Success and focus came late for Spike Lee, the acclaimed director told a sold-out audience at Florida State’s Ruby Diamond Auditorium on Thursday evening as a part of the Golden Tribe Lecture Series.
Lee discussed several topics, including his humble beginnings as a small-time film director and the importance of doing well in school.
“For my first two years, I was a C-student at Morehouse,” Lee said. “At the end of my second year at Morehouse, my advisor pulled me to the side and asked me to think long and hard about what I wanted to do.”
Lee said he managed to pull his grades up just in time to be able to apply to several film schools. But it was at New York University, in his hometown, where he developed his craft, becoming one of the most heralded filmmakers of his generation.
“A lot of times people ask me, why I chose film….I flip it around and tell them ‘film chose me,” Lee told the audience. “There are so many people who go to their graves having worked a job they hated. If you are able to make a living doing something you love, then you’re blessed.”
His lecture, filled mostly jocular banter and sometimes sobering insight, was followed with an hour-long question-and-answer session with the audience.
Lee gave advice to FAMU alumnus and two-time Student Emmy winner Akil Dupont, who then gave the director a DVD of his acclaimed short film “Underground.” Lee held the DVD on stage for the rest of the evening.
The director was also asked of his opinion of filmmaker Tyler Perry, after his perceptually derogatory comments on “Our World with Black Enterprise.”
“Each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavor….I know he makes a lot of money, but we can do better…we have a black president,” Lee told Black Enterprise.
At Thursday’s lecture, Lee answered simply that Perry is good at what he does.
“The Famuan” asked Lee the last question of the evening on why he thought some of his earlier films, including “Do the Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever,” are still relevant to minorities in America.
“Because that (expletive) is still happening,” Lee responded, followed by a roar of laughter by the audience. “A lot of our leaders don’t want to talk about that, but the grim statistics concerning Black people are not made up. They are cold, hard facts.”