Spike Lee on his Kickstarter campaign

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Spike Lee on his Kickstarter campaign
By Wilson Morales

July 25, 2013

Earlier this week, director Spike Lee launched a campaign to get funding for a new film through the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. The goal is to reach $1,250,000 within 30 days. With no specifics given, all Lee would say about the film is that it’s a psychological thriller about “people addicted to blood.”

Lee’s last film, ‘Red Hook Summer’ was produced through his own money on a budget of less than one million. According to boxofficemojo.com, its total gross was about $338,803. His next film, ‘Oldboy,’ an American remake of Park Chan-wook’s 2003 Korean, will be released through FilmDistrict.

Blackfilm.com had a chance to speak with Lee about his reasons for the Kickstarter campaign.

You’re one of the most well-known directors out there, so why go to the public for funds as opposed to the resources you have?

Spike Lee: I don’t think anyone should assume what my resources or who my resources are. This is also the type of film they might not to make. It’s too quirky and too small a film. When I became hip to what Kickstarter was doing through NYU, where I had been a teacher for the last 15 years and I became intrigued. Then when I heard what the cancelled TV show ‘Veronica Mars’ did when they raised the money they were looking for, and Zach Braff and what he’s done, raising over $3.5 million dollars, I said to myself that this is something that is feasible. Our goal is only $1,250,000. We’re very confident that we can obtain our goal. I want to urge everyone to mobilize and tell your friends and family to come out and support this. Go to kickstarter.com and look for the Spike Lee page and for as little as $5, you can help make this film happen. People should pay to invest in this. This is a community generated film and when we win, because I don’t win alone, everyone who has pledged money wins.

With every Zach Braff and Veronica Mars story, there are twice that many Kickstarter failures. Did you speak to Zach or the team behind Veronica Mars regarding their campaign before launching yours?

SL: Nope. I’ve been speaking with the co-founders of Kickstarter, Perry Chen and Yancey Strickler.

You have ‘Oldboy’ coming out later this year with FilmDistrict. Did you consider talking with them about financing the film?

SL: Never. There was never a consideration to go to a studio with this film. This was always conceived as an independent project. It’s independent all the way.

You financed your last film ‘Red Hook Summer’ with your own money, so what did you learn from that experience that made you go to Kickstarter?

SL: I wasn’t aware of Kickstarter back then.

If you don’t get the complete funding, will you throw in some of your own money to finish the film?

SL: The way Kickstarter works is that if don’t attain your goal, you don’t get anything at all. It’s all or nothing. As of now, we’re over $150,000 after a day and a half, so we’re in a good spot.

When and where do you expect to shoot the film? Do you have a cast put together?

SL: We’ll shoot in Brooklyn around November/ December. I’m not worried about the cast. The cast will be there. Right now, the goal is to get the money. Without the money, there is no cast.

How much more can you say about the plot of the film?

SL: It’s like a psychological blood thriller.

Is it part of a genre?

SL: I really hate to categorize my work. I think a lot of times people do that out of laziness. “It’s a cross between Star Wars and …” I don’t do that. I know that people want more information but I don’t want to do that. Too many films have been spoiled because the Hollywood trailers show too much.

Will you have time to promote ‘Oldboy’?

SL: The campaign will be done before I start paving the pavement for ‘Oldboy,’ which opens on October 25.

What are the rewards from contributing to your film?

SL: If you go to the Kickstarter page, there’s a list of what the rewards are, depending on how much one puts in. You won’t believe it but one of those individuals contributed $10,000 already was Steven Soderbergh. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We have to keep plugging until we reach our goal of $1,250,000. This is not about Spike Lee. The whole crew will be young filmmakers who will eventually go on to make their own film. The cast will be young and vibrant. When we win, everyone will win. This is a good thing. Spike Lee is not trying to bogart Kickstarter and kick up and coming filmmakers to the curb. That is false and mean spirited and wrong with a capital ‘W.’ I love to encourage young filmmakers. That’s why I’ve been teaching at NYU film school for the last 15 years as an Artistic Director. There will be detractors but we will keep on striving until we reach our goal. The thing about Kickstarter is that it’s driven by social media.

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