With Spike Lee‘s “Oldboy” remake in theaters this weekend, a whole other conversation is emerging around the movie that has nothing to do with Josh Brolin‘s preferred 3 hour cut or the studio mandated edits to the iconic hammer hallway fight sequence. Rather, it has to do with the film’s marketing and a designer who claims his concepts were used without his permission.
Juan Luis Garcia has taken to his personal website and written an open letter in which he details his experience working on early artwork for “Oldboy.” In short, he claims in January of this year he was hired by an ad agency, who was working directly with Spike Lee, to put together artwork for “Oldboy.” Over two months Garcia says he was “taken advantage of, lead on, lied to, manipulated, and harassed” by the agency but was told Lee really liked what he came up with. That’s where things got particularly troublesome:
The agency told me, “Congratulations, Spike loved a couple of the posters. Yours is going to be the key art.”, and I was thrilled. But when it came time to negotiate the licensing buyout fee the agency made an insultingly low offer. But they said that the important thing wasn’t the money it was the exposure and potential for more work. After thinking about it long and hard I had to decline. I tried to negotiate but they refused. I make the same amount of money in a single day as a photo assistant as what they offered and I had worked on these almost exclusively for two months. Plus there was still more work to be done so I had to refuse.
The agency was furious. They told me that I didn’t want to mess with Spike Lee, that I would never work again, that I was a despicable human, that they wish they never met me, and that they were going to sue my ass to oblivion. For what, I honestly don’t know. We never signed any contracts or work-for-hire agreements and I certainly never agreed to donating or selling any copyright of my work without a licensing fee.
The worst part of all this is that I never even got paid the peanuts they owed me. I was fine with it as long as they were out of my life. I couldn’t take another condescending phone call because I was “only a designer.” Many sleepless nights forced me to chock it up as a loss and learning experience and try to move on with my life.
Indeed, Garcia had put it behind him until he recently found his artwork and concepts on the personal and professional social media areas for Spike Lee and his production company, leading to the open letter. So what does Lee think of all this? There hasn’t been much from his camp, but yesterday morning he tweeted the following: “I Never Heard Of This Guy Juan Luis Garcia,If He Has A Beef It’s Not With Me.I Did Not Hire Him,Do Not Know Him.Cheap Trick Writing To Me.YO”
There is likely more to come from both sides before this is resolved. Until then, check out Garcia’s work below followed by the officially released poster, and us know your thoughts in the comments section.