We Spoke To Spike
This year’s Digital Edge conference in Johannesburg boasted an impressive roster of inspirational speakers getting to grips with the idea of storytelling in a digital age. No presentation was more anticipated nor more insightful than that of the event’s keynote speaker, Spike Lee, whose eponymous ‘joints’ are part of the fabric of modern American lore.
Before he hit the stage though, we had the chance to speak with Spike for a while. Now, for some context, I spent an entire semester at university in a film studies class microscopically dissecting Spike Lee’s repertoire, so I was neck-deep in hero-worship territory and the prospect of mom’s spaghetti ending up on my sweater crossed my mind more than once. I was however able to bite back the nerves, perhaps put at ease by Spike’s Zen monk-like demeanour.
You don’t need to go to film school to be a filmmaker.
I also resisted asking him validate some of my more lateral assessments of his work in decade-old Film 101 essays, and focused instead on his advice and ideas surrounding filmmaking in a digital age, particularly with limited resources as is most often the case in South Africa.
It turns out I didn’t need to waste all that time and money at university in the first place…
And while we’re on the topic of independence and self-education, there was one more golden nugget that emerged from Spike’s talk at the Digital Edge. As a professor of film at NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, Prof. Lee provides each of his graduate students with a list of 100 essential films – required viewing in his classes. It’s great seeing at least one South African film on the list (Neill Blomkamp’s ‘District 9’), and noteworthy that only a handful are from the 21st century. The man clearly has reverence for the classics. If you’re at all interested in learning from the masters, or you just want to binge on some Spike Lee-verified gems over the next few months, check out the full list below.
Filmed at the 2015 Digital Edge, Johannesburg
Featuring Spike Lee
Interviewed by Dylan Culhane
Videography by Ryan Mcmanus, Zandile Vilakazi
Edited by Michael Ellis
Sound Design by Pythonic
Titles and design by Ernst Lass
Animation by Frank Van Der Elst