Social commentary with a pinch of snark, Po(p)litics is ELIXHER’s weekly column by AJ Farrar that examines the latest in pop culture and politics.
This cannot be real life.
Spike Lee’s Kickstarter campaign has to be a submission to the Internet Hoax Hall of Fame, snugly wedging itself somewhere between Craigslist orders to Nigeria and AIDS syringes hidden under gas pumps. True, as a 27-year-old middle-class professional who recently asked her parents for grocery money, I can appreciate such a brazen hustle coming from any man. But there are lines you just don’t cross. Spike Lee broke the sacred Five Rules of Mooch, and crowdfunding may forever be broken because of it.
Rule #1: Assure your financier that you are genuinely in need. This is a basic provision of handout-seeking that most children learn around age 8. Opening with a “Greatest Of” reel (which, very modestly, included his entire filmography) not only reminded the audience that he is capable of creating black cinematic classics, it also reminded them that he made all of those films, many of which were filmed before he was famous, without our help. At the end of this all, in a fitting sabotage of his stated purpose, he included the credits from a $30 million film, Oldboy, which he just finished this year. The empty rationalizations for his presence on Kickstarter, spanning from, “I can no longer make movies the same way I have my entire career because…” *voice trails off*” to, “My students told me about an easy way to get money on the Interwebz,” are hardy helping his case. Which leads me to:
Rule #2: Assure your financier that you are competent. If you are an amateur filmmaker, and you are asking for money to make a film, I expect your Kickstarter video to be a cohesive, imaginative, preferably compelling representative of your fuller body of work. If you are an award-winning director, I’d expect your presentation to be at least as entertaining as, say, a video for an ironic adaptation of Huckleberry Finn, or a seasonal clock. If you can’t pass this smell test, maybe the studios have been rejecting your most recent pitches for good reason—bringing us to:
Rule #3: Hide any recent squandering of funds. Let’s ignore the obvious question of where his own money lies. The last movie Spike Lee financed without major backing from a studio was Red Hook Summer, aka “The Little Film that Shouldn’t.” I still don’t know why the daughter of a known pedophile would send her son to live with him for the summer, and the two hours and twelve dollars I spent trying to figure that out are never coming back.
Remember how your parents wouldn’t let you get that puppy until you showed you could handle a fish tank? Well, all of Spike Lee’s fish are dead. Keep him away from the pound.
Failure #4: Have a concrete plan for your money. Spike, what is this film about? “Oh, I don’t know…maybe vampires…ax murderers…horror movie buffs. I haven’t decided yet. People and blood, and oh yeah–SEX! But not like Blacula. Fuck that movie.”
Why do you need $1.25 million, when you’ve made many films for less? “Times be a’changin!”
Who will be involved in the film? “Oldboy will be released in theaters soon!”
What will this money be spent on? “The movie, I promise!”
And so ended the worst pitch of all time.
Rule #5: Use your newly acquired funds for good. I would give my left kidney to know why Spike Lee presumed that the black film canon was in such urgent need of a vampire comedy, he had to ask for public support in developing it. Who even wants this film, much less needs it? I’ve got Tara and True Blood already, and while Spike is peddling this ridiculous premise, Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station cracked the box office’s top 10 this past weekend. Do better.
Of course, regardless of the holes in this Kickstarter, Spike will get the funding he is looking for, and in a pretty cool exchange, hundreds of ecstatic fans will have 1,000 autographed pieces of his scripts floating about the country. Fame and celebrity make money just by exposure, after all. And I think I probably shouldn’t care. But when I think about the black voices still waiting to be heard outside of their local communities, and the black artists who may never be received at all, I wonder if he feels any sense of responsibility to them. I wonder if a man who has made millions feels any shame for using a platform geared toward the ill-resourced to divert attention to his own endeavors. I wonder if he cares, or if he ever considered this while taking the time in his Kickstarter video to jab blaxploitation films as a detriment to black society.
But why actually do the right thing, when you can just make a movie about it?
– AJ “Ajene” Farrar
AJ has been working as an air traffic controller since 2009, after attending Old Dominion University and George Mason University as a journalism major. She currently lives in upstate New York.