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Famous film director gives speech

Lee shared his experiences in Hollywood film with TFA students and in Q&A.

blog by The Buffalo State Record  • 

Those who were expecting to see the pensive, beret-adorned figure featured in flyers around Buffalo State College were in for a shock as filmmaker Spike Lee emerged from behind the curtain Friday night in Rockwell Hall wearing a glow-in-the-dark Yankees hat and matching sneakers.

Since sports were clearly on his mind, Lee thanked Buffalo for its recent win against the New England Patriots before turning serious.

Lee is a film director who started writing, acting in and directing his own movies in the early 1980s. He is known for examining race relations in his work.

He has been nominated for two Academy Awards and his highest-grossing film is “Inside Man.”

He urged students to choose a major they love instead of the one that will help them make the most money.

He recounted his own experiences discovering his love for film in college and how it made all the difference. Lee asked for a show of hands as to who were seniors and then he said, “graduate school.” Lee described the economy as “a storm that you need to wait out.”

For the second half, he discussed some of his work and the problems in the entertainment industry. He said as an audience, we need to be more selective about the films we choose.

“These people know nothing about cinema, but we’re making them experts,” Lee said.

He said we are not a “monolithic people,” so movies with different points of view should get a larger audience.

“America dominates the world through culture, which is more powerful than any nuclear weapon,” Lee said.

During the question and answer session, he laid out some ground rules, banning the subjects of world hunger or urban poverty. Instead, he gave some tips to aspiring filmmakers about shooting on location only as long as necessary before people living in the area feel inconvenienced.

Lee described how Denzel Washington gave an unscripted monologue in the middle of the film “Malcom X.” He addressed the times when he made inflammatory remarks in the past such as when he spoke out publicly against Clint Eastwood for not portraying any black soldiers in his film about the Battle of Iwo Jima.

“You know you sound like my wife. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that,” Lee said.

When somebody asked about his feud with filmmaker Tyler Perry, he said they have two different viewpoints.

When asked if he would ever want to remake some of his films the way George Lucas has, Lee said that while he wouldn’t, he respects Lucas’ right to edit his films to match his vision in a way that was not possible earlier because the technology wasn’t yet available.

Lee couldn’t answer to a question regarding whether or not he considered video games to be a form of art.

“I need help from my kids to turn on the television,” he said.

Students who were television and film arts majors had the opportunity to meet him in a private session before the event.

Louis Rera, a professor in the department, said Lee gave some good advice on what cameras to use and provided a list of movies to watch.

“He is very down to earth. He is very passionate about sports and made lots of jokes,” said Terrence Harding, a senior television and film arts major.

Lee signed autographs at the end of the session.

“I was really interested in how he sees the world,” said Dave Rempo, a freshman English major.

The event was funded by M&T Bank, the Faculty Student Association and an auxiliary services grant, with support from United Students Government retention/leadership special Eileen Merberg said. Lee’s appearance is part of Buffalo State College’s “Year of the Arts.”

Kristine Starkey
Buffalo State Record Reporter
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TAGGED: buff state, buffalo state record, filmmaking, films, movies, spike lee

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