"Dear Spike Lee," starts Juan Luis Garcia's open letter to the Do The Right Thing director Spike Lee (irony alert). "Back in January I was approached by an ad agency that was hired to design posters for your new film, Oldboy. They wanted me to design some comps to present to you." By now, I think you know where this is headed. In a desperate plea, Garcia tells a sordid tale of his poster design for Lee's remake of Oldboy being completely ripped off by the agency he was asked to design the posters for. Promised a luxurious settlement of "peanuts" and "exposure", Garcia worked for 2 months to produce some fairly sound designs for which the agency subsequently made an "insultingly low offer". Garcia declined, citing he gets as much in a day's work as a photographic assistant.
"The agency was furious. They told me that I didn’t want to mess with Spike Lee, that I would never work again, that I was a despicable human, that they wish they never met me, and that they were going to sue my ass to oblivion," writes Garcia. The film has been released in the US, and Spike Lee has taken to Twitter to dispute Garcia's claims.
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— Spike Lee (@SpikeLee) November 28, 2013
"I can vouch that the only reason I wanted to see the remake of this film was because the posters looked decent," says Reddit user Orange_Astronaut. And many agree, which is why this could potentially be the straw to break the metaphorical camel's back in the world of graphic designers being pilfered. On Instagram, Spike Lee also posted a reply (now deleted) to UK blogger Den of Geek's comment to "pay the guy": "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?"
While musicians can often profit from releasing music for free by gaining exposure and then touring to make money, this principle hasn't yet been successfully applied to the world of film. So while the posters for Oldboy may or may not be stolen property, we wait with baited breath to see how this story will pan out for Juan Luis Garcia, and the graphic design underdogs whose work gets yanked from under them.
Follow Trey Taylor on Twitter here @treytylor