It was expected that Spike Lee would drum up a slew of criticism for his attempt at getting his newest “Spike Lee Joint” to be crowd-sourced through Kickstarter. He’s haunted by his net worth of $40 million (as reported by celebritynetworth.com)—a hefty amount that makes critics feel he could easily fund his new film on his own dime. He refuted the claim on the second day of his campaign.
“Going into this I was well aware that there would be Haters,” Lee said on Kickstarter. “They were Hating that an established Filmmaker (Worth 40 Million – A LIE) would be on Kickstarter. But I have every right as anybody else. I’m an Independent Filmmaker and I wanted to try this.”
On the heels of the buzz surrounding his latest and most major film to date—his remake of South Korean 2003 thriller Oldboy to be released in October—he’s raised over $355,000 so far on Kickstarter within the first seven days of his 30-day campaign, on the path to meeting his $1.25 million goal. He’s brought in celebrity support including a blog post from director Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike) to video testimonials from Mike Tyson to Raphael Saadiq. The filmmaker hopes to make an independent film on a psychological thriller about blood addicts (perhaps channeling Showtime’s True Blood?), and made some commentary about Hollywood being saturated with the “ear splitting sound effects” of Transformers-esque films.
In his first video pitch, he discussed how one of his film students at NYU brought the idea of Kickstarter to his attention and he was impressed how Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas raised $5 million and Zack Braff a $3 million. “Oh snap!” he said. It seems almost implausible that someone so connected to the film industry had only just heard about Thomas and Braff’s success just days before he started his own campaign.
His latest pitch angered some more critics as he recently posted a YouTube video responding to the criticism. Lee mentioned he was aware that Braff received disapproval from critics, and then made his rhyming joke, “Zack flack.” He also responded to the judgment that he would be taking money away from the little man. On his Kickstarter page, he announced that his actions would in “no way shape or form” hurt the financing for young filmmakers, as he confirmed this with the site’s co-founders. “I’m bringing people to Kickstarter who’ve never heard of Kickstarter,” Lee said in his video. “I’m talking a lot of people of color who’ve never made a pledge on Kickstarter.”
For a person who hadn’t heard about Kickstarter until a couple of weeks ago, he’s now touting that he is championing the exposure of the crowd-sourcing website to minorities. Lee’s actions don’t exactly scream the he’s trying to do something evil, but it is a difficult pill to swallow for many who see Kickstarter as a grassroots effort to raise money for creative ideas, nonprofits, and initiatives that might be having a hard time otherwise funding the projects.
For a pledge of $10,000, Lee’s backers will get to sit courtside with him at a New York Knick’s game—in his wife Tonya’s regular seat. 17 people have already qualified for that basketball prize, including Soderbergh. New York Post’s Kyle Smith pointed out that Lee bought a “9,000-square-foot, 32-foot-wide, quasi-Italian villa with a fountain” in New York’s affluent Upper East Side for $2.7 million in 1998. If Lee says he is not even close to having $40 million as his bank account, he’s not doing so badly either.