Now that Spike Lee has reached his Kickstarter fund-raising goal of $1.25 million for his next film, will he fulfill his promise to celebrate on top of his favorite arena where he watches New York Knicks basketball game from his courtside seats?
In an exclusive interview with Spike in Manhattan, the director stated that if he reached his goal, "I will dance 'Da Butt' (from his 1988 film "School Daze") on top of Madison Square Garden and I'll put the video on Instagram." This would be timely since this year marks the 25th anniversary of "School Daze" which Spike says was his way of capturing "four years attending Morehouse College in a homecoming weekend." The movie featured Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson, Branford Marsalis, Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tisha Campbell-Martin early in their careers. Imagine a video of them celebrating with Spike at The Garden as he dances along with the song "Da Butt" that hit number one in 1988. It would be fitting since $290,000 was donated on Kickstarter by 29 people who in return for their $10,000 donations will sit with Spike at a Knick game.
The number one Knicks fan describes his new untitled film as, "Human beings who are addicted to blood. Funny, sexy and bloody. A new kind of love story (and not a remake of ‘Blacula’).” Michael K. Williams from "The Wire" and "Boardwalk Empire" will be one of the stars.
Spike has already completed his remake of the 2003 thriller "Oldboy" which will be released November 27 starring Josh Brolin and Samuel L. Jackson (who has appeared in several of his films).
The Morehouse graduate was criticized for using Kickstarter to raise money, and says the attacks actually attracted more contributions. He responded with anger at Trish Regan when she opened his interview on Bloomberg's "Street Smart" TV program saying, "Do the right thing. That's what many people are saying to Spike Lee as they call on the famed director to end his new Kickstarter campaign."
"She was coming with a lot of hate," says Spike. "It backfired. One person wrote me that they don't like my movies, they don't like the Knicks. but after seeing her attack me, they decided to donate to my campaign."
Some people argued that Spike's campaign would take money away from young unknown filmmakers. He defends himself by explaining that he has continually supported upcoming directors as the Artistic Director of the New York University Graduate Film Program. Since 1990 he has awarded production grants totaling over $300,000 to 44 students.
Spike states that he utilized Kickstarter principles before there was Kickstarter, raising funds with phone calls and letters. Now he is using the Internet for financing like many other filmmakers. "I got a tweet from someone who was deciding whether to eat or pledge $5," he says. "They decided they could go without the sandwich and sent me the $5. I don't want anyone to go hungry. These are people I don't know. When I read that I knew this movie has to be great."
Spike says the film studios desire for blockbuster films makes it more difficult for independent filmmakers. "It's hard to make a studio movie now." he comments. "You have to have spaceships and blow up people and have men in capes."
Spike believes that now a major studio would not distribute a film like "Malcolm X" which he produced and directed for Warner Brothers Pictures. In 1992 he ran out of money before the movie was completed, but he was rescued by contributions from several stars including Bill Cosby, Prince, Oprah Winfrey, Janet Jackson, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. However, he says those were one time favors and he can't "go back to the well again."
Last year Spike directed "Bad 25" in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson's Bad CD, and he annually celebrates Jackson's August 29th birthday with a free outdoor party in Brooklyn. He canceled this year's event but promises he will be back in Prospect Park next year paying tribute to his friend Michael. Let's hope this time he dances "Da Butt," and in tribute to Michael, adds a Brooklyn version of the moonwalk.