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July 23, 2013

Spike Lee's Kickstarter Calls Out the Hollywood Studio System

Spike Lee KickstarterKickstarter has descended upon the consciousness of established filmmakers and it's here to stay. Today's high-profile project is none other than the Newest Hottest Spike Lee Joint. There are a lot of qualms associated with celebrities using the crowd-funding model, and Spike Lee looks like he's trying to appeal to some kind of middle ground; calling out the studio system for its perils and explaining that he has a "different vision of what Cinema can be." Read on to get the scoop.

On his Kickstarter campaign page, Spike shares some of the issues he has about the industry:

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, too, am sick of tent-poles and explosions, but is Spike offering a solution? His question to his backers is, simply "Do you wish to see Human Beings dealing with each other on a Human Level?"

As far as his film, it's seemingly an attempt return to his roots (à la She's Gotta Have It) to make a small, intimate (sanguine) character piece. On one hand, Lee is doing the right thing by utilizing new tools to make a personal film, however, his campaign is vague and has a pronounced lack of specifics. 

Instead of telling us about his project in detail, he's resting on his past work to drive the campaign. How does this make us feel as backers? Is he merely seizing an opportunity following the trend of other successful celebrity Kickstarters? He tries to put our minds at ease:

I promise on my Mother's Grave and Right Hand to the Almighty - every Red Cent, every Wooden Nickel, every Dollar will go up on the Screen and not into my pocket. I'm not taking a Fee, your generous contributions will get this Film made.

To me, the fact that he addresses his backers as "Dear Faithful" says it all. He's testing the trust that he has with his audience, the one he's built up over his long and fruitful career.

So take a look at his campaign and decide for yourself. As for the perk for a $10,000 pledge, a courtside seat next to Spike at a Knicks game, Lee adds "P.S. Knicks will be great this coming season."

What do you think about Lee's campaign? Join the discussion below.

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120 Comments

I'm going to keep my comments to myself while I read what other people think. My watered down gut reaction is that a film of this caliber from someone of this level is an "investment". Its like the the owner of Chipolte doing a kick starter to ask people to fund his new restaurant chain, because the climate of food is more about fatty burgers and his concept for a healthy burrito wont work

Films of this level make money, alot of money. and in the end, those backers wont see anything on their investment, but the filmmaker will, wont he? the filmmaker can then sell this film, or take points equaling up to 10 times the budget if it goes good, and all of us "investors" will never see a return on that investment. Its just giving someone whos already successful doing what they have been able to do for years.

To me, and this is just my opinion, but to me Kickstarter is about helping those who need it achieve their goals when no other resource is available to them. The stay at home mom, the college student, the high school kid, those who are at the bottom trying to make something great happen. For me, its not about helping millionaires do something that they have already been established doing. The guy from dell doesn't need a kick starter to create a new computer, right?

Thats just my opinion, its neither right nor wrong. But one call to coke, or Doritos, or kellogs, and by sticking a box of cereal in a shot in his movie, spike lee can finance the whole project. Most of us don't have that option. most of us look to kick starter as our only option, the creative community helping those that need the help to do great things.

July 23, 2013

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HOLY Sh*T!....I AGREE 100% with Jeremy Earl Mayhew (original poster)

July 23, 2013

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Skeptic

Free ticket/download at least, maybe? Like early screening just for the backers.

July 23, 2013

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Natt

+PLUS INFINITY!
give this man unlimited internets

July 23, 2013

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Robert Thorpe

great comment!

July 23, 2013

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hansd

HOLY CRAP. Paying. PAYING!!! $1000 to be an extra in his f#$%g film,.

F#%$^K YOU. and THAT's the truth ruth.

July 23, 2013

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Robert Thorpe

I agree with you. The guy just made Old Boy for over $30,000,000. The guy can use some of his paycheck for it. If anything he should be giving money to the struggling filmmaking community.

July 23, 2013

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Stay at home Mom

"If anything he should be giving money to the struggling filmmaking community." ABSOLUTELY! That's one of my biggest problems with Hollywood stars using Kickstarter....Rob Thomas (VM creator) has only backed 1 film project and that was Zach Braff's!! Braff has backed a few docs & features, but by a few I mean 4 or 5! Spike: ZERO. Zero films back and zero projects backed. Now I'm sure (or hope, at least) all these guys have helped indie filmmakers in other ways throughout their careers but getting the $ to make a film is one of, if not the, hardest part. Just wish that they would spread the wealth a bit, or directly draw attention to other projects and really be part of the indie community. Also, I think a little bit of me died today when I read that Soderbergh dropped $10k for Spike.

July 24, 2013

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Perfectly stated.

July 23, 2013

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yes and yes

July 23, 2013

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Rob

Fucking Veronica Mars. I already went on a rant when Braff announced his campaign, now with Spike Lee, I won't even bother, the jig is up with kickstarter, now all these established, award winning directors will be looking to get their money this way since their "fans" are willing to pay them to make more movies and make more money. I just don't get it.

July 23, 2013

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Harry

RIP Kickstarter

RIP DIY cinema 2002-2013

July 23, 2013

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john jeffries

If you really think DIY cinema started in 2002 then you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

July 23, 2013

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Coty

This made me laugh very very hard.

July 23, 2013

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Kholi

I would guess he's referring to the introduction of the DVX. Definitely not the beginning of DIY cinema but certainly the beginning of truly affordable cinematic images.

July 23, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director
158

No, I was referring to the film Funny Ha Ha, which arguably started the indie/mumblecore/DIY genre that nearly every new independent film now tries to copy

July 23, 2013

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john jeffries

Why not educate the poster instead of stopping at sarcasm.

July 24, 2013

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VinceGOrtho

Peter Jackson's first film Bad Taste (1987) is about as DIY as you can get.

July 24, 2013

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Gabe

Spike Lee spoke at my school this year in Florida International University.... he's an egotistical joke. Like the way he acts and EVERYTHING he says now in days is a joke. I won't say what he said, but if you would like to waste some time you could visit his twitter account. By the way, I'm not bashing nofilmschool, it's nothing related to them, they're my number one website.

July 23, 2013

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Nick

Well, that's kind of you :)

July 23, 2013

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Micah Van Hove
Writer
writer, director, dp
258

In today's TheWrap.com "Disney vets turn to Kickstarter for unique animated 'art story'".

July 23, 2013

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David F

I'm with him up to point of I'm tired of the vfx drivel at the multiplex. But after that...

Fuck Spike Lee and Zach Braff. If these guys want to make 2 million dollar indie films, they have the money in their own pockets, they just want to use YOUR money instead. They'll gladly take the profits from the risk of your money though.

No one wants to make a Spike Lee movie cause the guy hasn't made anything good in years. Step aside mr Lee you greedy, hypocritical, baked turd, your time was up years ago.

July 23, 2013

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Liron

I wish kickstarter would police their content and ensure that campaigns are used morally.

July 23, 2013

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Liron

LOL! And miss the opportunity to make 125K? Show me a corporation that took that route - ever?

July 24, 2013

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Fute

This is the same guy who filmed and promoted "She Gotta Have It" with maxed out credit cards, Mr. DIY himself. If anybody can use their experience and reputation to call in some favors to pull off a micro-budget film project, it's Spike Lee.

Why can't he now put his own money on the line for a project he believes in? If it's a vanity project with limited ROI,why should anybody else fund it?

July 23, 2013

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Marc B

That is probably what the studios are thinking, which is why Spike is going to Kickstarter.

July 25, 2013

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Dan

Oh look another beggar from Hollywood xD

July 23, 2013

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Natt

how much do court side seats at MSG cost? perhaps skip a season of the knicks and make a movie.

July 23, 2013

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thatguyyouhate

HAHA - hell yea dude!

July 23, 2013

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Haha, nice!

July 24, 2013

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Kickstarter needs to do something

July 23, 2013

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hansd

Unfortunately it was kickstarter's idea to start bringing in celebrity projects. This gives kickstarter a bigger percentile and involves zero risk by the celebrity... other than their credibility. Win-Win

July 23, 2013

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stephenkingrules

Too bad...maybe I just had a wrong understanding of the 'Kickstarter' idea...

July 24, 2013

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hansd

Will be keeping my fingers crossed that his campaign fails miserably. What an arrogant pr*ck.

July 23, 2013

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Simon

yeah, thought the exact same thing.

July 24, 2013

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hansd

The only thing I agree with him on is that VFX driven films are the only movies really getting any attention in cinemas. I'm not saying I want less of those films so much as I'm saying I want more lower budget films.

July 23, 2013

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Coty

Thousands upon thousands of features are made every year. What percent are Hollywood mega budget productions? Lower budget films exist, you just have to find them online.

July 24, 2013

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But we want to see them in the theater, where they were meant to be shown.

July 24, 2013

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Nick

Then buy a theater and show independent films. They have to look out for their own business to make sure they can stay afloat, which is why they play what they do. Also to say that a theater is where they are "meant" to be shown means you're living in the past. Films are everywhere now. Theaters, on tv, computers, cell phones, you need to consider ALL of these platforms. Most successful filmmakers are....

July 25, 2013

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I think if people want to give a filmmaker money they should be able to. I also like that the artists will make more money off this than their "investors" will. There are perks people! If you don't want to give these artists money, don't donate! Filmmakers (even the very famous ones) are always wheeling and dealing for money on their passion projects, this is just the first time the public has been approached with such a sleek platform.

Big celebrity backed kickstarters like this are here to stay and I am all for them. They are not stealing your independent film budget! It seems that many indie film makers upset because they think the success of these projects means the failure of their own. Not true. Many people join kickstarter just to finance things they are already fans of. And suddenly you have a new audience of film financiers on kickstarter. If anything the success of these big projects will help you as more people join!

Sorry guys, there is no easy way into the entertainment industry. When Ridley Scott decided to direct feature films he had to form his own production company because there was "absolutely no way into Hollywood". It's much more accessible now but it will NEVER be an even playing field and kickstarter has no obligation to make it so.

Ryan Koo leveraged the popularity of this very blog to finance his first feature. I am guessing you are all fine with that as you are posting on his blog. Celebrities are doing the same thing leveraging their own fan base. Veronica Mars and Zach Braff's movie have been some of the more successful kickstarters of all time, which means they make Kickstarter more money. Financially it would be a very bad idea to not support these projects. Kickstarter is a business, and I think they should make money for providing their service. If people don't want to back something, it won't get backed. It is one of the most democratic financing options ever available to a filmmaker!

July 23, 2013

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Dan

excellent point.

July 23, 2013

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jay

Kickstarter, as I understand it, is there to help people START something. Lee has been a successful filmmaker for 30 years. He doesn't start something, he just wants to continue what he does for free, outsourcing any risks and if it's successful, keep the profit.

July 24, 2013

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hansd

You should check out the What Is Kickstarter Page to see what they define themselves as.

http://www.kickstarter.com/hello?ref=nav

July 25, 2013

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Dan

technically koo leveraged the site to raise $100k, its yet to be seen if there is a film made or whether the money will be used to raise more money. but the essence of that campaign was false.

July 24, 2013

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jay

I have mixed feelings about people who already have access to capital using kickstarter. As has being the case in the film industry for ages is that some projects get heaps of money whilst many don't get any that are just as deserving if not more so.

However there are a couple of reasons why it is good or at least understandable why established filmmakers are using kick-starter.

One being that a study was done that showed many people who backed big name ppl on kickstarter had never used crowdfunding before and a percentage went on to back other projects who may otherwise not have. So they do bring awareness of the platform to audiences outside of creatives.

Secondly many established directors and producers still struggle to get funding for their films from studios and in doing so often have to give up a lot of control over content and distribution.

Also I think it can be positive for films to be made where they have to show they have public support instead of studios just pushing large budget films on people that many don't want to see

July 23, 2013

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zeb

As long as people are paying money to see these tentpole films then the studios are going to keep making them. Marvel has something like 10 movies in production because of the public's insatiable appetite for comic book movies. Did we really need a ANOTHER X-Men spinoff or a Spiderman re-boot, or a Fast and Furious 6? Apparently yes because they are huge money makers. The general public is to blame not the studios. Unless the masses suddenly develop a discerning taste for cinema, the crap the studios are pumping out right now will continue ad nauseam.

July 23, 2013

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Gavin

No, what we need is "Superman + Batman". See what they did there? Very clever!

July 23, 2013

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This whole trend will make a lot more sense to me (moral sense as well), once actual crowd-INVESTING is feasible online (both legally, though I hear this is on the horizon, and logistically) through something like Kickstarter, but that actually allows small pieces of equity in the final film.
I would have no problem with a famous, maybe rich indie film maker asking for a little of my money to make a film the studio won't let him make, assuming that if the profits come in upon release, I get a small bit of return on my investment.
This way - you CAN patronize your favorite artists and encourage more creative unique art, but not just be taken advantage of.

July 23, 2013

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That has actually been illegal in the united states since the great depression era for anyone not cleared by the SEC. That is changing, and these investing platforms are coming, but it is a new world out there. Kickstarter is not meant to pioneering the investing frontier.

July 23, 2013

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Dan

As a side note - the Kickstarter is a direct model but the financing of films through the outside investors have been done forever. It's just that the old intermediaries - studios and agencies - have gotten their dibs and the cut first historically while culling the projects for both quality and quantity in the process. The next logical step would be for similar entities - agencies would likely be involved here as well - to set up a similar system but with the alternative distribution channels that skips the current studios+theaters setup. In other words, private hedge funds or high net worth individuals could become investors for a multitude of lower budget films that are VOD oriented. The allure of Hollywood and connection to fame can not be underestimated. (which is why Kickstarter exists to begin with)

July 23, 2013

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DLD

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