosses the line, and that’s why i posted it. plain and simple. i think you’re giving them a pass here, and i’m not interested in doing the same.


  7. andrew September 10, 2008 at 4:41 pm #

    when creative ideas are borrowed and used in a different context i believe the term “homage” is used. 😉

  8. not that interesting September 10, 2008 at 6:54 pm #

    Well, I don’t understand why it’s such a shock. Most work I see out there is quite derivative. In this day and age, when you’re constantly are exposed to graphic masturbatory pieces, I find most work quite unoriginal.

    Everyone wants that award, accolade or some other kind of pat on the back for doing some slick work that they ripped off in some shape or form from someone else.

    When you’re hardly given the time to think of a concept and finesse it and give it some real quality, then the only other alternative is to appropriate some other look, image or otherwise to make your own stuff.

    Use Flickr to do your boards? I see that as no different.

  9. invertebrae September 10, 2008 at 9:09 pm #

    using flickr to do boards, as a jumping off point, is much different. doing a rip-o-matic that has shots from wrong eyed jesus or cunningham’s flex piece, not a problem.

    but if you aren’t bringing anything new to the casting, the lighting, the action, the composition, even the lensing, that’s plagiarism. we are all creatures of inspiration, especially in this creative field. every one of our ideas are reimaginations of previous ideas we’ve had or learned about, so i get that. but to not bring anything new to evolve or recontextualize your source of inspiration, then it becomes imitation, and something no longer creative at all.

    there are at least a dozen shots in the true blood titles which suffer from this problem, and that’s why i posted it up.


  10. capitalj September 10, 2008 at 11:11 pm #

    crazy find…can you tell us the ghost whisperer story?

  11. Jeezus_loves_you September 11, 2008 at 11:09 am #

    People always seem to leave out the most important piece of the puzzle. CLIENTS/AGENCY “CREATIVES”.

    I’m not saying that this is the case for DK but I’ve worked on jobs, not worth mentioning, where the client literally will ask you to rip something off. Usually goes in the “Reference” folder ; )

    You try and sell them on a fresh idea or something a little different but in the end they HIRED you to do a job. Sometimes you gotta swallow your pride and give them what they want.

    What YOU get in the end is a client that is happy and willing to return with more work and all you can do is hope that the next time they bring you a project you can have a little more creative freedom.

    On a side note I think what DK did still looks really cool, treatment was great and some of the shots were cut just right. Regardless of where the original idea came from you still need talent to make something look good and they definitely have talent.

  12. Alex September 11, 2008 at 11:47 am #

    when can we leave for Hot Dougs?

  13. Cee September 11, 2008 at 12:46 pm #

    Are people even looking at the the actual video files? Some of the content is similar because they are dealing with similar subject matter. If anyone was to pull imagery from The South, then they would get some of the same images. The pacing, sound, typography, and so many things are different that I don’t see how you can call the True Blood titles a blatant rip off. If anything you can blame them for not picking more original images.

  14. Dan Hallock September 11, 2008 at 2:28 pm #

    It’s like they’re feeding off the blood of other title sequences…

  15. tre September 12, 2008 at 6:27 am #

    ease off the hate. both titles are composed of topical deep southern imagery.

  16. blood sucker September 12, 2008 at 8:10 am #

    I think Ryan is right in saying that its worth pointing out. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Even Their Six Feet Under titles has exact frames from other people work in it. If I remember correctly, Six Feet Under, Ghost Whisper (maggie Taylor), House, Kingdom Hospital (jerry uelsmann) were all direct rip-offs from another source.

    Now, some of these sources aren’t film, There paintings, photos, etc. DK even worked with some of these artist to license there images. But in the end, Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor were both left with a bad taste in there mouth…Maggie didn’t get any credit after they barley paid her and bastardized her work, and Jerry’s lawyer forced DK to remove a shot from Kingdom Hospital cause it was to blatant of a rip off.

    DK isn’t the only place that appropriates ideas, plenty of artist, film makers, designer have done this. But the thing here thats more important is the execution. DK isn’t filled with true filmmakers looking for their voice, their isn’t a mentality or work ethic that is promoting original ideas. They are service bureau, plain and simple.

    I think for the most part the people that have original voices leave DK, and DK still feeds off the work they did for them for years to come, never crediting them and basically ripping them off as well. This isn’t just DK’s fault, its the fault of this fairly new business model. DK is a empty shell, its just a machine of young talent that are under contract to make work for the company.

    Ripping people off is actually built into their business model, its not a malicious act, its pure business. Other companies with this business plan have a figure head that loves to make work and their integrity keeps the company honest and original. Motion Theory has Mathew Cullen, Logan has Ben & Alex, Prolouge has Kyle, etc, etc…..At the end of the day, DK wins because it isn’t a auteur with creative integrity or a passion for it’s on voice, its just a couple offices with
    a business plan.

  17. invertebrae September 12, 2008 at 10:10 am #

    hey guys,

    i want to make it clear that i am not blanketing DK with being plagiarists. rather, i am specifically pointing to the process of this particular job. they have done great work in the past, and there are many talented people who started here, and moved on to become successful artists (myself included).

    i put the oneness on those in charge of the production of the true blood titles themselves. remember there are 4 offices at DK, which are mostly autonomous as the company grows.

    just wanted to clarify, so that the artists working at DK who had nothing to do with this job don’t feel accused.


  18. monkey's uncle September 12, 2008 at 1:52 pm #

    I have to agree with blood sucker –
    regarding ripping off themselves, I fully expect that.
    if you look at it from a business perspective, the assets of the company partially lie in the bookshelves full of ideas bought by the company from it’s employees, some ideas win, some do not. With my company, I would make it the mission of my creatives (albeit – more for the junior creatives) to know those assets inside and out and draw from them when a new job presents itself for re-use.

    however – in this case I could see the scenario being a bit of demo love on the client; they loved the framing and feel of the ripomatic. In that situation, it DK would be morally obligated to either make the finished piece as far removed from the actual shots ripped, or ease back on making ripomatics in the first place; cause we all know how it snowballs.

  19. Dave Skaff September 12, 2008 at 3:19 pm #

    Dear Enthusiasts –

    DK chiming in. Thank you for the mostly kind words, heated dialogue and too harsh accusations. The accusations are not at all unfounded insofar as “Wrong Eyed Jesus” was one a myriad of other influences – features, docs, material found online, in print, somewhere in the deep recesses of our collective cobwebbed psyches. That’s how creativity works – we put these pieces in the blender, press the eviscerate button and then see what comes out in the pour. Everyone in this forum knows that. So our remaining peace goes something like this:

    You’re picking on 5 shots. Out of over 65.

    The tone of the “True Blood” title – in audio, coloration, dynamics, editorial style, etc – is so obviously different from the WEJ trailer as to make accusations of plagiarism obviously nitpicking. It’s tantamount to claiming the opening of “The Sopranos” is ripped from “Night Court” – look it’s New York!

    3 of the 5 shots called out are standard southern bayou fare – car in the woods, evangelical church, honky tonk bar.

    Chris Cunningham doesn’t own nor did he invent undercranked nudes.

    On the 5th shot we have to say good catch. There was no specific intent to match the shot from WEJ specifically. We knew we wanted a midnight baptism shot b/c the concept was so perfect for “True Blood” – midnight+baptism+vampires? Holla! It’s like bacon+lettuce+tomato. We researched the midnight baptism subject quite a bit and in this case one of several shots in that scene came out remarkably like the one in WEJ. A subconscious homage? Apparently. Plagiarism? Absolutely not. We’re influenced by the work that’s come before us. Everyone in this forum is, and sometimes elements share striking similarities because of it. This is fairly described as one of those cases.

    Lastly, DK has received 10 of the last 36 Emmy nominations in the Outstanding Main Title category and been nominated therein 6 of the last 7 years. DK’s made a name in main titles and beyond based on our originality and execution. We don’t need to steal from anybody. Then, now, or ever.

    Thanks for paying attention to our work and this thread and feel free to get in touch directly anytime. And by all means please have fun continuing to argue these points but if you do so try to mix in a little more humor. With all the election banter in the air this too serious tone is too much – design should be fun, people!

    Dave Skaff
    Executive Producer
    [email protected]

  20. invertebrae September 12, 2008 at 4:30 pm #


    it feels more like you put it in the blender, but had a really dull blade in it, so we got a bunch of chunks that looked the same as they did before they got mixed up.

    i’m not sure i’m buying the incidental similarities between WEJ and these titles. once i saw the baptism similarities, which are undeniably an imitation, it didn’t take long to unearth the other similarities.

    on their own, they are certainly just inoffensive southern bayou slice of life images, but with the baptism scene in your cut, the others are too mysteriously coincidental.

    and i’m not sure i’m comfortable chalking up the baptism similarity as a “subconscious homage”. you’re going to have to either ‘fess up, or sleep with your own version of events at night.

    and cunningham did not invent undercranked nudes, but you guys clearly used his ‘flex’ film as close reference. do you deny that?


  21. Bran DJ September 12, 2008 at 8:51 pm #

    I have to agree with Blood Sucker as well. I think this IS exactly the business model. Pitch. Reference. Recycle. Win. Pitch. Reference. Recyle. Lose. Pitch. Reference. Recycle. Win. Something’s definitely wrong with the way that’s going.

    So if part of the methodology is to “reference” other people’s work or use imagery found elsewhere; sourced through Google, coffee table books and art house movies and all you’re trying to do is hit the target the client provides …

    You don’t see anything wrong with that?

    This isn’t an academic exercise.

  22. working motion graphics director September 12, 2008 at 9:51 pm #


    What you described is NOT how “creativity works”. It’s how you make the most money for the least amount of developmental work.

    This is a business, we understand that. But don’t make yucky ridiculous justifications… take your big invoices and your golden statues and just stomach all the very-relevant criticisms.

    The tonal and stylistic similarities to the WEJ trailer are obvious and seemingly conscious to me. Anyone who understands the process and the varied avenues of craft involved in a project like this knows that such a thing does not happen by coincidence. In addition, DK has an already less than stellar track record in this regard.

    Plagiaristic arguments aside, the True Blood titles were fairly well crafted.

  23. sillyrabbit September 12, 2008 at 11:17 pm #

    C’mon guys. Really? All I see here is a great main title that makes reference to pieces that have ACCURATELY pin pointed the aesthetic feel of the deep south. Yes Wrong Eyed Jesus was referenced I am sure in this main title. Big deal. Anyone who is SUCCESSFUL in this business knows that in order to get it right, you MUST research what has worked in the past. I am sorry but most of you (two in particular, but I won’t name names are coming off like bitter ex-employees of DK.) Where would you be now had DK not taken you in and helped you develop your skills? I agree with Mr. Skaff, you guys are clinging to 5 shots out of over 60. Why aren’t you talking about how freakin awesome the actual title is when it comes up at the end of the sequence and the technique that was used to do it? Or what a great audio composition in relation to the editorial timing? DO I sense some jealousy floating around on this forum? Maybe you should have stayed employed there. Perhaps you would have learned a few things. I am just sayin. Nah I shouldn’t have said that. I am sorry. Seriously though guys why the hate? I thought it was great.

  24. blood sucker September 13, 2008 at 1:30 pm #

    Dave, SillyRabbit, Ryan and company,

    I don’t think this posting is about jealousy, I mean yes of course who wouldn’t want to work on cool projects, with inspiration directors, thats a obvious and kinda “silly” excuse. I also think that this is all about bashing DK, or hating on them, and for those who worked there, I’m sure they left and don’t regret it. In fact most of the people who left went on to much bigger and better things. No one left regretting working there, I’m sure their really much happier now. Except for those who got sued in the process of leaving.

    About DK’s emmys and success.
    DK’s nominations began with Six Feet Under, which Danny Yount (Ex-DK very talented) lead the creative front on. Im not taking anything away form their success but..The scenes form this first big success were highly inspired if not ripped of from a single photographers work. (trying to find- will post) Not to mention that the DP / Director (Christian Loubek) that actually made those amazing scenes was forced to never show the titles, actually he was sued for using them, which is another topic all together, from what i’ve heard that has happened to other ex-employees. In the film world as the director you are allowed to show your work, DK doesn’t do this because then you would see the emperor wears no clothes.

    As far as plagiarism, none of their titles except maybe Ghost Whisper was an exact rip-off, but they at least contacted the artist from what I hear. But, you have to understand how that looks to people who make work like this, work for DK and or compete against DK. If you want to be the company who has great success by knocking off other peoples work thats fine, but in the critical world of making art you have to expect to get called out on it. So thats where my last point ended, DK isn’t an single artist with a voice, they are purely a business model that farms talent to make commercials, etc. If it was an ad agency they would probably have been sued by someone by now for replicating other work.

    As far as 65 shots vs 5, I agree w you 100%, not every shot is stolen, but when you watch the two with a objective eye its really hard not say that it one wasn’t derived from the other, they look, feel, and come off with the same tonality.

    Im not sure how long you guys have worked there, sounds like your newbies, but DK has a very well-known reputation of acting like this, especially in their past. Their egos allow them to keep bulldozing through the industry without much repercussion, until know? I think this open forum has been very fair and honest, no one is making false accusations, just pointing out what’s there.

    Lastly, yes silly rabbit, the titles are really great, outstanding execution, from the audio to the visuals, doesn’t change that fact they feel really derivative.
    For example, the film “The Cell” by acclaimed director Tarsem, was a visual reproduction of many famed artists work. Almost every scene was ripped-off or inspired from numerous artist, from the surreal Dali-esque forced perspectives to the horse being sliced ala Damien Hirst. The script was original but it didn’t change the fact that the movie felt cheated by its derivative parts. In the end was it unique, sure. Was the film outwardly critiqued by many, absolutely. Did Tarsem go on to make more good movies, of course. So its not about jealousy its about critique.


  25. Curious Observer September 15, 2008 at 8:20 am #

    ” … The thermometer of success is merely the jealousy of the malcontents … ”

    -Salvador Dali

  26. sparky September 15, 2008 at 11:03 am #

    “For such kind of borrowing as this, if it be not bettered by the borrower, among good authors is accounted plagiary.”

    -John Milton

  27. TouchMyMotion September 15, 2008 at 6:32 pm #

    Um… see any similarities here?

    Looks like DK is just “subconsciously homaging” all over the place.

  28. highly entertained September 16, 2008 at 8:02 pm #

    “Lastly, DK has received 10 of the last 36 Emmy nominations in the Outstanding Main Title category and been nominated therein 6 of the last 7 years. DK’s made a name in main titles and beyond based on our originality and execution. We don’t need to steal from anybody. Then, now, or ever.”

    I appreciate the pride, but two things.

    First. It might be wise to avoid making references to historical data when over 95 percent of the talent that conceived, directed, and posted the work are no longer employed at Digital Kitchen.
    It rubs people the wrong way.

    Secondly. Producers (even Executive Producers) are generally privy to just part of the creative process. The right to defend the company is valid, but please ease off on the “this how creativity works” stuff. It tends to fall flat to those that actually make the work.

  29. Danny September 16, 2008 at 8:28 pm #

    To set the record straight, while I used a photographer’s work as a reference, that was not what had inspired the idea. The idea I had caused me to look for the imagery in the first place. And as far as the Loubek story – he was “caught” trying to list himself as the director on several occasions, which was not the case at all as he was the DP, and a very good one that brought a lot to the table creatively. And I do not think that any of us are free of guilt in this area – Picasso is known to attest to that as well, but it is one thing to steal imagery and another thing to steal BOTH the image AND the idea. I think that is what Ryan is trying to point out.

  30. Southern Comfort September 17, 2008 at 1:01 pm #

    I shouldn’t even have to say this:
    I know it’s terrible to see other people copying work or being inspired by other work only to profit from someone else’s original idea. When it is true, it’s terrible. I am originally from Mississippi and I have to say, if you think the “original” is original, then keep on dreaming. That style has been going around for years. It’s like using any major cultural marker for a place and time, that is, to the knowledge of the person creating it. Usually just pulling from the expected catalogue of “that wacky South”.
    I won’t go off on a diatribe. No matter what you do, where you are, or what you think the world should be like, it will not bend to what you think is just by bantering on about copycats. If you really feel it necessary to attack other people, do it with your own original work. Make a statement. Make a difference.
    I’m sure you do not know the conditions surrounding the production of the titles by DK, and I don’t assume to know your reasons behind hounding them, but I will leave with this: Do what you love and stop worrying so much about other people. If you want to be concerned and voice out against political unrest, the discovery of a microscopic galaxy , or anything else that might be of real concern, by all means, please… vent. Otherwise, just freaking work and do your thing. If somebody sucks, just let them suck. Move on.

  31. uncomfortable September 17, 2008 at 9:17 pm #

    The original may not contain the most original imagery in the world, however it is relevant to the documentary. In fact, the copy is indeed copying the original, and many people are aware of this.

  32. Adam September 18, 2008 at 1:55 pm #

    I don’t see it. I guess the Baptist shot is similar. The only thing similar between the 5 shots you referenced is their theme. They don’t event look the same. Plus there are so many other shots if you can only pick out 5 out of over 65 that’s pretty bad.

  33. Bran July 16, 2009 at 12:26 pm #

    Just noticed that the new DK site now acknowledges what you were saying here, Ryan.

  34. Jake July 31, 2009 at 12:12 am #

    Well we can all only assume that Ryan’s work is 100% unique and original… I’m sure it is… he has never copied or been “inspired” by anything…true talent… let me tell ya

  35. Inspiration is good October 1, 2009 at 5:26 pm #

    Inspiration! thats all i say, he used his own material for this, sure he re-created it but its not like he stole it, just made it his own, one word for this and thats Pastiche. People have to get there ideas from somewhere, they cant just magically appear. Think of it in a different way like say Artists in the music industry, you hear old classics being remixed into a new song every time, and people like it. Give DK a break.

  36. Steve Haisman July 5, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    As one of the team behind ‘Wrong-Eyed Jesus’, I know my work pretty intimately, and I know how much work went into finding those original shots.

    I also know the difference between a rip-off and a ‘homage’, and I can say with some certainty that the researchers for the cinematography in the True Blood credits have seen ‘Wrong-Eyed Jesus’.
    We used the photography of Eggleston as a reference – but never set up shots as direct copies of his work. That would be lazy, and dishonest – and why bother, when the photos are already out there.

    An acknowledgement would be nice.

  37. ALLYN July 16, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    Worst. Teaser. Evar.


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