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March 2008
The 6th Annual Behind the Lens Award Honoring Spike Lee

The 6th Annual Behind the Lens Award Honoring Spike Lee

March 28, 2008
By: Wilson Morales

Lots of celebrities turned out at the 6th annual Behind The Lens Award ceremony honoring Spike Lee in Beverly Hills, California on March 26, 2008. Held at Beverly Wilshire Hotel, the award is for achievement behind the scenes in the entertainment industry. Lee is the sixth recipient of the Chrysler 2008 Behind the Lens Award.

Hosted by CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O'Brien, the the private invitation-only event started with Chrysler Senior Vice President - External Affairs and Public Policy W. Frank Fountain, who spoke about what Lee has meant to the industry and what he brings to the community. In praising Lee, Fountain added, 'Spike Lee epitomizes the ideal of the Behind the Lens Award. His thoughtful films and activism in Hollywood have inspired a generation of filmmakers, encouraged actors, challenged basic assumptions and expanded the field to include many more African Americans in key roles behind the lens. We are thrilled to have him as the award's latest honoree and to celebrate his commitment and passion.' His speech was then followed a montage of his films being shown on a big screen while tap dancer/ choreographer Savion Glover, who appeared in the 2000 film Bamboozled, danced on stage to Public Enemy's 'Fight the Power,' a song that was also featured in Do the Right Thing.

After the montage, Director John Singleton came to the stage and told a story how he wanted to meet Lee as he was entering the business. He then introduced the first of many clips shown throughout the evening, 'She's Gotta Have It'. Director Ernest Dickerson, who had previously worked on the first six of Spike's film as his cinematographer, spoke about how his 29 year relationship with Lee began at NYU film school and proceded to tell the audience that when he recommended to John Sayles that he hire Spike as his A.D for 'The Brother from Another Planet', where Dickerson was the cinematographer, Sayles had refuse his request, stating Lee is no A.D but a 'Director'.

After a clip of 'School Daze' was shown, Lawrence Fishbure stepped up to the stage to tell a story of when Spike approached him years ago at Washington Square Park in NYC when he was known as Larry Fishburne and told him how he wanted to work with him. Rapper Chuck D then followed and spoke about how Spike called him and told him he wanted an anthem for his next film, 'Do The Right Thing'. Chuck D later added that Spike played the song 8 times in the film and brought the rap industry some awareness with the song. Costume Designer Ruth Carter, who received an Academy Award nomination for her work in 'Malcolm X, spoke about the time Spike called her to work on 'School Daze', then she was followed by a tribute by casting agent Robbie Reed, who has worked on 8 of Lee's films.

With more tributes coming from Delroy Lindo (Malcolm X, Crooklyn, and Clockers), Hill Harper (Get on the Bus, He Got Game), Savion Glover (Bamboozled), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Inside Man), and a video from Denzel Washington (Mo' Better Blues, Malcolm X, He Got Game, and Inside Man), who didn't attend because he's shooting 'The Taking of Pelham 123', trumpeter/composer/band leader and longtime collaborator Terence Blachard, who has scored every Spike Lee since 'Jungle Fever', got on stage to thank Spike for bringing him on his films after his father Bill Lee had done the first five Spike Lee films. He then proceeded to play a score he had done for 'When the Leeves Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts,' along with Patti Austin as she sung 'A Change is Going to Come.'.

Before the man of the hour was brought on stage, one last tribute was paid by Roger Guenveur Smith, who has appeared in six of Lee's film, and Rosie Perez, who made it to LA with a leg brace on. Perez talked about the inclusion of Latinos Spike brought in his films and how Spike came to her house to ask her parents for permission for Rosie to show some nudity in her film debut 'Do The Right Thing'. She recalled how Spike sat in her living room while her brother and father came out with a shotgun and machete; a memory Spike jokingly forgot.

Finally, the legend himself, Mr. Spike Lee took the stage to a standing ovation and thanked the many people who helped him be the man he is today from director Michael Schultz to his father Bill Lee to the countless others who are past and present contributors of his films, stating 'It's an honor to join the group of trailblazing artists and professionals who have received this award before me. I'm particularly thrilled to accept this award in the presence of so many of the family members, friends, mentors and collaborators without whom this recognition would not have been possible. I also want to thank Chrysler for sponsoring the Behind the Lens award which recognizes the creative individuals whose work affects our lives everyday.'

He talked about the many endeavors he's gone throuigh to make films, from asking celebrites for money to complete 'Malcolm X' to his recent struggles to get capital to do biopics of Joe Louis and James Brown. To this day, with the average film costing about $75 million dollars, Spike can't get at least $60 million dollars for his films. Spike said,' I took my ass on a plane to Europe and got the financing for this film'. He then thanked the Italian producers, Marco Valerio Pugini & Luigi Musini, of his latest film, 'Miracle at St. Anna' before introducing part of the cast that were in attendance (Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Malcolm Goodwin, Omar Benson Miller, Tory Kittles, Valentina Cervi, and Sean Ryal). Following his acceptance speech, Lee surprised the crowd with a seven-minute sneak peak from the film. 'Miracle at St. Anna', which is based on the bestselling author James McBride's novel, will be released in theaters Fall 2008.

Among the 400 guests who attended the award ceremony included Producer Stephanie Allain, director Ernest Dickerson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Malcolm Goodwin, Michael Ealy, Omar Benson Miller, Director Jeff Byrd, Rick Fox, Vanessa 'Soul Food' Williams, Terrence Blanchard, Wendell Pierce, Radha Mitchell, Marcus Patrick, Henry Simmons, director John Singleton, talent agent Charles King, Rosie Perez, Delroy Lindo, Laz Alonso, Savion Glover, Margaret Avery, Andre Royo, CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O'Brien, rapper Chuck D, costume designer Ruth Carter, Hill Harper, casting agent Robi Reed, Paula Jai Parker, Elise Neal, Gary Dourdan, Rosario Dawson, Debi Mazar, Snoop Doog, Thelma Hopkins, director Kasi Lemmons, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Bill Duke, Billie Woodruff, Keith David, Kadeem Hardison, Lamann Rucker, Wesley Jonathan, Gabriel Casseus, Denyce Lawton, Damon Wayans, Bernie Casey, Steve White, Roger Guenveur Smith, Valentina Cervi, Tory Kittles, and Mike Ellis

In addition to the award, the Chrysler Foundation will donate $25,000 to Lee's alma mater, Morehouse College in Atlanta, in recognition of Lee's accomplishments. The donation will benefit the Morehouse College School of Sports Journalism, a program created to expand the field of sports journalism for African American students. The program, which began with seed money donated by Lee, launched its first course offerings in January, 2007. Lee, who received his bachelor's degree in 1979 is a third-generation Morehouse graduate and now serves on the school's Board of Trustees. To date, his efforts have raised more than $1 million to benefit the program.

The Chrysler Foundation also announced it will donate $10,000 in O'Brien's name to Ursuline Academy, an all-girls college-preparatory high school in Cincinnati, Ohio founded by the Ursuline sisters in 1896.

Lee's film career began at New York University's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, where he drew critical attention for his master's thesis, the short film "Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads." He went on to write, produce, direct and edit his first feature film, "She's Gotta Have It," which earned him the Prix de Jeunesse Award at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival, the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association New Generation Award. Since that time, Lee has directed 20 more feature films and feature-length documentaries including "Jungle Fever," "Malcolm X," "Inside Man," the Emmy-nominated "4 Little Girls" and Emmy winning "When the Levees Broke," all under the banner of his production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks. He has helped launch the careers of a who's-who of film-industry talents, including director Ernest R. Dickerson ("The Wire," "Weeds"), costume designer Ruth Carter ("Four Brothers," "Daddy Day Care") and actors Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, John Turturro, Wesley Snipes, Mos Def, Rosie Perez and Giancarlo Esposito. Lee is also known for producing commercials, directing numerous television spots including an acclaimed series of Nike ads featuring Michael Jordan and dozens of music videos for recording artists as diverse as Miles Davis, Public Enemy, Bruce Hornsby and Prince.

The consummate entrepreneur, Lee founded SpikeDDB in 1997, a minority-owned full-service advertising agency in partnership with DDB Worldwide. SpikeDDB has created multi-level advertising campaigns for Pepsi, Ambi Skincare and Mountain Dew.

Previous honorees include pioneers such as producer and composer Quincy Jones ("The Color Purple"), directors Gordon Parks ("Shaft"), Melvin Van Peebles ("Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song"), John Singleton ("Boyz N the Hood"), and Hollywood casting veteran and producer Reuben Cannon ("Madea's Family Reunion").

Chrysler's Behind the Lens Award was established in 2002 by Chrysler to recognize and celebrate the achievements of individuals who work behind the scenes in the entertainment industry. Since its inception, the annual star-studded awards event has featured approximately 400 invited guests to share in the recognition and the accomplishments of the honoree. Award recipients are chosen by a selection committee comprised of entertainment industry professionals and Chrysler representatives.


Photo Gallery: Click on a photo below to view it larger

Rick Fox Patti Austin Snoop Dogg
Vondie Curtis Hall Savion Glover Vanessa Williams
John Singleton Rosie Perez Paula Jai Parker
Robi Reed Michael Ealy Wesley Jonathan
Spike Lee
Elise Neal Delroy Lindo
Spike Lee and W. Frank Fountain
Spike Lee
Radha Mitchell
Soledad O'Brien Chiwetel Ejiofor Sophina Brown
Spike Lee and Soledad O'Brien Spike Lee and Rosie Perez Spike Lee and Debi Mazar
Chuck D W. Frank Fountain Vanessa Williams and Lamann Rucker
Vanessa Williams and Elise Neal Omar Benson Miller Malcolm Goodwin
Kasi Lemmons and Vondie Curtis Hall Andre Royo, friend, Laz Alonso  

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