Spike Lee opens the doors of his Brooklyn office to teach filmmaking through scripts and storyboards from some of his greatest films.
A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps, assignments, and supplemental material.
Learn on your own terms, at your own pace on mobile, desktop, or Apple TV.
Meet your new instructor, writer/director/producer/professor—Spike Lee. Spike explains what he hopes you’ll gain from his class: the tools of film grammar—or visual storytelling—and the DIY spirit to make your own original, independent films.
Spike provides you with a blueprint of his writing process to help you write your script. Learn his index card technique, his disciplined writing practice, and his advice for writing with a partner.
Spike teaches you his techniques for writing bold, distinct characters, capturing two sides of a story, and creating stories that react to social injustice.
Breaking down the director’s choices in one of his favorite films, Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, Spike demonstrates how cinema can be a powerful tool for speaking the truth.
Learn Spike’s tips for creating realistic budgets and shooting schedules (and sticking to them), working on location, and how to make your crew feel appreciated.
Spike recounts his battle to secure additional funds for Malcolm X to show you how self-reliance, self-determination, and dedication to your story can help finance a project.
“The wrong actors, the wrong roles could turn out the wrong movie.” Spike shares his tips for successful casting and his experiences casting some of his most infamous roles.
Learn what to look for in a director of photography, including how to “audition” a DP and how to create a plan of action, once you’ve found the right collaborator.
Spike walks you through the iconic camera angles and techniques that have come to define his visual style. Then, he breaks down how he uses each to increase tension and heighten the drama.
Using his original storyboards for the assassination scene in Malcolm X, Spike illustrates the construction of a scene, and the level of detail required to create the illusion of chaos.
For Spike, the take is a sacred moment. Learn his rules for managing your crew and running a set effectively in order to deliver the best possible takes.
How can you inspire the best performance from your actor? Spike teaches his techniques for directing your actors with sensitivity and respect, including how to communicate and establish trust.
Spike believes that a good director both commands and surrenders to the moment. Using scenes from He Got Game and School Daze, he shares tips on how to harness improvisational moments and adjust to story changes on-the-fly.
Analyzing opening title sequences from Mo’ Better Blues, 25th Hour, and BlacKkKlansman, Spike teaches the art of establishing tone in the first few minutes of your film.
Spike shares his strategies for enhancing drama through music. Learn his advice for working with a composer, turning source into score, and using music as a counterpoint.
By taking a look at the inter-cutting technique in BlacKkKlansman, Spike demonstrates how he was able to create heightened drama and tonal balance in pivotal scenes.
Spike discusses the filmmaker’s responsibility to bring diversity to the film industry—both on screen and behind the scenes.
Examining his powerful nonfiction films When the Levees Broke and 4 Little Girls, Spike shares insights on how to handle true stories with passion and respect.
In his parting words, Spike reflects on what it takes to be an independent filmmaker and encourages you to take his tools and be a student of cinema.