by Donovan X. Ramsey
Los Angeles graphic designer who worked on concept art for Spike Lee’s latest film is claiming that his designs were used for the film without him ever receiving a dime for the work.
In a lengthy open letter to Lee Wednesday, Emmy-nominated designer Juan Luis Garcia details a nightmare scenario involving an unnamed marketing company behind Lee’s upcoming Oldboy.
Garcia wrote that he was approached by the ad agency last January to produce posters for the film and calls his experience with the agency one of the “worst experiences of [his] life.” Garcia says he was initially offered “peanuts” to submit designs but promised fair compensation through a licensing buyout fee if Lee approved the designs.
Garcia then claims that he was informed that Lee approved the posters, that his images would become key art for the film’s marketing but the compensation ultimately offered was too low. In the end, Garcia says, he declined the offer. But that’s not quite the end of the story.
“Last night I was browsing the Internet and my jaw dropped when I stumbled upon your personal and your production company’s social media pages,” Garcia wrote in his letter to Lee. “I couldn’t believe that you had been using and claiming copyright on three of those very same posters I designed. I just couldn’t believe it. I perceive you as an advocate of the arts and artists and have a sinking feeling that you are as much of a victim in this as I am.”
Garcia states explicitly in the letter that he never signed any agreements and “certainly never agreed to donating or selling any copyright of my work without a licensing fee.” Some of the images in question are still currently featured on Spike Lee’s social media pages and elsewhere.
Lee has not responded to requests for comments but tweeted Thursday, “I Never Heard Of This Guy Juan Luis Garcia,If He Has A Beef It’s Not With Me.I Did Not Hire Him,Do Not Know Him.Cheap Trick Writing To Me.YO.”
In a statement to theGrio, Garcia says that after posting the letter to his personal site, his inbox was flooded with messages of support and interest. He has not, however, heard from Lee or his 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks production company.
“Mainly, everyone is asking why I don’t name the agency and the answer is simple,” Garcia says. “Spike knows exactly who I am referring to. The objective of the letter is to reach him with the truth so that he can help me and the design community instead of simply taking legal action.”