Spike Lee got a lot of flack for his Kickstarter campaign, mostly for all the wrong reasons. There’s nothing wrong with established filmmakers trying to crowdfund. They’re only doing it because studios are so focused on megabudget “tentpoles” (such a stupid word), that they ignore anyone trying to create a smaller project for a specific market (something they do at their own peril, but more on that later). All filmmakers are doing by turning to Kickstarter is proving that those specific markets exist. And that’s a net good as far as I’m concerned.
That said, Spike Lee went on Kickstarter and said his film was going to be “about the addiction of blood,” and then basically read his IMDB page to the camera. It seemed so ill-conceived that people wondered if it was a practical joke. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that it wasn’t (Spike never seemed like the practical joke type, for one thing). Recently, Lee explained to FilmSchoolRejects what was going on underneath his fashionable mini-top hat that day:
It’s funny, and also sad, that you had to list off a good amount of your work on Kickstarter. It’s–
I had to! You know why? People forgot. People have forgotten. It was on purpose to list my body of work. I had to do that, because I’ll admit it, I’m very stingy over what this film is about. I understand that this film we’re about to do, for it to work for audiences, they have to know as little as possible about the movie. Today’s moviegoing audience wants to know everything about a film before it comes out. A lot of that has happened because of the way trailers are cut today. Rarely you go to a theater and see a trailer where they don’t show you the whole movie. In many cases, you don’t have to see the movie, because you saw the trailer! As a filmmaker and audience member, I hate that.
He makes an easy-to-agree-with point about trailers showing too much, but Spike Lee’s Kickstarter didn’t come anywhere near offering a trailer. He didn’t even tell us the title. Knowing a character’s name or even what characters are going to be in the film, or where and when it’s going to be set aren’t going to spoil it. They’re things people naturally might want to know if they’re going to give you money.
Zach Braff’s Kickstarter had a synopsis, concept art, a title – the kind of stuff that gets people interested in the movie. Probably why he raised $2 million in four days, while Spike Lee is hovering at $356K after a week. If you’re going to claim that people who donate on Kickstarters are investors and not fans, you have to treat them like investors, not people who will give you $30 bucks for your autograph like a Trekkie convention.
Nonetheless, Spike still has at least one high-profile fan:
Why do you think no studio would back this new one?
It’s too small and intimate. This film isn’t something that will open globally and make $400M on opening weekend, which has been the strategy lately. They want all these films to become tentpoles, which is the very reason why my man Steven Soderbergh has retired from making feature films with studios. Now he’s working exclusively for cable television, which, in my heart, is doing the most interesting work.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to my man Steven Soderbergh, who was the first person to pledge $10,000 on this film. I’m taking him to do dinner and he’s going to sit courtside with me in the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, to watch the beloved New York Knickerbockers. I’ve sold ten of those already. [rest of the interview at FilmSchoolRejects]
So Steven Soderbergh gave Spike $10,000 of his own money. You know, Steven Soderbergh seems like a real cool dude, and I’m not just saying that because he directed my favorite movie Magic Mike. Spike Lee should join forces with Steven Soderbergh and the chronically stalled Beverly Hills Cop 4 peopleat Paramount, for Beverly Hills Magic Mike. I would give him all of the moneys.
Beverly Hills Magic Mike: The Quest for Lawbreakers. That’s a sure-fire hit.