C2 MTL | Day 3, Spike Lee, Changing the Film Industry
Spike Lee Changes the Complexion of Film-making
A young but never naïve filmmaker is asking the greatest legend who ever stepped on the basketball court why he gave him the biggest break of his career to direct his Nike campaign. “Motherfucker….you’re wearing my shoes” he responded. The 8th year of C2 Montreal ended with Spike Lee recounting what it was like to shoot one of the most famous commercial campaigns of all time; his black and white Air Jordan commercials with Michael Jordan. MJ hand picked Spike Lee to direct it. At the time in 1991, Nike was told by the industry it was a bad idea to put a black man as your spokesman, but founder Phil Knight believed in the talent of Spike and took the risk. That was only 28 years ago. It exemplifies Spike Lee’s career, the challenges we as a society must change and the perfect example of the issues C2 MTL tries to tackle.
For 2019, C2MTL chose ‘tomorrow’ as its theme; after years of discussion, the time has come to take action today so that we have a tomorrow. Perhaps no other business conference in the world could deliver on that theme quite like C2.
To change the world you need to trust, trust in yourself, but mostly trust in your fellow person. Pivot, one of the many Cirque de Soleil designed experiences, sets you in a forest, pairs you with a stranger, and then asks you to learn to rhythmically move in symbiosis with another human. Not just trusting them to hold you up as you lean in but opening yourself to a connection that can exist once we let go of our fears of judgment. It asks of you to be bold, be brave, and be one with a stranger. How else can we build tomorrow if we are afraid of each other today?
As Spike Lee continued to recount his stories, a theme emerged. Lee has spent the majority of his career fighting racism and breaking racial ground in the film industry. At almost every turn, he faced the stereotype that you cant make black movies the way you make white movies. His epic Malcolm X, was originally only supposed to be two hours long. Hollywood executives did not think audiences would watch a three-hour movie on a black subject. Execs lied to Spike that Oliver Stone’s comparable movie, JFK, was only going to be two hours as well. Unknown to the executives, Lee was friends with Oliver and confirmed JFK’s three hour run time. Fighting with executives who already doubted the movie, the studio pulled its budget and put the film in receivership.
Undaunted and knowing “that Brooklyn Hustle” he says he learned from watching Madonna, Spike called up every “black folk with money” he knew. Malcolm X was funded to completion by Prince, Janet Jackson, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Oprah to name just a few. The movie went on to be a huge box office success, but more importantly, it proved Malcolm X can stand head to head with JFK in Hollywood. Black Panther might never have been green-lighted were it not for the ground Lee paved.
Spike Lee Continues to Inspire
A scrawny USC film student named John Singleton once came up to Spike while he was selling t-shirts on the street outside his own movie, and told him he wants to make movies just like him. That was Spike’s segue to explain his inspiration to build his production company, 40 acres and a Mule, and another example of his Brooklyn hustle. Lee said he wanted to build a place to “tell stories and give a different narrative”. He wasn’t taught that George Washington owned a slave. He wasn’t taught the United States committed genocide against Native Americans. He wasn’t taught “Columbus was a terrorist”. By providing the institution to tell true honest stories of colour without having to compromise, Spike “…wants to help change the complexion of this industry”.
From building play-do castles in total darkness with strangers to networking inside a Jackson Pollock-inspired shipping container, C2 MTL for 2019 continues to delight the eyes, ravish your senses, and alter your thinking. A rapper shared how he has become a tech entrepreneur to ensure disadvantaged communities have access to the future. We heard how a film director became a racial crusader simply to get his movies made.
The conference set out to influence you into action to solve today’s problems. It inspires you with the stories and works of great people. It breaks you out of your comfort zone with experiences to empower you. It provides halls filled with dynamic humans to network ideas with. It is the most unique business conference you will ever attend.
In case you missed Day 2 of the C2 Montreal, check it out here.
C2 Montreal will return next year to its new home, more familiar with the place, more enticed with new experiences to transform your world view, and Best Kept Montreal will continue to bring you all the insights it has to offer.
For a vision of tomorrows futuristic fashions, Best Kept Montreal recommend The Thierry Mugler Exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art.