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Let’s Talk About the Room 313/315 Saga! The Thin Line Between Inspiration & Passing Off

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Wana-Udobang-Niyi-AkinmolayanLast week, BellaNaija shared a story on the plagiarism allegations levelled by writer Akwaeke Emezi, against filmmaker Mariona Lloreta. {Click here if you missed it}

This past weekend, social media was buzzing again with rumours of plagiarism of the new project by filmmaker Niyi Akinmolayan and Poet/Writer/Media Personality/Activist Wana Udobang. The comments on social media alluded to the fact that the script of the Niyi Akinmolayan film, Room 315 was a copy of Wana Udobang’ web series, Room 313.

The controversy stemmed from the similar in the names and the general premise of both creative work (mental health issues and therapy).  Wana Udobang’s web series went live on YouTube last year, and so we decided to dig further into it.

We then reached out to Niyi Akinmolayan for his official statement on the issue. Wana Udobang has also released her official statement on her blog.

Read Niyi Akinmolayan’s statement here:

A couple of months ago, niyiakinmolayan.com started the LET’S MAKE A MOVIE contest to provide an avenue for up and coming actors, screenwriters and potential film crew members to develop their craft through a series of free educational modules.

The first step in our LET’S MAKE A MOVIE project was to call for scripts.  We were inundated with over 125 submissions and out of those, we selected twenty. Out of those twenty we selected three and left the choice to the blog readers; afterall, this movie was for and by them. The top three were PASTORPRENUER, ROOM 315 and THE SALON.  After over eight hundred votes cast, Room 315 was selected by the public. The issue of mental health which the film addresses resonated with the readers. And thus, the journey to bringing the film to a reality began.

We were very fortunate to receive support from a lot of people who heard about the blog and wanted to help out since none of this was for profit.  Slowly the production began to take shape, volunteers trooped in from the blog to take part in everything from set design, to costume, make up, production management and even cast including Bimbo Manuel and Tina Mba.  Please find below the links indicating the progress of project.

http://niyiakinmolayan.com/2016/07/22/lets-make-a-great-movie-together/

http://niyiakinmolayan.com/2016/08/05/scripts-are-ingreat-news-for-the-writers/

http://niyiakinmolayan.com/2016/08/10/help-us-choose-the-winner-of-this-n100k/

http://niyiakinmolayan.com/2016/08/14/and-the-winner-is/

http://niyiakinmolayan.com/2016/08/22/oya-lets-make-this-delicious-movie/

We trudged along slowly and steadily until a few days ago when our attention was called to a production that shares some similarities with a production called Room 313.

Naturally, we take allegations of plagiarism seriously and as such we reached out to the writer to investigate the claims. The writer says that he did not lift the idea from the Room 313 series.

Out of 125 submissions, Abosi Ogba’s 10 page screenplay for Room 315 ultimately won the contest.  We immediately began pre-production for a 22nd October 2016 shoot so this news of story-theft, days before principal photography, was disorienting.

Shock understates how we feel about the claim that Room 315, the short movie project written by Abosi Ogba and currently in pre-production by Anthill, was plagiarized from Room 313, an existing web series, by Wana Udobang.

In our opinion, there are significant differences between the two projects. Room 315 is a psychological drama about a psychiatrist and his odd patients’ whose stories weave together into a startling revelation, revealing life’s interesting connections. Wana Udobang’s Room 313 is a series in which each episode features a monologue about their varied life experiences. While the titles – Room 315 and Room 313 – are similar, Abosi used his birthday, 31st of May, as the number of his character’s office, Room 315, in his screenplay. He shared this in a facebook live video over a month ago:

https://web.facebook.com/niyi.akinmolayan/videos/vb.505236413/10154579342471414/?type=3

Based on these clear differences, we believe that the allegation of plagiarism levelled against Abosi Ogba are unfounded. We have attached the script of Room 315. A simple read of the script and perusal of Wana’s show will prove our stance.

****

Read Wana Udobang’s statement in a blog post titled ‘The Case of Creative Coincidence’ here:

Many of us know how much anxiety, sleepless nights and hard work goes into creating any work of art. So it can be quite heart wrenching when you wake up to see the work of another artist sharing a similar name and premise as yours.

This was what happened when I logged into my Facebook and was met by an invitation to a group called Room 315. The project is a short film written by Abosi Ogba to be directed by Niyi Akinmolayan.

In an article on the Pulse’s website, it states that “Room 315” revolves around a psychotherapist, his patients, their sessions and his past.”

The Room 315 synopsis states ‘Dr Stone, in sessions with his clients, discovers how life holds all four of them, including himself in an intricate web’

https://www.facebook.com/ROOM-315-256881488046578/

So here is the thing. Just over a year ago, in June 2015 to be precise, I released a web series titled Room 313 about people experiencing trauma in a psychotherapist’s office. Essentially a series about different individual’s undergoing therapy sessions. After seeing the similarities in both name and premise, Room 313 and Room 315, I pointed it out to a few people who I had noticed from its Facebook group page had connections to the production.

Others had noticed as well and decided to bring it to the attention of the production team via their Facebook.

The director of the project responded to the queries by labeling it a ‘Creative Coincidence’.

On Saturday afternoon, I received a phone call from one of the volunteer producers of the project who explained to me that he was quite surprised to see the conversations and allegations about theft, plagiarism and passing off on twitter. He explained that the story came about through a screenwriting competition held by the director on his blog and the story Room 315 by Abosi Ogba was one of three finalists. The stories went on to be voted by the followers of the blog as a winner and they have claimed to not know about the existence of my work prior.

Again I stated that I didn’t see how this dealt with the issue of a similar name and premise with a series which has been in existence for about a year prior to the competition.

Now that you know about it’s existence, what do we do about it remains my question.

He asked for my thoughts on the way forward and I reasonably asked for a change of name. He urged that we move on from it and make nice, insisting that we are all doing a good deed by creating awareness on mental health.

I still insisted, that they change the name of their project because as far as I am concerned this is a rip off and alteration of my work.

He insisted the scripts are different, mine is a series and theirs a short film. I maintained a stance. Since the title and premise are almost still very similar, ‘Please change your name’. It isn’t too late as you haven’t started shooting yet.

I have stayed silent for the past three days for a variety of reasons.

For starters I saw that there were people with whom I am well acquainted named as volunteers on this project. I am usually not one for social media mud slinging and I have always focused on my work and creativity.

For people that know me, I am one of the biggest champions of any Nigerian artist and creative talent. I know first hand how difficult it is live and work as a creative person in this space.

I constantly share my creative processes, its triumphs, its depressions and all the lessons and discoveries I learn along the way on my social media platforms. I celebrate and support every creative endeavor.

I know what it is like to keep pushing against the tide, with no money, no institutional support, just sheer will power, resilience and talent to tell these stories that are important to each and everyone of us.

At the risk of sounding sentimental, this situation affects and hurts each and every person who gives up his or her time, skill, talent and resources to making Room 313. To see someone take both the premise and the name, tweak it and pass it on as something else is very unfortunate to watch.

This is probably the reason I was hopeful that a simple conversation about a name change despite the glaring obvious would be a simple and amicable way to solve this issue.

I think it atrocious that it is brought to a director’s attention, that a project you are about to embark on bears a similarity in name, theme and premise to another existing work and you feel comfortable to dismiss it.

Creativity can be very emotionally tasking and having to defend your work even takes so much more out of you and this was why I engaged with the producer of the project who i have known prior and assumed that the dialogue was the beginning of a conversation to resolve the situation. I noticed this morning they decided that the controversy was a great opportunity to promote their project with the director stating in a tweet

‘No one has accused me of stealing their work. Not to my face, not via lawyers’

****

So guys, now you’ve heard both sides of the story, what do you think and what is the way forward for both parties?

31 Comments

  1. truth

    October 17, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    niyi, just change the name, and i really do believe abosi stole the general idea, and literally paraphrased wana’s work. if you guys want intellectual property protected, start by doing the right thing here.

    • Bunmi

      October 17, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      This is untrue. Abosi, much like many others had never heard of room 313. I implore you to read the script as a change of name is of no consequence when the claims are unfounded . Abosi changing the name is succumbing to Internet bullies which is not ideal. Thank you

  2. kola

    October 17, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Way forward is to change name!!!! period!

  3. Commodore

    October 17, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    There is no saga. Wana and her cohorts are just being silly. As someone who knows her personally, I find this incredibly disappointing because all she has done is expose her ignorance. If Wana were truly the writer and creative juggernaut she wants to be, she would understand that ideas are a dime a dozen.

    Wana wrote a monologue, someone wrote a short film, but somehow, she is SURE she was ripped off because the concepts are similar? What even is the “concept” here? Therapy? All parties involved in this should be ashamed of themselves.

    Maybe Wana should have changed the name of her own as well when she found out there was another movie made before hers, with the name “Room 313”. SMH!

    • chingasco

      October 17, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      Her work has already been produced and online for over a year.

    • Corolla

      October 17, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      I can’t stand people who shame others for speaking up!You should be ashamed of yourself for heaping the blame on the person who was stolen from! ! Gosh!

    • Commodore

      October 17, 2016 at 7:50 pm

      You should be ashamed of yourself for calling this “theft”.

  4. adelegirl

    October 17, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Wana, I can’t believe you even agreed to the change of name when this is blatant stealing. The “coincidences” are one too many to be mere coincidence. Take this to court for Intellectual property breach. In fact, outright theft. I follow you on IG and I saw all your posts on the series and I think it was even featured in a BN post so I am aware of the Room 313 series especially since it featured the beautiful Anee Icha who attends (or used to attend) my former church.
    This is not “inspiration” it is theft. not even passing off, in my opinion.

    • Jide

      October 17, 2016 at 4:41 pm

      LOL. I actually hope she takes this to court, and that she also updates us when the “lawsuit” is thrown back in her face.

    • Sara

      October 17, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      lol she’ll have no case in Court, you can’t steal an idea. Except if she trademarked the name of her movie.

    • wendy

      October 19, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      if y’all don’t know anything about Law, just shut up already.
      You CANNOT get a trademark for movies, trademark is basically used for protecting logos of a company. You can only get copyright of any literary works, books etc.
      Google is your friend tho.

  5. Glory Edozien

    October 17, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    As far as I am concerned this is really a case of integrity for Mr. Niyi and everyone involved with this project. Even if one is to believe that this is creative coincidence, now that the producer knows that the script CLOSELY resembles one which has been produced over a year ago (and for which more episodes are being produced) ….what is he going to do about it. That for me is the central question.

    I think people never put themselves in someone else’s position. Wana has written, directed and produced this series for the last year, using her own personal finances and networks..no outside help whatsoever…and now a similar project in both theme and title surfaces….would Mr. Niyi be this flippant if it was his own work being ‘passed off’?

    Any creative person will understand the labour of love it takes to produce anything worth showing. Mr Niyi hasnt even started production, what does it cost him to change the name of the project? No one is asking him not to shoot his movie….just respect a fellow creative who works in the same space as you and do the right thing.

    Even more questionable is the use of this controversy to promote the work in question. The creative space is a small one, his actions may seem harmless to him now, but people are watching and he should not set an ugly precedent for which he too can easily become a victim.

    • Jide

      October 17, 2016 at 7:53 pm

      With all due respect, you are full of shit. “Any creative person” would know that ideas are a dime a dozen. “Any creative person” worth their salt would laugh the entirety of these accusations off. “Any creative person” with half a brain would read the script in question and realize there is virtually NO similarity to Wana’s boring, unimaginative drivel. Wana writes a bunch of senseless lines for one person to recite in front of a camera, someone else writes a SHORT FILM, with ACTUAL CHARACTERS, DIALOGUE, AND ACTION, but because Wana is your friend, you come here to spew more bullshit. Stand down.

    • Amina

      October 17, 2016 at 11:42 pm

      hmnnnnn. I doubt your position, brother. No need to go low with insults.

    • wendy

      October 19, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      You should be the one to STAND DOWN JIDE,
      Judging from your thread of comments, i feel you are being paid by Mr Niyi to hurl insults at Wana. You already sided a party, no need to discredit Wana by saying her work is *boring and unimaginative*
      Which one have you written? smh

    • Jide

      October 19, 2016 at 11:30 pm

      No, Wendy. You and the rest of Wana’s bull dogs need to SIT with your emotional drivel! It’s cool for you all to bully people over the internet, but you get called out and you turn into the victims? And I will call Wana’s “work” whatever I want to call it. You people will have to try harder. Not everyone will take the high road for you. STAND DOWN, hoe.

    • Danny Nwauzorma

      October 18, 2016 at 2:27 am

      There is absolutely no need for him to change the name, wait first, what will he change it to, The kolomental room, Where Pana rules the day, have you even read the script, If you haven’t please try and read it, i think it’s still on the blog. ROOM 313 and ROOM 315 is enough difference between these two productions, its not a question of integrity now, it’s a question of what actually is the similarities between these two that warrants for Plagiarism. From what i’ve read for conditions for plagiarism and what I’ve seen from Wana’s YouTube channel, i watched all four episodes to be sure. There was absolutely nothing plagiarized. These are just different views on a particular topic. Wana concept is Patients narrating traumatic experiences. Abosi Concept focuses more on a web of Psychiatric Patients with traumatic experiences in which the Psychiatrist is also a victim. So where is the semblance abeg. Unless you are talking of plagiarism of the name, in which the difference is the 3 and 5, but you no even get right on that one sef cos you didn’t brand the name. I mean ROOM 313 (which i’ve never heard of before in my life) became popular as a result of ROOM 315, because i now had to go to Wana’s Youtube Channel to watch all the boring episodes. I’m seeing this now as an Advert stunt. Well, Wana, you succeeded. I have watched all your episodes. Thanks for the time wasted.

  6. Bunmi

    October 17, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    I would encourage her to actually get lawyers on this . I am.the assistant director on this room315 project and I eagerly await this development

  7. EmmaGination

    October 17, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    I was with Abosi Ogba when the whole idea was birthed, it all began like a joke when I visited him that evening and we talked about it up to the following day. Fixing characters and their roles after was done just like ‘joking stuff’.

    How this cock and bull story of theft and plagiarism is coming up I can’t really relate. Ma’am biko you forgot your bathing towel elsewhere. Thanks

  8. Danny Nwauzorma

    October 17, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    I don’t know what to tell you ma’am… and from what i’ve seen, from your youtube channel, it bears no resemblance or concept not even the name. They are just different perspectives to a particular issue in particular place which is the Psychiatrist Office. Don’t try to push this further by going to court because you won’t win, not even with the best lawyers in the Universe. Trust me on this. Like Niyi said, it is just creative coincidence.

  9. Teni

    October 17, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    It looks like all the friends of the creators of Room 315 have shown up to defend.

    • JigUp

      October 17, 2016 at 10:00 pm

      You mean like the friends of Wana and Room 313 showed up here and on Twitter to be barking like rabid dogs?

  10. NDH

    October 17, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    The Web series room 313 is getting more attention now due to a yet to be filmed room 315. A film process which is clearly a noble gesture that many are gaining from (including me). Abosi has a story, Wana has a concept. Room 315 will be shot once, room 313 can have has many episodes has possible. Room 315 is different from room 313, like one is different from two. There is absolutely no reason to change the name. Definitely after this online controversy, both rooms will be the better for it, so it’s a win-win situation. So can we now give some room so this jollof rice can continue cooking. #HugsnKisses, #Teamspirit, #Onelove

  11. Me 2 you

    October 17, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    I am a filmmaker, and i know how painful this situation can be for both parties. My question is, does Niyi think this writer will agree he stole her work? He is just like them Dillard in school that copy everything including the name of their source. If I were Niyi I will Change the name, if i were Wana, I’ll censor the name ASAP, then that short film will sink right after production. So many of you don’t understand how loads of peeps have lost their content to many well equipped callous nollywood producers and writers, and the silly thing they say is, just let it Go. African magic knows how many of their purchased work were plagiarized, and how many people have settled out of court. See Wanna if it’s close, sue.. so that peeps will take shit seriously. You will only have a problem if you are one who needs them. As for you Bunmi, you too talk, wait e go soon do you

    • Jide

      October 18, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      If you were really a filmmaker like you claim, you would know how easy it is for several different people to write similar stories. In this case, the stories are not even similar. What is Wana’s story? One person talking to a camera? That is a story to copy? Okay. Harry Potter and Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings all feature orphan boys who go on magical quests to fulfil their destinies. Who is getting sued? You and Wana need to look in a dictionary.

  12. Bunmi

    October 18, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Sigh* I am a writer so it’s sort of inevitable to be honest. You’re wishing for snow in alaska

  13. Lady lawyer

    October 18, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    This is why Nigerian creatives really need the services of experienced IP laywers! Wana, you need my help. This guy is setting himself up to lose more money than he will do by simply changing the name.

    This is a blantant case of copyright infringement. Wana didn’t even need to issue a press release. Have your IP lawyer send him a nice letter, explaining to him the various ways his work is infringing yours.

    Nigerian creatives please take courses on IP and learn what is and is not permissible.

    • Danny Nwauzorma

      October 18, 2016 at 6:18 pm

      You know, i actually saw some short films on IMDb and YouTube today with the title “ROOM 313” attributed to some white people. Will you sue those ones too, abi who will sue each other. Stop ranting about experienced IP lawyers. Just state your mission as someone who has seen someone like Wana to extort some money from. You know she can’t win, why the rant.

    • Commodore

      October 19, 2016 at 11:31 pm

      What back alley law school did you attend, dear?

  14. Dominic Dominic

    October 19, 2016 at 12:23 am

    Well, we all have seen movies about love with the titles containing love. I mean, its like the writer for a movie called Love never dies suing another writer of a movie called When Love Stinks simply because the two stories happen to have a young man falling in love and their names contain love. She basically has no case here. I’m even surprised this is getting this much attention

  15. Lilian

    October 19, 2016 at 3:43 am

    “There is nothing new under the sun” . Claiming that a premise “psychiatrist dealing with patients” was plagiarized is ridiculous. There are a lot of movies out there with the same premise. Plagiarism lies, not in ideas, but content. When the scenes or dialogue match word for word then we have a problem. I’ve read Agbosi script and they don’t. (I have nothing to say about the similarities in titles however, it may or may not be a creative coincidence).

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