Spike Lee's projects and statements tend to attract attention. And in the last three months the iconic film director and cultural voice has been making waves, again.
The man who crafted “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X” has received an Academy Honorary Award; released his controversial gun control film, “Chi-Raq,” as Amazon Studio’s first original movie; and ignited media buzz by announcing that he would skip the Oscars because their nominations lacked diversity.
Just days after shunning the Oscars, Lee will be at ASU Gammage at 7 p.m. Friday, March 4, to host a live, free Q&A session with ASU students and audience members. The discussion will focus on contemporary issues including gun control and race relations as well as Lee’s visionary work in a culture dominated by re-makes, sequels and franchised superheroes.
The presentation, “Why We Need Spike Lee — and All Visionary Artists,” is the inaugural event sponsored by ASU’s Film Spark, a recently-formalized program to give students Hollywood experience. The program, based in ASU’s California Center in Santa Monica, has been informally organizing events and connecting students with internships and filmmaking opportunities but was fully launched in January 2016 with an official endorsement from ASU President Michael Crow.
“Programs like Film Spark demonstrate why ASU was ranked the country’s most innovative school by U.S. World and News Report,” said Steven J. Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “Bringing a world renowned and groundbreaking filmmaker like Spike Lee to campus to talk about the future of movies is exactly what the largest and most comprehensive arts and design school in the country should be doing.”
“I saw Spike Lee speak as an undergraduate and graduate student,” said Adam Collis, a professor in the Herberger Institute's School of Film, Dance and Theatre, and the director of ASU Film Spark. “The experience was life changing. The opportunity to bring this free event to the ASU community as well as to the general public is a great honor and demonstrates how ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts fulfills its mission to transform society and project all voices.”
In alignment with that mission, ASU Film Spark has three primary goals that situate it at intersection of the entertainment industry and academia:
• Career Accelerator: to advance the careers of ASU students and alumni in the entertainment industry
• Innovation Hub: to develop ideas and practices for a better industry, culture and society
• Southern California Outreach Arm: to expand awareness of ASU for the industry and prospective high school students
Film Spark began as a simple video-conference with a filmmaker that grew into a mission to connect ASU with the best filmmakers and executives in the world.
“After our first video-conference, my students went crazy,” Collis said. “It was obvious that we could deliver a lot of value by connecting them with successful filmmakers.”
Since then, ASU students have had the opportunity to speak with four Oscar-winners, five Oscar-nominees, three studio chiefs and the presidents of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Directors Guild of America, as well as numerous blockbuster producers and award-winning directors.
Film Spark’s Feature Film Internship Initiative gave 85 ASU students and 15 recent alumni the chance to learn filmmaking on an actual feature film set with an Oscar-winner cast and crew on the production of “Car Dogs,” which will be released in September of this year.
Major upcoming Film Spark activities include:
• 2016 Feature Film Internship Project: For the fourth year in a row, students have the opportunity to learn how to prep, film, edit and publicize a feature film alongside veteran Hollywood professionals as interns on a feature film set. This year’s project is an innovative documentary executive produced by three-time Oscar winner Mark Jonathan Harris.
• Hollywood Invades Tempe!: A screening/Q&A series featuring “Jurassic Park” and special effects artist Mike Trcic.
• Coffee with Howard: Gives film students one-on-one career consultations with Emmy-nominated writer-producer and ASU alum Howard Burkons.
• Hollywood Alumni Hotline: Offers young alums facing critical career decisions the chance to get advice from veteran industry professionals.
• All for One: A national gathering to promote gender equality both behind and in front of the cameras.
• Welcome To Hollywood: An ongoing class that gives students a 50,000-foot view of the entertainment industry while giving them the chance to learn from working Hollywood professionals who visit the class.
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