April 26, 2016

The Unbreakable OOPSIE.

WARNING: Small spoilers.

Season 2 had just come out and my friend Sandi faithfully binge-watched right through to episode 13. At the 7 minute mark, her eagle eye spotted something familiar.

“JC!!!! Your Foot Rub Coupon is on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Tina Fey's show!”

When she messaged me, the first thing that popped into my head was, “Holy fark-a-doodle…my prayers have been answered!” Okay, not really. I don’t actually pray.

Actual reaction. Love you Sandi!

A few years ago I published a Last Minute Meaningful Gift Guide on my blog, which was basically a set of hand-drawn coupons to encourage people to spend time with loved ones rather than buying stuff; the coupons are “free to use as gifts” and included things like “Coffee & Me,” “Co-chores” and “Foot rub.” Well, the “Foot Rub Coupon” had somehow found its way into a homemade coupon-book prop exchanged between actors Lisa Kudrow and Ellie Kemper on the Season 2 Finale of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. They open the coupon-book and there’s my actual drawing: the coupon is even filled out “From MOM, To KIMMY”. It’s not an incidental prop in the background: it’s a close-up.

On Netflix.

I was thrilled! And confused… how did they? Why didn’t they? You might say I had mixed emotions.

I put feelers out on Ello, G+ and Facebook, pondering “what should I do?” Apart from enthusiasm, the reactions that followed ranged from the likes of ‘serves you right for giving your images away for free’ to ‘lawyer up and sue those fuckers!’ to ‘Tina Fey should give you a shout out, take you out for cocktails, write you into the next season of UKS, hire you to do some animation, and give you a foot rub!’

But Innocent Until Proven Guilty: that’s my modus operandi with my kids and all wayward artnappers. I decided to give the UKS people the benefit of the doubt and just throw the question out there, tweeting directly to the show's account.
I'm not big on public floggings (private ones are ok though, with consent) so I didn't really push the tweet. It wasn't long before a producer dude – let’s call him SirGur – reached out to me privately and forwarded a short note from Tina Fey herself.

“Hi JC,” because we’re on a first name basis, me and Tina, “I saw that your art may have been used in an unapproved way on one of our "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" props and I just wanted to let you know we’re checking into it with our prop department.  We would never want to use someone’s art without their permission.  Thanks for bringing this to our attention and thanks for your patience!  Tina Fey.”

Okay. That was kind of pretty great. And probably the best part about the whole experience, besides the fact that my art got pulled out of a handbag by Lisa Kudrow.

SirGur turned me over to a friendly fellow from Universal Television – let’s call him ProdTodd. ProdTodd offered apologies, gratitude for my patience & understanding, and fair compensation for use of my artwork. I didn’t ask for any of that, but hey, twist my rubber arm! S'cool. All I really wanted to know was how it happened and why didn’t they just ask...? Their explanation was that apparently someone in props found it on Pinterest to use as a “reference” and in the hullaballoo of shooting the last episode, it got put into the coupon book prop and the whole permission thing just slipped through the cracks. It was, as SirGur put it, “a terrible oversight”. It was an oopsie.

AWESOME. I love love love oopsies! I live for human foibles! Honest mistakes rock harder than Steven Tyler at Stonehenge! Give that oopsie-props-person (who likely filled their shorts when they saw the director do a close-up on my coupon) a hug from me. Better yet, send them some animated Hugs.

Now listen up: this situation presented a remarkable opportunity to have a wider discussion on Intellectual Property rights and The Interwebz. Therefore, I pressed my clear wish upon SirGur that it would be truly great if @KimmySchmidt or Tina Fey could tweet acknowledgement of the oopsie, something along the lines of what Ms Fey wrote in her note to me. Even with the best of intentions, sometimes mistakes are made – it’s how we deal with those mistakes that counts. I urged them to do something like that. A little goes a long way when it comes to putting a dent in the systemic disrespect of artists.

The weekend came and went and lo, yesterday afternoon, a tweet appeared.
Nice. It didn’t totally address my clear wish, but, for the greater good of lowly artists everywhere, I tried. And I think I got most of the way there. It's definitely nice. Thanks SirGur, ProdTodd and Tina.

To those of you who believe, "IT'S ON THE INTERNET, THEREFORE IT'S FREE" I say: Double check that source. If you get caught in an oopsie, do what you can to make things right.

And to those of you who say, “PUT YOUR LOGO/WATERMARK ON EVERYTHING” I say this: My drawing would look terrible with a watermark on it. It's like wearing panties with a skin tight dress, it spoils the look. So when it comes to logos, I go Commando.

Some of you asked me to draw Tina Fey. Well, I’ve already drawn Sarah Palin and everyone knows that’s practically the same thing.

Spot the difference.

Been a crazy week here, but hey, I'm Unbreakable. Love you guys!