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Spike Lee Does the Right Thing: The Seven Ways He Revamped His Kickstarter Campaign

Spike Lee Does the Right Thing: The Seven Ways He Revamped His Kickstarter Campaign

Spike Lee has had a hard time getting love from industry pundits and journalists for his ill-conceived Kickstarter campaign.  If you follow the campaign close enough, though, it’s clear Lee is learning as he goes along.  And as the campaign goes along, it’s actually unfolding beautifully.

When Lee launched the campaign for “The Newest Hottest Spike Lee Joint,” a film about “Human beings who are addicted to Blood. Funny, Sexy and Bloody. A new kind of love story (and not a remake of “Blacula”),” he received a lot of criticism for not knowing much about the community standards of the platform he was asking for money on.  He encountered the now-expected “get celebrities off of Kickstarter” backlash, but he also was critiqued for not explaining why someone as wealthy and connected as he was (He is working, after all, with a HBO Mike Tyson doc and the remake of “Oldboy” about to be released.).  He was also criticized for saying nothing about the film other than that it was about people with blood addictions and that it wasn’t about vampires.

The complaints against Lee were basically that his pitch was miscalibrated; it came off as out-of-touch and exploitative.  Aisha Harris at Slate’s BrowBeat culture blog stepped up and explained how Lee should improve his pitch.  She splits up her critique into three parts:  Lee’s newness to Kickstarter is evident, he doesn’t sell his financial struggles well enough (“Malcolm X” needed to be saved by Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, and Magic Johnson; despite the fact that “Inside Man” was a hit for Lee, he wasn’t allowed to make a sequel), and he doesn’t say anything about the film.  After a few days, Lee’s changed his tune in the first two regards.  He still thinks that audiences know too much about films before going to see them (and that Kickstarter campaigns are potentially just as bad as trailers that give out all the details of a film). 

Well, things are turning around for Lee.  Here are the seven things he’s done that have changed the spin on his campaign:

1. Lee stood strong to his message, that he was an indie filmmaker who supports his NYU students and often has more trouble than you’d imagine producing the films he most wants to get made.

Though he’s saying the same things, Lee is acknowledging that not everyone knows that he is a generous presence at NYU, that not everyone knows his trouble getting his films funded, that not everyone has seen his films. An appearance on Bloomberg News in which he got in a heated discussion with the host led to a big day of donations.

2. He started making announcements about the film.

Early on the campaign, he announced that Raphael Saadiq would be composing music for the film.  This week, he announced that British actress Zarrah Abrahams will play the lead female role in the film.

3. He’s constantly updating his campaign page and is interacting with fans.

He’s sending personal shout-outs to every single person that posted a comment announcing their favorite Lee film.

4.  He changed his campaign video so that he didn’t come off as so smug. 

He also changed the key art for the campaign to allude to the style of “Do the Right Thing,” his classic examination of racial tension in Brooklyn.  Much, much better Spike.

5. He shared his list of essential films all filmmakers need to see.

In case you didn’t see it, it’s here.  Here’s a list of the films on that list that are streaming online.

6. He struck a chord with basketball fans.

At this point, twenty-six backers will be going to Madison Square Garden to see the Knicks play in Lee’s wife’s seat.  While it may harm his marriage, the offer raised at least $26,000 so far.

7.  He’s hosting a Brooklyn party.

Hipster hangout Brooklyn Bowl will be hosting a DJ party in support of the Kickstarter campaign, which will have a $25 cover at the door.  Below is the invite.

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Things aren't "turning around" for him just because you say so. The list doesn't help, it's just routine Kickstarter campaign maintenance. All that hate he earned is stronger than ever.

Film Maker

He might have "cleaned up his campaign video," but HE is still on it. He's a total jerk and not worth the discussion. Isn't Kickstarter for new and unknown filmmakers? Unfortunately, we've seen too much of this guy.


Based on a sampling from Braff’s "Wish I Was Here", Franco’s "Palo Alto" and Lee’s "Untitled Blood Addiction non-Blackula Spike Lee Joint" crowdfunding campaigns, who do you think offered the best reward for:

$20 –
BRAFF: streaming link of soundtrack for his movie, plus production diary updates and the pdf of the script.
FRANCO: audio versions of the palo alto stories by Franco plus script pdf and a thank you to indiegogo supporters in the credits.
LEE: Making of Malcolm X book autographed by Spike Lee OR a special screening online opening weekend plus production updates.

$200 –
BRAFF: your name in a scene in the movie plus art prints, t-shirt, “Backer’s thank you” screening, soundtrack sneak peek, weekly playlists, production diary and script OR Advance screening plus everything from prints to script.
FRANCO: personalized signed Yearbook photo, name in thank you credits in all 3 movies, plus postcards, audio versions of stories, james franco narrated art video and script.
LEE: one sheet of Old Boy signed by Spike Lee.

$2500 –
BRAFF: Spend the day on the set and/or be an extra in the movie plus everything from prints to script.
FRANCO: spend the day on the set with Franco plus everything from name in credits to script. LEE: spend the day with Spike Lee and Raphael Saadiq in the studio and watch him in a recording session. In L.A.

$10000 –
BRAFF: the film slate used during production OR be a cast member with a line in the movie plus 2 inviteS to LA or NYC premiere, afterparty, plus art prints to script.
FRANCO: exec producer credit on one of the shorts and exclusive dinner with Franco and the production team plus tote bag and everything from postcards to script.
LEE: spend a day on the set, attend an all day master filmmaking seminar, museum tour of 40 acres and a mule building, spend a day editing with Spike, autographed limited edition poster of the movie, signed crew t-shirt, signed dvd of the movie, signed screenplay of the movie, 2 tickets to world premiere in NY or LA and 2 tickets to the afterparty OR the movie's Malcolm X flag (of which only 4 exist) OR private dinner with Spike and courtside seats with Spike at MSG to watch the Knicks play.

Curious to know how you would assess the quality of those awards at different prices.

Dankwa Brooks

As someone who has followed the campaign since it debuted I think Spike HAS DONE a great job at learning the Kickstarter way and has been giving GREAT updates on his campaign.


The basketball offer has raised $260,000, not $26,000. To quote Tom Lehrer: that's mathematics.


@SpikeLee — One humble suggestion to the next cut of your Kickstarter video: in the portion of the video where you remind folks about your teaching commitments and investments in younger filmmakers, add a montage of the key art and posters (or a montage of clips/trailers) of the first films of your students (or fledgling filmmakers) where you lent your name as "producer" or "executive producer." Off the top of my head: Pariah, Love & Basketball, This Girl is in Trouble, et al.


Glad to see he's been open to amending at least a part of his campaign. Always struck me as peculiar how Spike was trying to "hype" a crowdsourcing platform that's already 4 years old. He came across as terribly obsolete, ironic for someone who prided himself on being ahead of the curve, creatively, collaboratively, etc.

Mike White

>>3. He's constantly updating his campaign page and is interacting with fans.<<

Misogyny, Thy Name is Lee

Unfortunately his list of films all filmmakers need to see perpetuates his own image – that of a misogynist, out of touch jerk. The fact that there isn't a single woman on that list makes me even LESS likely to donate. Yeah, he might make his money off a bunch of dudes, and good for him, but he's alienating 51% of the population with that awful list.

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