All In   |  July 26, 2013

Spike Lee is on Kickstarter

Director Spike Lee is appealing for funds on Kickstarter for his latest project. He's just the latest bold-faced name who is looking to crowdfund. What does this mean for independent filmmakers? Chris Hayes talks with documentary filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, and David Edelstein, film critic for New York magazine.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> people, i'm spike lee . this is my office here in ft. wayne, brooklyn. the republic of brooklyn. i need you to help me finance our new next film through kickstarter. yes, kickstarter.

>> you heard that right. renowned film major spike lee is on kickstarter. what began as a noble cause , ultimate democratization of the film industry through crowd sourcing has taken up the plight of famous people with money. filmmakers who, perhaps, do not so much need money to start projects as they want money to start projects. the uninitiated kickstart is an online platform that helps independent filmmakers and all kinds of other folks with all kinds of ideas to get projects going through the magic of crowd finding. you have a film or creative endeavor you'd like to develop, don't have the money, start a kickstarter and ask others to help you meet your goal. spike lee 's voyage, asking folks for $1.25 million is just the latest entry into what has become a bit of a trend. earlier this year the creator of the tv series " veronica mars "can started a kickstarter to shore up funds for a movie. asking fans to pay not for an independent film but a studio movie distributed by warner bros . fans stepped in with nearly $6 million. the film meeting its $2 million goal in less than 11 hours. movie wrapped production this week. actor and director, zach, soon swro joined in asking nonfamous people for money for a sequel to his cult hit " garden state " and raised a little over $3 million. that brings us back to spike lee . lee pitched his fans in the promise of spike lee joint but didn't offer too many details on what the film would be about. he did, however, remind fans of scores of other films he's made and had distributed. in lee's defense, "slate" points out, he has a long struggle of getting funding for his projects. last year's red hook summer was self-financed and shot in 19 days. it's something spike lee addresses.

>> you might say, spike, you didn't connect, do the right thing, blah, blah, blah. it's a different climate now. the only way to ensure as an independent filmmaker that your vision gets on screen is when you bring the money to the table.

>> the reason why spike lee is here, the reason why zach braff is here and countless others is because the film industry is, what's the word? a mess. the big studios don't want anything to do with movies that aren't a sure thing. in other words, unless he wants to direct superman 19, spike lee may not have any other options. joining me at the table, filmmakers, carl and tia, who funded their documentary through kickstarter. and a chief film critic for "new york" magazine. great to have you here. you guys have this documentary about the koch brothers coming out and filmed it through kickstarter, right?

>> actually we got green lit by public television . we got funding last year by a little agency that gives public moneys for films like us. the money got taken away from us because of david koch 's influence at pbs .

>> a piece was written in the "new yorker," you suspect the koch brothers big footed pbs . one of them sits on the board, if i'm not mistaken, and the funding dried up --

>> david koch sits on two boards at pbs and was zang lg a big donation. because of that, the agency that cure rates and funds films like ours pulled their port.

>> then you're screwed.

>> we were screwed then we went to kick starter. we lost out not only on our funding but public television audience.

>> you went to kickstarter and did that work.

>> it was cool. in the aftermath of jane mayer 's article in may, we hadde dozens of e-mails coming in from strangers. people kept saying, where can i give to kickstarter? where can i give to kickstarter? it felt really appropriate. here is a case where you have a public agency controlling the public airwaves cayiving to the influence of a private donor.

>> to get the public to fund it.

>> absolutely.

>> did you get it funded?

>> we're on day 13.

>> right now it's up.

>> it's up right now. we have 13 days left in our campaign. we're about $25,000 short of the $150,000 --

>> you hear that? take a click over to kickstarter. how do we feel, david and carl and tia, how do we feel about the spike lee moving into that space? the project you're talking about sounds like the ideal project for kickstarter. i have friends who are film students or young filmmakers who have done kickstarter. there seems something different about spike lee doing it.

>> first of all he's a hell of a salesman. remember back to his first commercials where she's got to have it where he portrayed himself as this character selling tube socks. i remember calling my review of "she's got to have it" birth of a salesman . you know, he brings that urgency and that hipness and says i want you to come and be part of my community. the sad thing is spike lee doesn't have much of a community in terms of box office . his last films have really tanked and hollywood doesn't want to do business with him unless as you said it's something the chinese would be interested in seeing like a superman movie .

>> that gets to what is happening. you're filmmakers, right? what is happening in the entire structure of the industry? the reason you have spike lee on kickstarter and zach braff , we are watching -- i can't think it's an overstatement -- the structure of film funding to implode on itself.

>> you can't get a serious mid-level movie made anymore because so much of the profits for studios now are coming from abroad. and people don't want to spend the money to advertise abroad the way they do here. and so the international --

>> the only thing that translates, or they think translates is a big monster movie .

>> the chinese want imax, want 3-d. i'm talking about the chinese because in a few years they're going to exceed the american audience.

>> wow.

>> and so that's how the studios are thinking, and even when people like spielberg and lucas say this is a reckless strategy and this isn't going to work, then you know you're in trouble.

>> here's steven spielberg . it's going to be an implosion or meltsdown, three or four, half dozen of the megabudgeted movies are going to go crashing into the ground, that's going to change the par kadigparadigm. for folks working in a different corner of this industry, what does that oger for you?

>> i'm a fan of spike's films .

>> you think it's good? you don't think it's zero sum ?

>> no, no, there are a lot of people coming into kickstarter because of spike. i'm a backer of spike's, you know, project. i hope he becomes a backer of ours. i think his films need to be made. he takes risks. they're smart. they're political. they've got attitude.

>> this is an interesting idea. i think there's two ways of viewing spike lee on kickstarter. one is a kind of, well, that's going to -- essentially we're making something made for grassroots folks and independent people be sucked up by famous people . the other is it's not zero sum . people come to give money to spike lee and might click on some other films that are in kickstarter.

>> absolutely.

>> it also brings you closer to the work. this is an age where the millennials, they're, you know, we're tweeting with the president.

>> right.

>> and so everybody wants to be closer and closer to the -- i think that's a great thing.

>> the president and i always direct message.

>>> we will be right back to look at how all this is playing out on the small screen. television as we know it is changing in the new media as well. stay with us. we'll