Spike Lee on Critics of His New Kickstarter Project: “Fuck ‘Em”


On July 22, filmmaker Spike Lee joined the legions of artists on crowd-funding site Kickstarter, from Zach Braff funding a Garden State-like vehicle all the way to the writers printing poems with construction paper and glitter. The 3-minute long video is light on details about Lee’s newest project, just that this latest addition to his “jointography” will be about the “addiction to blood.” Just two days into the campaign Lee has managed to raise nearly $150,000 toward his $1.25 million goal. There’s 27 days to go.

Runnin’ Scared dropped by Lee’s studio in Fort Greene to ask him about the project. We talked about the importance of crowd-funding to independent artists, his upcoming remake of the Korean blood ballet Oldboy, and his upcoming date with Steven Soderbergh at the Garden.

You say in your Kickstarter video that you were motivated by the big Veronica Mars and Zach Braff successes.

I’ve been a professor at NYU for the past 15 years. I teach the third-year students, the ones getting ready to do their thesis film. A lot of them have used Kickstarter to get their completion funds for their films. But the amounts have been $5,000, $10,000, $20,000.

One student told me about two recent developments where there was a TV show Veronica Mars that was cancelled, and they went on Kickstarter and they raised 5 million to do the Veronica Mars movie, and Zach Braff raised $3.5 million to do the follow up to his film, Garden State. So that’s when I had to look at Kickstarter in a different light, and this might be a vehicle for myself.

What did you think of Kickstarter before?

I thought it was great, but I didn’t think I could have used it, because I didn’t know that you could raise the amount to do a feature film.

It hit the news on Tuesday that Steven Soderbergh gave $10,000. Are all the donations coming in those big amounts?

I want to give a big shout out to Steven Soderbergh because I didn’t even solicit it. He just did it.

It’s all adding up. From $5 to $10,000. Everybody gets a reward for every amount that you give. So for $10,000 I take you out to dinner, you get to sit with me courtside at the world’s most famous arena and watch the New York Knicks. So thank you Mr. Soderbergh, we’re going to have a great time, have a great dinner, and the Knicks will win. Guaranteed.

What is your response to the criticism that established artists shouldn’t use Kickstarter?

That criticism is bullshit. The founders of Kickstarter told me, “Spike, Kickstarter is for everybody.” They did tell me there would be some flak. Zach Braff got some flak. This is not new.

What people are missing is that the people who are pledging money have never been on Kickstarter before. Most hadn’t even heard of it. A large percentage of that is Black folks who had never heard of Kickstarter, so that complaint that I’m hurting somebody is not true. Plus, I’ve always been a champion of young filmmakers. Why have I taught at NYU for the past 15 years? You know the phrase, “haters gonna hate”? We’re not worrying about that. We have a goal, and the people hating don’t like my films anyway. So fuck ’em.

Can you give me any more specifics what the film is going to be about?

What you read is all I’m giving. Today’s movie-going audiences have been spoiled. They wanna know everything about a film before they see a movie. That’s happened because of the way Hollywood movie trailers are cut. You got to and watch eight or nine minutes of trailers before the film you want to see comes on. Once you see those trailers, you don’t have to see the movie anymore!

I remember a time when I was growing up, when the trailers were tantalizing, they wouldn’t tell you the whole story. A lot of these comedies, they put the best jokes in the trailer, and that’s the only joke in the movie! You would think the whole movie is like that! That’s some shenanigans, you know?

This is the type of film that’s going to work best when people do not know a lot about what the film is going to consist of. What I will say is that its a psychological bloody thriller. It’s about human beings addicted to blood, but they’re not vampires. It’s probably going to be my sensual film since She’s Gotta Have it.

Speaking of trailers, what do you make of the reaction to the release of the Oldboy trailer?

It’s been all positive. People are hyped. They made a great trailer. That’s an example of a trailer where I told them, let’s not give it all away! You gotta tantalize people.

One last thing: Next summer is the 25th anniversary of Do The Right Thing. Any big plans?

Yeah we’re making plans. We are really going to try and celebrate it. June 30, 2014, will be the 25th anniversary. People have forgotten that Do The Right Thing and the first Batman came out on the same day.

So…do your plans to celebrate have something to do with Batman?

No. That’s just some trivia.