Chapter 6 of 19 from Spike Lee

Case Study: Financing Malcolm X


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.

Topics include: Self-Determination and Self-Reliance

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.

Topics include: Self-Determination and Self-Reliance

Spike Lee

Spike Lee Teaches Independent Filmmaking

Academy Award–winning filmmaker Spike Lee teaches his approach to directing, writing, and producing.

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Make films with an impact

Spike Lee didn’t just direct his award-winning 1986 feature debut, She’s Gotta Have It. He was also the writer, star, truck driver, location scout, electrician, and caterer—because that’s what it took to get his film made. In his first-ever online class, the visionary behind Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, and BlacKkKlansman lets you in on his uncompromising approach to filmmaking. Learn about writing, self-producing, working with actors, and making movies that break down barriers.

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.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Spike will answer select student questions.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Lots of good insights - great work ethic - It's always good to get to know the 'behind the scenes' creators. I thought he did a great job - love to have dinner with him sometime. He highlighted a saying I used on one of my paintings - "There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going to"

I learned about Spike Lee as a filmmaker and have a greater appreciation and respect for him. The course content is excellent from the layout through the execution of material presented. This course is a solid 10+. It is a very useful course in understanding truths in the creative arts.

Spike provides the blue print for anyone to tell a story whether as a film or documentary. Great foundation for thought. Especially stressing the research and white cards that he starts with to build a story.

I found Spike Lee's approach to filmmaking very thought provoking. It was detailed yet practical and very useful. He made filmmaking make sense.


Tony C.

Spike, you are one lovable character and a brilliant story-teller. The world is a better place with you around.

Michael O.

Every culture has a trickster. This is the best of trickster stories, and for such a cause!

Sascha G.

The opening title card has a typo. It reads “MACOLM.” It should be “MALCOLM.”

Michael D.

I wrote those two lines down immediately. Self determination, and self reliance! That will be my Spike mantra. Love his personality.

Deborah R.

This lesson proves you have to be in it to win it. Self reliance is the core of independent filmmaking. Also faith in your ability to stay the course with unrelenting sacrifice and commitment. We love you Spike for showing us how this works.


great lesson too bad he had no money to make malcolm x he had to wait 20 years to make it

Sonya R.

Thank you so much for telling it like it is! I really needed to hear this from you. I am learning so very much, it is gut-wrenching, but it is what one has to do to make a film. Making a list....

Kathleen C.

I a m learning so much! I have my work cut out for me as I am currently working on my first script. I wonder if writing the novel first and then sell it to then have it turned into a screenplay.

Jess O.

Its weird to hear how Prof. Spike believes he was able to fund his projects.. But I gotta believe those people gave Prof Spike what they did not just because he was a good filmmaker.. they invested in Spike Lee.. They liked him and wanted him to be sucessful.. Charm goes a long way.. There is something magical about passionate people. Spike Lee embodies that and its no wonder folks wanted to fund him. I would have too I would now to my means..!

Ray U.

So interesting about the studio perspectives and economics. I’m not really good at asking people for money and I don’t think I’d have the courage to do what Spike did or the guts unless of course, I have a story that is 'that important'. Wow, also what a hustler regarding Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan! I think you also need projects like this that you are almost betting your life on – 'that important'. And wow, then Warner Brothers starts to finance the film after seeing Spke’s press conference and the marketing potential that Spike has singlehandedly generated - the film is going to make money. That is amazing but also why this is Spike Lee. So instructive and wise. Everyone needs to keep this in mind.