Graphic artist asks Spike Lee for help; Spike refuses

JuanLuisGarcia-Oldboy0Graphic designer and artist, Juan Luis Garcia, recently expressed an outcry to Spike Lee, director of the Western adaptation to South Korea’s Oldboy (and to the original Japanese manga). In the letter, which is posted on his website, Juan retells the account of his relationship with the marketing agency to whom Lee’s team enlisted for Oldboy‘s advertising.

Before I continue with the Tale of Juan Luis Garcia, I feel that on behalf of many graphic designers out there, there needs to be some clarification of how this works. Unless you’re already a part of a unit or agency that uses graphic design, where you are an employee to them, many more graphic designers are freelance. As with any freelance position, unless you have your wits about you, people can try to use tactics to minimize the amount of pay to reward you for services. This is definitely the case for graphic designers, as we (yes, I’m a graphic designer) work in artistic environment where dealing with indecisive clients and penny-pinchers can leave us dry. But the greatest kind of betrayal, especially among contracted artists, is when our drafts are taken as actual finished pieces and compensation is nowhere to be found.

Juan Luis Garcia, who has done print work for various people, commercial entities, and movies (Django Unchained & Great Gatsby), has faced the calamity that can often befall freelancers. Through an ad agency, who contacted Juan for this opportunity to work on Oldboy‘s promotional posters, they requested he produce a few drafts for approval by Spike Lee himself, but did not have a budget that would fit his standard contracted fee. Juan was led to believe that if the studio liked any of the design compositions, he would be compensated through a licensing buyout fee. A licensing buyout, is when the client buys all usage and rights to the product in question, which ultimately is negotiated in the licensing agreement.

Can you see where I’m going with this? Juan points out in his letter:

The agency told me, “Congratulations, Spike loved a couple of the posters. Yours is going to be the key art.”, and I was thrilled. But when it came time to negotiate the licensing buyout fee the agency made an insultingly low offer. But they said that the important thing wasn’t the money it was the exposure and potential for more work. After thinking about it long and hard I had to decline. I tried to negotiate but they refused. I make the same amount of money in a single day as a photo assistant as what they offered and I had worked on these almost exclusively for two months. Plus there was still more work to be done so I had to refuse.

Juan continues stating that early in initial discussions, the agency said that he would be able to use the pieces for his portfolio. Overnight, the images were taken from his website portfolio and reblogged across cyberspace. The agency picked-up on this and threatened legal action against Juan. Harassment continued for a number of days, eventually stopping.

Image is property of

Image is property of

Eventually, Juan came to discover that Spike Lee and his production company’s media pages had claimed usage of Juan’s graphics as their own. From there, Juan was advised to reach out to Spike Lee to establish a direct line to the Director. Obviously, the advertisement agency is without a question, not the middle-man to have. At this point, Juan is continuing this journey and providing updates as available.

Update: Spike Lee has responded with a non-supportive tweet, basically dissing his plea.

With that response, a storm of responses from the Twitterverse came in to tell Spike Lee that he’s responsible and should look into it.

To view the full letter and further updates, please go to Juan’s page:
Dear Spike Lee

Via Bleeding Cool

The link above by Juan Luis Garcia to Spike Lee, is currently non-existent. In trying to determine what else has occurred in relation to the removal of the information in that link, I found other tidbits.. So far, various individuals on other websites have shared that Spike Lee uses 11:24 Designs in Playa Del Rey for design one-sheets over the last number of years. Given this kind of information, it appears that this has not been the first time 11:24 Designs has manipulated young and aspiring designers to net a profit.

Furthermore, the Spike responds on his instagram:

MikeJBrand: Dude, pay the graphic artist

Spike Lee: Why Should I Pay Someone Who I Never Met Nor Had Any Contact With Ever? He Never Made Any Deal With Me.Why Don’t You Pay Me For Your Stupid Text On Thanksgiving Day?

Via Bleeding Cool also

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Jaynesis Ong
Jaynesis Ong 162 posts

He is currently a graphics designer by trade, illustrator for indie games, fashionisto, film production assistant, socialite, sampler of fine music, and taster of various new MMO games. JB likes destructive walks on the beach, visceral plot points, maniacal villains, and collapsing galactic empires.

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