The moment Spike Lee lost millions of fans

Juan Luis Garcia is a designer/photographer who was asked by an agency working for Spike Lee to create some mock ups for the poster for Spike’s latest film, ‘Oldboy.’

The short version of the story is that the agency and the designer fell out and the designer was not paid for his work. However the agency had presented the mock ups, Spike Lee liked them and the final poster is clearly derivative of Juan Luis Garcia’s design.


Juan Luis work is on the left. Credit Juan Luis Garcia

To add insult to injury his actual designs were used on Spike Lee’s personal social media pages and the pages of the production company promoting the movie.



In desperation Mr Garcia wrote an open letter to Spike Lee. Here’s an excerpt.

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. They told me the budget was small and that they could only pay me peanuts for the comps but if you and the studio liked any of them I would then be compensated fairly through the licensing buyout fee. I know, I saw all of the warning signs but the idea of working for you and having my design represent your film blinded me. So I went along with it. Dealing with the agency was one the worst experiences of my life. It affected all aspects of my life from my marriage to my work and my health. I was taken advantage of, lead on, lied to, manipulated, and harassed for over two months while I put all I had into designing the comps. I wanted to impress you and I guess I did. The agency told me, “Congratulations, Spike loved a couple of the posters. Yours is going to be the key art.”, and I was thrilled. But when it came time to negotiate the licensing buyout fee the agency made an insultingly low offer. But they said that the important thing wasn’t the money it was the exposure and potential for more work. After thinking about it long and hard I had to decline. I tried to negotiate but they refused. I make the same amount of money in a single day as a photo assistant as what they offered and I had worked on these almost exclusively for two months. Plus there was still more work to be done so I had to refuse.

You can read the letter in full here

This is the point of the story where a popular filmaker, loved by millions (including me) has the chance to swoop in, perform a thanksgiving miracle and right a wrong. Or at the very least have a conversation with the designer and see if he can resolve it quickly and fairly.

However, in what I think is one of the dick moves of the new millennium and to my shame and horror Spike Lee has done exactly what you would expect a faceless, greedy, aloof, corporate bastard to do. Not since Pontius Pilate has someone cowardly washed their hands of something so quickly. Here’s Spike Lees dismissive and callous response.

I’ve included some of the replies which indicate I’m not the only one who has taken Spike Lee off their Christmas card list.








Spike, like many millions of people your films have made me laugh, cry and think. I’m a huge fan. Don’t tarnish the decades of great work with a flippant tweet. At the very least Mr Garcia deserves a fair hearing. Pick up the phone. A 5 minute call may just defuse the whole situation. 



Update: We’ve had a comment from Barlowe Cross indicating that the agency in question may be ’11:24 Advertising Design’. This is entirely unconfirmed.

We’ve reached out to the agency for a comment and await their reply.

We note that the agency owner ‘Art Sims’ has a long history of designing movie posters for Spike Lee. This would make him both a suspect and a target of misinformation. Accordingly we will await confirmation. This issue has understandably upset a lot of people and we caution against going on a witch hunt against 11:24 Advertising Design at this time.

We can confirm that 11:24 design was working on the Old Boy project  but there may have been more than one agency working on this campaign.


Thanks for reading,

Tom Peters.


Author: Tom Peters

Journalist. Digital enthusiast. Asking questions about media business models and writing for

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