Spike Lee on his Kickstarter project, ‘Old Boy’ and reuniting with Samuel L. Jackson

Famed filmmaker Spike Lee is spreading the word about his latest film project. As the Oscar-nominated director preps for the release of his highly anticipated film Old Boy this fall, Lee is already drawing attention for the follow-up — and his approach for funding it. The man behind such acclaimed movies as Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X is using the online crowd-funding service Kickstarter to raise money to produce his next independent project.

“Kickstarter is a vehicle for artists to get their works made,” Spike tells rolling out. “Yesterday on Kickstarter was our first day of 30 to raise finances for our new film. Our goal is a $1.25 million and we have 30 days to reach that. The lowest [supporters can pledge] is 5 dollars and for each pledge, there are different tiers of rewards. So you get rewards for your money and it’s affordable for everybody.”

Lee isn’t giving away too much about the film itself, but he says with a sly grin that it’s unlike anything you’ve seen at your local cinema. “The film is a psychological bloodythriller,” he explains “It’s about people who are addicted to blood, but they are not vampires. And we are not remaking Blacula.” Spike says that he became aware of the potential for using Kickstarter to fund the project after seeing actor-filmmaker Zach Braff raise $3.5 million and the “Veronica Mars” movie raise $5 million; and this project was the perfect chance for him to attempt similar results.  “This is an independent film and not what a studio would want to do because they would see that it’s too small in scope,” he says.

Lee has had a famously contentious relationship with major Hollywood studios, but he’s not doing this out of any aversion to their system. He feels that, now more than ever, filmmakers have options. And it’s especially important to utilize all avenues when big studios seem only interested in making blockbusters with franchise potential.

“Premium cable networks like HBO, Showtime and even Netflix are doing Hollywood work,” says Lee. “They’re doing stuff that you might say even surpasses what’s being done by studios now. It’s definitely more interesting, in my opinion.”

But his next release is a major studio film. And Lee says that he was excited to direct the remake of the Korean film Old Boy and doesn’t want to limit himself artistically.

“I’ve always gone back-and-forth between independent films and studio films. I still think of myself as an independent filmmaker who does Hollywood films,” he explains. “There are several things that attracted me to doing a reinterpretation of Old Boy; number one,  I loved the film; number two, it was a big challenge; number three, [star] Josh Brolin and I had been talking about working together for years.”

Old Boy also reunites Lee with Samuel L. Jackson. The two haven’t worked together since 1991, when Jackson gave a star-making performance in Lee’s Jungle Fever.

“Sam had been in School DazeDo the Right ThingMo’ Better Blues, but it was thatJungle Fever role as ‘Gator the Crackhead’ that blew him up,” Lee says. “So it was great reuniting with Sam on Old Boy. People are going to love his role in this film.”


‘Faux Pas’ producer, Chevonne Collins, prepares for black film festival circuit this August

August is a really big month for Chevonne Collins, story editor and co-producer of Faux Pas, which is hitting the film circuit.Faux Pas is a film about romance and it explores the issues of trust, mistakes, recovery, and interpersonal connection.

Collins is excited about the film which is screening at Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, The Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago, and the Black Star Film Festival in Philadelphia.

Read what she has to say.

Do you most often actively seek inspiration or does it find you? Or is it a combination of the two?
I’d say there’s a combination of the two. I’m pretty observant in general and I tend to get a lot of inspiration by just paying attention to my surroundings. Also seeing people I went to school with, used to work with, or women who look like me pursue and be successful in their craft never fails to inspire me.

What led you to art in general and to your art form in particular?
I’ve always been drawn to creativity and art of all forms. Music, books, museums, fashion, TV, you name it. When I was younger, you could bet money a gift from me would be some kind of homemade arts & crafts project (and I better see it on your refrigerator). But, it took me a while to find my niche. I began college intending to major in architecture. Then I took physics and … there went that idea. So I switched to finance because it seemed like a stable job that I could do. But when I interned at a bank for two summers and was bored to tears, I soon realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Not to mention, econ 102 had its way with me. Finally, I finished undergrad (on time) with a degree in advertising, but it wasn’t until I went to graduate school that I truly realized my strength and interest in writing. I had a professor who really inspired me and encouraged my talent in that area. He sparked my confidence in my writing ability.

Who do you consider to be your peers in your field? Who do you see/use as examples for you to emulate? Name two of your top role models: one in the art world and one from outside of it.
From the art world: Mara Brock Akil
From outside of it: My mommy.

Name three books, works, performances or exhibits that changed how you viewed life or yourself.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley
Quiet by Susan Cain
A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson




Kevin Hart explains new film, investing in himself and how Dave Chapelle’s stand-up changed his life

Kevin Hart just may be the funniest man alive, but he started with humble beginnings. For over a decade, Hart performed at small comedy clubs and appeared in low budget films with lackluster scripts. However, Hart’s hard work has come to fruition in major ways.

He stars in his own TV series, “Real Husbands of Hollywood”; will appear in the sequel to Think Like a Man. He will also star in Ride Along with Ice Cube in 2014.

But Hart gets a chance to return to his first love, stand-up comedy, with his latest film, Let Me Explain. Filmed at New York’s renowned Madison Square Garden, Let Me Explain is Hart’s follow-up to the often quoted stand-up film, Laugh At My Pain.

While in Los Angeles to promote Let Me Explain, Hart sat down with rolling out to discuss his new film, investing in himself and how a Dave Chapelle comedy show changed his life.

You released Laugh At My Pain in 2011. How long did it take you to create the subject matter for the new film, Let Me Explain?

It took about one year and a half years. I performed at small clubs and we were using the time to put the material together so that it made sense. The whole idea was to show growth from the previous special, Feel My Pain. I think that’s where all the pressure comes from. I wanted to show that I have evolved with this new film.

You put up $2.5 million of your own money to produce this film. Why did you decide to take that route?

I wanted to control the outcome. With Laugh At My Pain, I had a lot of success in doing the film under my production company. I gambled on myself. We took about $700,000 and the movie made $8 million in return. I knew that I could do it again but I wanted it to be on a larger scale this time. With Let Me Explain, we put up $2.5 million and the film will be in over 1,000 theaters nationwide. It’s about becoming a brand. It’s about understanding business and evolving as a businessman.

Stand-up comedy is the starting point and place of comfort for most comedians. What was the most important stand-up comedy show that you have ever witnessed?

Several years ago, I saw Dave Chappell after everything happened with him leaving his show. People were talking negatively about him. But I saw Dave perform in Seattle as he did two hours on stage. He was happy, had no worries and he was just talking. But it was some of the funniest stuff I had ever seen in my life. He did it effortlessly. After seeing that, I realized that I had to do better. I had to start writing better. I needed to challenge myself more. I was inspired on how easy he made his craft look.


Pharrell Williams Shares his Inspiration for Scoring 'Happy,' Despicable Me 2 Soundtrack

Producer and singer Pharrell Williams has a knack for entertaining fans of all ages. The 40-year-old Virginia Beach, Va. native is behind the adult-only Robin Thicke hit single, Blurred Lines,” and he’s also the go-to guy for the Despicable Me franchise, returning to pen songs for the second installment of the animated film.

“I think it’s awesome that Illumination makes these films [for the entire family],” he says during a roundtable interviews with media. Read what else he has to say.

What was your inspiration for the single “Happy” on the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack?
The process is usually the same. They [filmmakers] usually do one of two things. They tell you ‘Oh, you know what? We’ve just written this new scene and we need X, Y and Z.’ There’s your criteria; you have directives. Or sometimes, they will already have temp music, where the tempo really works, the feeling of the song works but the song is overplayed, or a lot of it is right, and they want something new and fresh.

Ingeniously, the writers and director chose a different overarching them for this [film] – a happier place. I feel they were smart and predicted this is where the world would be at this moment. People have become so desensitized to all the tragedies and travesties that we needed to go to a lighter place.

They used Gru (the main character voiced by Stevel Carell), the guy who is least likely if you look in your yearbook to ever be happy about something; they chose him as the main guy [to display] a really good mood and attitude. I was just so happy, pun intended to express that for him. It has really been cool. Those guys are super genius. I was so lucky to be a sticker on that rocket.

Which character was the most fun this time around?
My contribution to the first film, the songs came from things different characters would say and their behavior. This time I chose a different approach and went with the overarching theme – the air of the film. I still consider myself a novice. Scoring for a film is a comprehensive job that takes a lot of years and experience to get to a level of expertise. I am far from that. Man, I learned so much on the job like working with Heitor Pereira, Chris [Barnett] and his super crazy team. There are many different routes to get to a destination. I was happy to have my music harmonize with their intention.

Who do you identify with in the film?
I like Gru’s dry humor – the funniest things that he says are under his breath. They’re genius and relatable.

When are you releasing your next solo album?
I have been concentrating on Despicable Me and other productions.

How much do you push yourself to go beyond? 
I follow the same philosophy. When someone asks what inspires me, I respond 'that which is missing.' I don't want to copy everything that is out there because you blend in and get lost. I try to create something you never heard before. That's what I aspire to do whenever making an album.


'Twenty Feet From Stardom': Watch the Trailer

Jo Lawry, Judith Hill, and Lisa Fischer singing “Lean on Me”.

Twenty Feet From Stardom is the silver screen's version of "Unsung." Award-winning director Morgan Neville hands over the mic and and shines the spotlight on the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century including Sting, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and Bruce Springstein.

The artists' anointed voices span a range of styles, genres and eras of popular music, but their stories are intriguing in their own right and their contributions brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others.



'Black Nativity:' Birth of Jesus Christ on Silver Screen with New Flavor

Jacob Latimore, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker (Photo: Phil Bray, FOX Searchlight Pictures) 

Director Kasi Lemmons' Black Nativity will star Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and  Jacob Latimore. It's a poetic opera on the silver screen where a young teen, Langston (played by Latimore) living with his grandparents (Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett) falls asleep at church during a Christmastime mass, where he dreams of a black nativity. His single Baltimore mother (played by Hudson) falls on hard times and must send Langston to Harlem to stay with her parents.

This joyous account of the historical birth of Jesus Christ is based on Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes' song-play and fused with a screenplay by Lemmons.

In the company of the aforementioned cast is multi-Grammy Award-winning artist Mary J. Blige, who plays Platinum Fro, Langston's guardian angel.

The film will be released on November 27, 2013.


Watch: 'Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's' trailer


 

It’s the most mythic of all American emporiums – a one-of-a-kind Manhattan institution where over the last century; the view of fashion has been transformed into modern art. But behind Bergdorf Goodman’s magical window displays lies a very real world where the rich and famous wield their power and eccentricity, where young and talented designers have their dreams granted and denied, and where money and ambition co-mingle with radical ideas of beauty and provocative style. Now, for the first time, audiences get a chance to peek inside this world, as Matthew Miele’s Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s explores the history, inner workings and untold stories behind the store’s rise from a modest ladies’ tailor shop to a mirror of contemporary culture.

The legends, the parties, the windows, the women, the buyers and shoppers all come to life in this portrait of a realm where creativity and commerce collide. The 111-year history of Bergdorf Goodman echoes American history as the store comes of age. Miele traces the tale from the store’s immigrant start to its merger with the celebrity culture of the 50s and 60s to its now vital role cultivating the design prodigies fueling a global fashion obsession.

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s reveals the store after-hours, introducing the people and personalities who make it tick -- from fashion director Linda Fargo, the Bergdorf’s gate keeper who has the power to make and break the careers of new designers; to window decorator David Hoey who turns Christmas displays into gallery-worthy exhibits; to personal shopper Betty Halbreich, who doles out her no-holds-barred style advice to movie stars, politicians and fashionistas from around the world.

At the heart of it all are a series of funny and revealing stories from a star-studded list including Giorgio Armani, Candice Bergen, Manolo Blahnik, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, Naeem Khan, Michael Kors, Karl Lagerfeld, Lauren Bush Lauren, Susan Lucci, Christian Louboutin, Catherine Malandrino, Gilles Mendel, Isaac Mizrahi, Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen, Thakoon Panichgul, Joan Rivers and Jason Wu, among others.

Get Tickets and Showtimes


Actor Craig Robinson stars in Tyler Perry's latest film, 'Peeples'

Craig Robinson has honed his comedic skills by standing out as a co-star in films such as Knocked UpPineapple Express, and Hot Tub Time Machine. After years of being the hilarious side kick, Robinson will now tackle his first lead role in the new comedy, Peeples.

The hilarious film centers around Wade Walker (Robinson’s character) who seeks to win the approval of Grace Peeples’ (Kerry Washington) family. Comedy ensues as Robinson struggles to fit in with the elitist family and prove his love for Washington.

We recently spoke with Robinson who spoke about his first starring role in Peeples.

 How were you introduced to the film Peeples?

The writer/director Tina Gordon Chism will tell you we had a meeting to pitch the movie. Tina could only meet after I had a long day taping “The Office.” We met again and she ran the story down a bit more. I couldn’t ask for a better leading role.

 You have co-starred in other major films. This is your first leading role. What was the difference?The difference was that I refused to let the pressure of being a leading man get to me. The cast was great. We all bonded together. We have to get this out there and see how the people respond. We would love to get this entire crew back together.