Kickstarter’s evolution from "site where scrappy independent entrepreneurs turn to raise capital" to "site where the already successful, rich, and famous go to ask their fans for money" has been slow and steady. In Hollywood, the trend reached fever pitch with the Veronica Mars team—who debuted their first footage from the film at Comic Con this past weekend—and continued on to Zach Braff, both of whom raised millions to fund passion projects that they weren’t convinced a studio would bite on. Now, adding his name (and his reported $40 million net worth) to the list of the very wealthy and successful filmmakers who’ve opted to bypass studio financing in favor of fan-financing, we’ve got Spike Lee.
Lee’s film, which is as yet untitled, seeks to raise $1.25 million to tell a story "about the addiction to blood," though the details of that are unclear, at least for the moment. Lee does assure us that there’s "a lot of sex in it, too," though. A movie apparently about vampires with a lot of sex? It is hard to imagine how a studio would ever greenlight anything like that, so Lee’s need to turn to his fans, to whom he will not be financially accountable, for funding does make sense . . .
In the video Lee made to accompany the campaign, he rattles off a list of some his (very impressive) career highlights—including successfully funding and completing his debut feature, She’s Gotta Have It, as an independent filmmaker for $175,000 through a 12-day shoot. "But now, that can’t work," Lee declares, almost certainly leading the countless independent filmmakers who’ve found new opportunities with the ever-more-affordable cost of digital video equipment and the new distribution avenues that didn’t exist when Lee made his feature in 1985 to sulk off back to their jobs at the post office. He also recounts the full list of features he’s previously made—from Malcolm X and Do The Right Thing to his forthcoming remake of Oldboy, for which he was apparently not paid enough money to finance his sexy blood movie himself—to remind viewers why he’s worth not just a ticket to see his film, but actually handing him free money with which to make it.
It’s easy to snark on the celebrity Kickstarter craze (see the previous three paragraphs), but Lee’s campaign will probably succeed, because he is one of the most acclaimed filmmakers alive, and there are probably a few million dollars’ worth of people who’d like to see what he will do when he doesn’t have a studio giving him notes again. Those folks will have the opportunity to do things like watch the film at home ($20 gets you a special online screening opening weekend, so if they pack enough people in front of the laptop, they’re actually saving money on going to see it in the theater), retrieve an autographed DVD from their mailbox ($50), or, if they have $10,000 to put toward it, enjoy "the honor and privilege to six next to" Lee at a Knicks game sometime later this year. ("YOU WILL REMEMBER THIS EXPERIENCE AS LONG AS YOU LIVE," he promises, in all caps just like that.) That is a unique opportunity, and if you are inclined to take him up on it, we won’t even ask you to inquire if he should have maybe just skipped the season tickets for a year or two so he could fund the movie himself.