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Spike Lee Says He's Already Made Back His Investment In 'Red Hook Summer' And Then Some...

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by Tambay A. Obenson
June 12, 2012 5:09 PM
10 Comments
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Time is flying on by, as the theatrical release date for Spike Lee's latest work, Red Hook Summer, fast approaches. August 10 to be exact, almost exactly 2 months from today; it seems like it was just yesterday that I saw the film at the Sundance Film Festival, where it caused a bit of a stir (my review HERE if you missed it).

I expect Spike to soon begin the usual PR campaign that accompanies most film releases; that is if he hasn't already, with this GQ interview, posted on their site earlier today. 

I certainly hope I get a chance to interview him as well, leading up to the film's release.

But in the meantime... we'll run with the GQ piece, in which he reveals a few interesting items to note.

First, in response to the first question about the origins of Red Hook Summer (RHS), Spike had this to say:

Well Red Hook Summer is a writing collaboration between myself and a great novelist, James McBride. Over breakfast we were bemoaning the state of African American cinema and I told him I just bought a camera, this new Sony F3 camera, and said we should write something. One thing led into another and the product was Red Hook Summer.

So he shot RHS with the Sony F3 then. We already knew that he co-wrote the script with McBride, who Spike has said was responsible for the religious aspects of the story, telling GQ...

James McBride's parents actually founded the church we shot in. Unlike him, I did not grow up in the church. The only time I went to church was when my parents shipped me and my siblings' black asses down South to spend the summer with our grandparents to get rid of us. James and I have a different perspective growing up as far as going to church, and we wanted to incorporate young people in this film. You have this thing where a young, black, middle-class teenager growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta has a father die while serving in Afghanistan. His mom, who really raised him, then sends him to the Hook.

And when asked about his so-called "epic Sundance rant" that really wasn't all that epic... Spike said:

Well here's the thing, though: If I had to do that over, I would have just taken out a couple motherfuckers. But I wasn't lying though!

Hah!

The interviewer suggests that Spike is "stepping into Tyler Perry's realm by making a religious film," which I thought was silly, and Spike did as well, replying...

There's a lot of religion in Jungle Fever, Ozzie Davis is the good reverend doctor. There is a lot of religion in Malcolm X. So my man don't have the domain on religion and those films were made before he started making films. He's kind of bogarted it now, but it's not his private domain. Religion isn't just for one filmmaker, or one novelist, or one playwright.

And when asked why, of all the films he could make, he chose this particular film to put his own money into, Spike said:

I'm not trying to get a medal or pat on the back when I say that I financed this myself. It's just what needed to be done. Studios were not going to make this film.

And further, a revelation that I had to stop and ponder, Spike added:

Here's the thing, though: I got my money back already from Red Hook Summer, and then some. All before the film has even opened.

Well then... of course I'm wondering how exactly that happened, and the only thing that makes any sense is that money was made via the deal with Variance Films to release the film theatrically, as well as Image Entertainment picking up non-theatrical rights to the film, and potential foreign rights sold to international territories (recall the film was shopped at the Cannes Film Market last month, screened privately for international distributors; so maybe it was sold to a few).

But that's obviously wonderful for Spike, I'm sure, that he's made his money back and then some, before the film has even opened! That leaves one question I'd love an answer to: what was the film's budget?

Spike then went on to talk about all the projects he wanted to make but couldn't, primarily due to a lack of financing - the James Brown biopic with Wesley Snipes, Brooklyn Loves Michael Jackson, and...

... the Jackie Robinson movie for a long time and then someone else is doing that. I worked a year on a great script written by John Ridley on the LA riots, but couldn't get that financed. Worked a long time on a James Brown script, could not get that financed. Wesley Snipes was going to play the Godfather of Soul. So it's been a question of finance.

But he's busy as he notes in the interview, with a documentary on the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson's Bad album, the Go Brazil Go documentary we've told you about, the Mike Tyson one-man who coming to Broadway later this year, and...

... then we got, God willing, Oldboy coming up in the fall...

When the interviewer asks him what the hold-up is on Oldboy, Spike states...

Waiting for the green light. Josh Brolin...My man from District 9, Sharlto Copley... You know they're still trying to get the numbers straight, but I think it's going to happen.

Let's hope so, despite the fact that many-a-fanboy/girl has expressed concern for a Spike Lee-directed Oldboy.

Good stuff all around however; if you'd like to read the full interview, click HERE.

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10 Comments

  • eshowoman | June 13, 2012 10:10 PMReply

    I still cannot see how Oldboy can be made into an American film. The combination of torture, incest & eating live squid is not usually on any Hollywood producers high concept list.

  • NOBRAINER | June 12, 2012 11:45 PMReply

    To the title of this article... "So?"

  • Katie | June 12, 2012 11:35 PMReply

    I also have to agree as say Lee handle the religion question nicely. Tyler Perry can have a seat as far as I'm concerned. I've already have the Red Hook set on my calender as a must see. I also commend Lee for taking action instead of just complaining like so many people. He saw a void and sought to fill it. That's why he's one of my favorites people in film, period.

    I REALLY hope he uses this opportunity to create more films.

  • Mark & Darla | June 12, 2012 10:52 PMReply

    Rather watch a snail and turtle race than the movie or doc mention above. See why he is having trouble scraping up money. Where are this foreseeable audience for these projects, oh yeah, they all live in Bed Stuy Brooklyn, NY, NY what a small world.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | June 12, 2012 8:55 PMReply

    First thing: Good for Spike. Second thing: Great answer on the question about Citizen Coon and religion in black cinema. Third thing: Spike's making far better documentaries right now than feature films; might wanna throw his ankles in that realm exclusively for a while. Fourth thing: I wouldn't call myself a fan of "Oldboy," but I really don't see a need for an American remake (although certain peculiarities in Lee's storytelling style have my curiosity piqued regarding how it would translate, if you will, under his direction).

  • reeler than real deal hollyfield | June 12, 2012 6:10 PMReply

    I don't know if it made its money back since variance is like freestyle releasing...they don't purchase films for theatrical release however they simply help you get it into theaters for a fee. As for DVD rights that does not come until after the film has made some money and the respective split up occurs. They did the deal with variance because they received no formal distribution where they would have gotten money upfront thus foreign territories are also out the window. Need proof just check imdb. not hating just saying. If he did make back the money I would like to know how he did it so I can incorporate the knowledge in my cranium.

  • al | June 12, 2012 7:27 PM

    Depending on the budget Spike may have made his money back on the DVD rights alone. When you sign a DVD deal you are sometimes given a "minimum guarantee" which is just what it sounds like. You may get a percentage upon signing the contract , another payment when you deliver the film and the last portion on the "street date" or when the movie is in stores etc. Inside secret here ... generally that minimum guarantee is all you ever see because although the filmmakers generally negotiate a percentage on the back end distributors are very creative at pulling expenses out of there --s to make certain that you don't see another nickel although it might be a bit better for a filmmaker of Spike's stature.

  • LeonRaymond | June 12, 2012 6:56 PM

    From what I heard he made his money back by that new method called Pre-VOD Pre-Sales and Pre Stream Sales, I wouldn't be able to get that but a name Director like him can get many outlets to purchase right in advance !!!

  • Dankwa Brooks | June 12, 2012 5:22 PMReply

    I read the GQ article earlier and I was SHOCKED that Old Boy wasn't greenlit. I'm like WTF?! I thought it was. How can the cast be signed and the deal not be greenlit? I cram to understand.

    In any case I hope Spike does indeed do interviews with outlets like S&A. He's gonna need all the grassroots groundswell he can muster.

    As far as the budget? The actors may have been working for scale and the leads deferments. You saw it Tambay. You give us an estimate. LOL

  • NOBRAINER | June 12, 2012 11:47 PM

    To answer your first question, it's Spike Lee. He is still a notable filmmaker with an extensive resume of films. Agents/actors just have to know he is calling upon them.

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