Spike Lee On The Value Of Owning Your Own Brand

Film critic Patrick Goldstein recently wrote his last piece for the LA Times. The article, “Wanted: A Few Good Mavericks“, is about the lack of originality in Hollywood and it’s worth reading in full. In particular though, Goldstein’s bit about what sets Spike Lee apart from other directors in Hollywood stood out:

In 1988, not long after his first success, I heard Lee give a speech to a group of black college students in which he preached the value of capitalism. If you didn’t own your own business or brand, he said, you’d always be working for the man. As a filmmaker, Lee has practiced what he preached. He runs a Brooklyn-based production company that has made enough money, largely through Lee-directed ads, to allow him to fund internships and college prep programs as well as make such message-oriented documentaries as “When the Levees Broke,” the Emmy Award-winning TV miniseries about the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans. It’s what makes Lee different from indie peers Paul Thomas Anderson or Wes Anderson. They are gifted filmmakers, but they seem to disappear down a rabbit hole between films, while Lee is always on call, weighing in on issues that matter.

How do Spike Lee’s thoughts fit into today’s animation world, where selling one’s creation to a TV network is often considered the pinnacle of success? Is giving up control of one’s creation a prerequisite for success in our industry, or can artists who own their brands carve out successful careers? Can an artist sell a creation to a corportion, but still maintain the integrity of their personal brand ? There may be no easy answers, but I think these are questions worth asking.

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