First Veronica Mars, then Zach Braff, and now Spike Lee.
What do these three entities have in common? Well, all have become synonymous with the rising trend of big names getting funding from the crowd sourcing outlet Kickstarter.
Spike Lee has just revealed plans for a new film, a new Spike Lee Joint, and needs help from the general public, in the form of $1.25 million dollars. Details surrounding the project are admittedly (and for a Kickstarter project, shockingly) scarce, but what we do know is that the film will feature sex and blood, and that Lee is leaning heavily on people’s respect for his past work to fund this oddly under wraps feature.
However, it didn’t just come with a promotional video. Lee, writing about the film for the picture’s Kickstarter page, revealed just what he thinks about the current Hollywood system:
With the current climate in The Hollywood Studio System it’s not an encouraging look for Independent Filmmakers. I’m not hating, just stating the facts. Super Heroes, Comic Books, 3D Special EFX, Blowing up the Planet Nine Times and Fly through the Air while Transforming is not my Thang. To me it’s not just that these Films are being made but it seems like these are the only films getting made. To The Studios it seems like every Film must be a Home run on a Global scale, a Tent Pole Enterprise, able to spin off Sequel after Sequel after Sequel after Sequel after Sequel after Sequel.
I have a different vision of what Cinema can be, a different vision of what some under-served Audiences might want to see. That is why I am here on KICKSTARTER, to raise the Funds for The New Spike Lee Joint, to get this BAD BOY financed. Nothing in Life is Free and if you want something you got to pay for it. If you have liked any of my Films in the past, this is the price it costs to see another one (which can be less than the cost of one Movie Ticket). We feel the different levels on contributions make it affordable for everyone to GET DOWN FOR THE CAUSE.
But wait, isn’t this Hollywood system the same system that will, later this year, release a Spike Lee-directed take on Oldboy? Sure, the connections to the original source material are being discussed by those involved more so than any connections to the original Park Chan-wook film, but if you take a gander at the film’s first trailer, there are a handful of things that make one believe that the original film played heavily here.
As a huge fan of Spike Lee, and much of his work, this is an exciting project, but it’s hard to find a reason to really endorse the project. Coming on the heels of not only Oldboy, but one of Lee’s most experimental and intimate pictures, the superb Red Hook Summer, one, at first glance, has to find the need for this crowd funding. Lee’s one of the most influential filmmakers of his day, and a film like Oldboy should, ostensibly, be the “for them” type of picture that allows Lee to have enough clout to make a “for him” style picture.
However, this is also an interesting Kickstarter project in that it doesn’t rely on one’s interest in a premise, any preview trailer or any previous source material. Relying entirely, as Matt Patches perfectly put, Spike Lee’s auteurship. Simply stating that this will be a Spike Lee Joint and that that means something given the examples of films like Red Hook Summer and 25th Hour, the Kickstarter relies entirely on a director’s name, canon and auteurship to get people excited enough to finance the film.
Unlike anything Kickstarter has seen so far in this new age of A-list crowd sourcing, this project has elicited an odd reaction out of yours truly. Admittedly a fan of Lee’s work in a way I’m not connected to thinks like Veronica Mars or Zach Braff’s canon, knowing just how influential a voice Lee is and how he’s coming off a hotly talked about remake, I am admittedly mixed here. The biggest complaint of financing a bigger named project like this is that it’s difficult to really give a good reason to give any amount of money to a man who is a big time filmmaker.
However, I’m also oddly excited in a way I haven’t been since Kickstarter became a hotbed for Hollywood projects. A project entirely sold as an auteur project from Spike Lee, this freedom, allotted to Lee by the lack of studio cooks in his cinematic kitchen means that we may very well be getting a definitive Spike Lee joint. The lack of details makes a large investment troubling, but if my $20 means that we may get a Spike Lee film that he is personally invested in to the point where he doesn’t want any other hands in on the project, it may be worth it.
Again though, this all comes back to today’s current Hollywood system. With Lee taking to it with his own remake/graphic novel adaptation later this year, is this a project that Lee simply doesn’t want to have any risk taken with, or is it something entirely his own? The issue with many recent A-list Kickstarters is that it feels like a way for star actors and millionaires to avoid taking risks with their “passion projects.” Take Veronica Mars for example. While fans were immediately excited, critics found the need for crowd funding for a project that, if everyone involved put up a small amount of cash, could have gathered all the funds it needed and then some. Instead, what happened is that it got more than enough funding from fans, and now there is no risk involved for anyone. That could be a criticism here, particularly following the oddly mixed-to-negative response to Lee’s last film, Red Hook Summer, but with no details released here, it seems that Lee truly wants us to fund a film entirely based on he as an artist and he as a filmmaker. And in that, there is some odd excitement to be found. Sure, it makes him doing a remake/adaptation like Oldboy a tad odd (one would imagine that he doing that project would have to have been a stepping stone to this film made), but if we get a personal Lee project, we’ll be better off for it.