Lee spoke to our students about the film industry and entrepreneurship. He talked for an hour on his life and career, how he became a director and actor. Coming from a family that encouraged art and creativity, he discovered his passion for filmmaking after someone game him a super 8 camera while he attended Clark Atlanta University.
Lee’s NYU thesis film, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, got him noticed. But it wasn’t until his first film, She's Gotta Have It was released that his career took off. With a meager budget of $175,000, the movie grossed $8 million worldwide. The rest is cinema history: School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, Malcolm X, Inside Man--to name a few. (My personal favorite is He Got Game.)
Lee encouraged the audience of young entrepreneurs to find work that they're passionate about, and not just look for the biggest paychecks. Although, he also thought going to grad school and waiting out the recession is not a bad idea, either. Lee was as funny and thoughtful and engaging as you might imagine. More than that, he was real--I wouldn't have expected otherwise.
So for those of you wondering if I gave Lee a copy of Underlife, the answer is no. Didn't bring an extra copy. He made it clear early on that he wasn't excepting movie scripts, head shots, etc. But I was in a group photo with my department. Can't wait to see how it turned out.