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  • Writer's pictureJanett Salas

The Time I Met Spike Lee

As you could tell from the title, I once met Spike Lee. Film Spark at ASU put on an event titled, “Why We Need Spike Lee and All Visionary Artists” on March 4, 2016. The event filled the entire Gammage auditorium, sold-out (actually was free) to students and the general pubic.

The director of Film Spark was also our advisor for Hollywood Invades Tempe and he invited us to a small meeting with Spike Lee before the large event. There were about 30 people at the small get together. During this, Lee gave a quick intro about himself and answered questions from the group. During a silent pause, I decided to finally ask him a question. I asked him what advice could he give to a young filmmaker, like many of us, that are trying to break into the industry. I’m paraphrasing now but he responded by saying just go out there and do it. This was followed by nods by the audience. I found his answer simple and while not entirely tangible, it was quite relieving. Spike Lee didn’t tell me specific directions or instructions but just said, “do it.” Nothing is stopping us from being filmmakers except ourselves.

After that meeting, I, along with 5 other people were asked go on stage during the Spike Lee event and ask him questions. Not being prepared to stand in front of thousands of people, I rushed home, changed, and prepared my questions.

When I got back to the auditorium, we were asked to wait backstage. It’s hard to hear from back there but I did catch a bit of his speech. When I got a moment to listen into his speech, he was discussing the need for parents to support their college students that don’t necessarily want to be doctors or lawyers. Addressing the college students, he said, “Hopefully you have not chosen a degree depending on how much money you can make. The worst existence you have is to go to a job you hate. For me, that’s not living, but living paycheck to paycheck.”

He didn't make it seem easy though, Lee did say that the film industry “is tough” and that there is no such thing as overnight success. You may have seen an image similar to the one below where the tip of the iceberg is what people see of your success and end up thinking, “You’re an overnight success.” People don’t see the hard work, failures, the sacrifices, and everything else that comes with being in this industry.

I’d like for this short post to serve as a bit of daily inspiration. While I don’t have any video or photos except for a few that friends from the audience took, I do have that memory of a well-known filmmaker telling me to just be a filmmaker now.

I hope every one of you that aspire to be anything, change your mindset and start calling yourself so, and if you’re going through that section of the iceberg that no one sees, always remember why you started.

Let me know if you enjoyed this. Feel free to share!

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