OPINION: BlacKkKlansman and the Importance of Film Production
A recent article from some late-night Internet browsing highlights the production efforts by director Spike Lee and his team on the new film BlacKkKlansman. Creating worthwhile films is a great task with myriad of moving parts that must come together seamlessly and skillfully to truly convey said film. Spike Lee's newest production is no exception to that rule of quality with a mix of attention to detail, content of the times, and message conveyed to the audience. Lee's film focuses on the real-life events of Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer who went undercover in Colorado Springs to expose a local Ku Klux Klan group during the 1970s. As much as this film is about the story and history surrounding it, Lee's perhaps less noticeable purpose of this film was to now pay homage to the people who work on his films and present their skills of editing, cinematography, costume design, and production. As Lee mentions these people, he praises their skill in film-making in their respective areas of expertise.
Lee first mentions editor Barry Alexander Brown. Lee says that Brown helped with scenes that needed a special touch. Namely, a scene that depicted both a KKK initiation and a recount of a lynching. Lee mentions Brown used both real life photos of lynchings inter-cut with D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation (inventor of cross-cutting in film, which surprised me) that was crucial in the final cut of the film. Lee continues with speaking of the talents of cinematographer Chayse Irvin. Lee comments that Irvin was influential in establishing the film's 1970s look and style as well as shooting on film instead of digital. Lee says Irvin did a masterful job of a particular scene concerning Kwame Ture's (Stokely Carmichael) speech (played by Corey Hawkins). Irvin helped convey great emotion in the audience of the scene and pacing it to give it a truly cinematic and meaningful feel. Lee continues by mentioning costume designer Marci Rogers and hair department head LaWanda M. Pierre. Lee said he spoke with them at great length to get true authentic clothing and hair showing moviegoers that a realistic 1970s fashion is to be honored. That attention to detail was very important to Lee and company and was to not go overlooked during the production of the film. Lastly, Lee mentions production designer Curt Beech who commented on Beech's ability to find realistic and viable locations to film from New York to Colorado Springs.
Though Spike Lee is a skillful film director and has been in the industry for decades he is still in need of others who offer unique views on the project to get his ideas or initial vision off the ground. At the end of the day creating a film from nothing is a group effort. Lee being able to recognize that and not take the credit for aspects film-making that he may or may not have a great knowledge is a testament to the sort of person and director he is. Lee makes films that he believes in from costume design to editing and those aspects being at the forefront of his methods of production shows that Lee simply cares about his projects.
Spike Lee, though he stands to make a large monetary gain from film especially ones that do well in theaters, is a director first and foremost. Lee's vision as a director is the project, the film, that he is passionate about creating. But it does not happen without all those people helping Lee. The creative collective that surrounds a film in any part of the country or world is what makes film a unique experience filled with artistic camaraderie. As Lee goes about creating his film there are many more eyes than just his two. There are those who are willing to work with and perhaps criticize Lee’s decisions in the process of production. Being able to participate in that process is crucial in the end goal of the film and that is something great. In shaping a vision of expression and cultural value comes with many helping hands. Lee in creating a project with such an attachment to and surrounding himself with a team who cares is poised for continual success.