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by Bryce J. Renninger
November 28, 2013 11:44 AM
21 Comments
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Is Spike Lee Using a Poster Design He Didn't Pay for to Promote 'Oldboy'?

Juan Luis Garcia A comparison of a poster that Garcia designed compared to the poster the firm went with.

Juan Luis Garcia, a photographer and graphic designer whose online portfolio includes photographs of several actors and movie posters for several films, has accused Spike Lee of using posters that he designed to promote the release of Lee's remake of the Korean classic gangster film "Oldboy," which opened in theaters yesterday.  The only problem is Garcia claims he never agreed to let the posters be used.  And he's aired his grievances in an open letter on his website.

Says Garcia about the job, 

Back in January I was approached by an ad agency that was hired to design posters for your new film, Oldboy. They wanted me to design some comps to present to you. They told me the budget was small and that they could only pay me peanuts for the comps but if you and the studio liked any of them I would then be compensated fairly through the licensing buyout fee. 

And when he gave them the work?

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. 

Garcia gave the agency his work without a contract, but told them that the fee they were asking was too low.  The agency was pissed, according to Garcia, but he thought that they would just use someone else's art.  


Well, they did...for the theatrical poster.  But on Lee's Facebook page this week, Lee released all of Garcia's designs in an effort to hype the film's release.

After Garcia's open letter was passed around on reddit and other platforms, Facebook users are attacking Lee's page with demands that he pay Garcia his due.  

Here's a look at what users were saying underneath one of the posters:

Indiewire has reached out to representatives for "Oldboy" and Garcia for a comment.  We'll update readers as the story develops.

21 Comments

  • Nothing New | November 30, 2013 5:51 PMReply

    This is nothing new... 11:24 stole the art for "Clockers" too.
    They have no original thoughts in their heads.

    Shame on you!

  • Flipper Purify | November 29, 2013 12:56 PMReply

    It's not Spike Lee's fault, but he IS the one responsible for giving ART SIMS — the owner of 11:24 Design — the gig. Art Sims has been "art directing" all of Lee's one-sheets ever since his 1988 film "School Daze" and he's been ripping off young designers for at least 20 years now.

    I should know because I was one of them.

  • Raquel | November 29, 2013 11:40 AMReply

    The journalist should have really investigated this article before publishing for various reasons 1) Old Boy is a studio film. Spike Lee has no control over the marketing of any movies not since he directed his first film . A marketing team at each studio unless its a independent film handles all marketing. 2) If it was TRUE, why didn't he get an attorney instead of doing a OPEN LETTER. If he was telling the truth he can prove that a AD agency contacted him. Not to mention the moment he created the artwork which he should be able to prove makes him the copyright owner of that poster. 3) And if a can prove that a AD agency contacted him and all information is true the AD agency is the culprits.

  • Barlowe Cross | November 29, 2013 10:40 AMReply

    The agency is 11:24 designs in Playa del rey, CA. On Wednesday I was in LA having a pre thanksgiving dinner with my friend when I went into a strabucks to get some coffee when I heard a young woman crying to friend that she needed to quit her job because the agency being called out for the Oldboy scandal...was the one she worked at. She then mentioned the agency by name and I found it here. 1124design dot com THEY are the ones who stole his work.

  • Nick | November 29, 2013 6:40 AMReply

    Spike tweeted the following an hour ago: "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"

    YO Spike - he wrote to you, because your minions are dissing him and he has exhausted all the channels. You behaving like the 1% now.

    Make it happen, pay the man.

  • IndyShindy | November 29, 2013 3:45 AMReply

    The point is not whether Spike Lee is directly responsible. The artist got ripped off, he reached out to Spike and... Spike blew him off on Twitter. Seriously?? That was just horribly petty. All he had to do was to say that he'd look into it and actually look into what happened.

    You cannot expect to play in the social media world, be on Twitter, raise funds on Kickstarter and then ignore someone who seeks your help, especially when that someone is being ripped off by people associated with you. And, most importantly, Spike is profiting off the work.

    Being ethical, being concerned is what being part of a community is about. Community is not just when you need to raise funds on Kickstarter.

  • Nike Air Force Buns | November 28, 2013 5:06 PMReply

    This is why you don't do spec work and NEVER work without a contract. Sucks to learn the hard way, but this isn't on Spike.

  • T | November 29, 2013 10:23 AM

    No it's not on spike and the artist isn't saying it is. He asked spike (artist to artist) for a helping hand and said spike using his artwork (stealing) was prolly a mistake. Spike in return acts like a complete sh-t .. THAT is why people are now p-ssed at spike. Soon as he heard that the artwork might be stolen he should have looked into it because that's what a decent human being would do.. He's a jerkoff and proves it time and time again -

  • MASTER BLASTER | November 28, 2013 3:18 PMReply

    this column is a blatant dodge of journalistic integrity. any film journalist would know IMMEDIATELY that spike doesn't own the rights to OLDBOY and he doesn't control how the film is marketed and promoted. you guys are running this purely for sensationalism and sensationalism only. spike would ONLY be using a poster he didn't pay for to promote OLDBOY because the financial producers and/or studio behind the project pay for such things. some more appropriate titles for this "articles" are:
    -Are modern journalists so desperate that they'll write anything to get some run?
    -Have Indiewire editors graduated from the 4th grade?
    -Is Indiewire so desperate for readers that they'll hire 4th graders to review articles written by journalists with little to no knowledge about the industry they're covering?

  • MASTER BLASTER | November 30, 2013 9:44 PM

    yes, i'm spike lee. you got it.

  • T | November 29, 2013 10:26 AM

    Spike used the stolen artwork on his Facebook pages. The artist just asked for the mans help and didn't accuse him of anything ! That is why people are calling spike out -

  • bailey | November 29, 2013 12:24 AM

    Spike, "Master Blaster" isn't even a clever screen name.

  • David | November 28, 2013 3:12 PMReply

    Spike Lee used someone else's art to promote HIS movie on HIS FB page and didn't pay for the privilege. The fact that there's an agency between him and the artist doesn't mean anything. He's the guy at the top. The buck stops with him and it's his responsibility. He needs to contact the agency and find out why they sent him art he wasn't licensed to use, then he needs to fire somebody, and then he needs to compensate this guy.

  • MASTER BLASTER | November 28, 2013 3:24 PM

    david, that is NOT how studio filmmaking works. from a legal AND ethical perspective, the buck stops with the people that OWN the project and/or are the people responsible for the marketing/publicity of the film. spike is neither one of those. he's the director. he's responsible for the creative integrity of the FILM. period.

  • Kohl | November 28, 2013 1:11 PMReply

    The film is 44% rotten and a flop. I wouldn't want my art associated with it either.

  • Phillip Kelly | November 28, 2013 1:08 PMReply

    The guy isn't blaming Spike Lee, but asking for his help in the batter. This article shades the intent of the letter in the wrong way, and so you aren't helping him indiewire. And if the tweet below is true, then Spike Lee is also missing the point.

  • Phillip Kelly | November 28, 2013 1:09 PM

    *help in the matter

  • Laura B | November 28, 2013 11:58 AMReply

    Spike tweeted the following an hour ago: "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"

  • Optimize | November 28, 2013 11:52 AMReply

    Blame the marketing department at Universal as well as the producers. Spike isn't responsible for this.

  • Bao | November 28, 2013 9:30 PM

    Spike is one of the producers of this project as well so it's fair for Juan to write to him about this.

  • MASTER BLASTER | November 28, 2013 3:07 PM

    exactly. the studio owns this project. or maybe an independent producer or financier does. either way, spike isn't the one to blame. c'mon, people.