It says something about the state of film financing today that Spike Lee had to pay out of pocket himself for his upcoming "Red Hook Summer." But it also makes its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival all the more fitting, at an event where big stars tend to take to center stage, the filmmaker is arriving with a movie starring a cast nearly entirely made of unknowns, telling exactly the sort of story Hollywood just doesn't make. And Lee is well aware that the people who control the money, just aren't interested in black characters or stories.
"Look, take away the big stars — Will Smith and Denzel [Washington] — and look at the people who have a greenlight vote. Where are the people of color? That's what it comes down to. How many people, when they have those meetings and vote on what movies get made, how many people of color are in those meetings? That's not to say that's the only way to get a film made, but you're talking about Hollywood specifically here. And if you want to get a Hollywood film made, it has to get greenlit," Lee told Risky Business, when asked about opportunities for black filmmakers. "And I want someone to tell me: Who is a person of color who has a greenlight vote in this industry today?"
And don't ask him to explain how "The Help" managed to take a civil rights story and spin it into a mainstream succes. "OK, let me ask you a question: Why did 'Driving Miss Daisy' win best picture in 1989? That's my answer," he says.
But Lee did what he had to do get "Red Hook Summer" made, with the production coming in under $1 million and shot on a lean eighteen day schedule. The story centers around a young boy from Atlanta who heads to the titular neighborhood to spend the summer with his grandfather, who he's never met. Early word is that the film takes a very dramatic turn in the last act, possibly as incendiary as Mookie's (who also makes an apperance) garbage can through Sal's window in "Do The Right Thing." Lee, however, is keeping his lips sealed for now, but he wants to make sure audiences who aren't in Park City don't have to wait too long see it, and he wants it to hit theaters, appropriately, next summer.
"That's my number-one intention," he told IndieWire. "It's why we've been working so hard to get it ready for Sundance, because we want to sell it here, which will give us enough time to set up for a summer release."
But despite the increasing difficulty to get films made — "We haven't had to resort to Kickstarter. We haven't yet. And hopefully we won't," he told the trade — he still remains optimistic for the future, with certainly has some big ambitions. Asked about a project he'd like to do some day, he tells, Risky Business, "I'd love to do a musical with Prince, Stevie Wonder or Kanye [West]. That wouldn't all be one movie! They're my dream collaborators."
And don't think he's a sourpuss for movies either, as he retains his enthusiasm for a diverse array or work.. " 'Shame' is a great film; it's my favorite film of the year," he said adding, "I loved 'Attack the Block'; it's a British indie film starring John Boyega, who is also the lead in this pilot I shot for HBO: 'The Brick,' with Doug Ellin from 'Entourage.' "
We'd be eager to see that series, but for now, our eyes on "Red Hook Summer" which premieres this weekend at Sundance.