Film & TV

Film as an Agent of Change

Spike Lee

Lesson time 08:31 min

Spike discusses the filmmaker’s responsibility to bring diversity to the film industry—both on screen and behind the scenes.

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 directing class, the visionary behind Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, and 25th Hour lets you in on his uncompromising approach to filmmaking. Learn about writing, self-producing, working with actors, and making movies that break barriers.


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

Thanks. I know who Spike Lee is and I could pick him out in a crowd - easily even before I took his MasterClass. But I have NEVER seen a Spike Lee movie. I will be changing that. Thank you so much for all the lessons.

Notecards from this point on will be KEY to organizing my thoughts and will be beneficial for doing research prior to writing. I met Spike Lee briefly in downtown Charlotte last Sunday and told him I'm looking forward to taking his Masterclass. It was certainly worth it. The importance of organization and sincerity was heavily emphasized. This was an extraordinary class.

I learned so much from Spike! I didn't know much about the industry and what to expect and he gave me so much information about it and what it's like to make a film.

Spike Lee's Master Class is a must. Not just for independent filmmaking but for any endeavours one might take. It's a reminder that you have to do the work in order to reap the rewards.


Deborah R.

I love discussions about the business components of filmmaking. The elephant in the room is THE BUSINESS. At least today there are more opportunities for films to be self distributed because of technology which is disrupting the traditional infrastructure. But when the dust is settles there is a risk for new types of gatekeepers many of which may be streamers. We need to understand this elephant.

Mary Beth P.

There is discussion about the effects that film has on changing culture, but I find everything is very negative with Spike Lee. There cannot be change when we polarize and divide people. What about film can shed light to all facets of problems to pose questions? How can a director do more than just share stories? How can directors celebrate different aspects of different cultures if they aren't revealed in ways that outsiders would even pick up clues of cultural pride?

Logan S.

Thank you Mr. Lee for a wonderful course in filmmaking and the impact we have on those who see our work. I hope to accomplish in my future project to touch and teach but also bring joy to the masses. I thank you and tip my hat to my now favorite course I have watched.

Michael O.

"People's History of the United States," "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," "Black Elk Speaks." I co-founded a theatre company in the '80s with this mission, "To produce theatre in defense of civil and human liberties." People - actors and audiences - respond to a call to arms to do the right thing, correct misconceptions, debunk misrepresented history. And they respond to "color blind" and "gender blind" casting, because what is seen onstage is representative in the community. Takes guts to stand up to the prevailing paradigm, but it's worth it. We are better citizens, a better country, better historians because of your sublime perseverance and courage as a Black pathfinder and filmmaker. And you are a damn good teacher to boot. Hoka hey!

Jeffrey H.

I grew up watching Laurel & Hardee, Abbott & Costello, Tarzan, Superman, Batman & Robin, and many other television shows. These were re-runs of course and in black & white. There was no sense of my Black family and our lifestyle or traditions. In the mid-late the '70s, I was still a child and I then watched All in the Family, MASH, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Sanford and Son. These shows began to touch on issues I could identify with more. Sometimes it was shocking to view because of the subject matter like when J.J got shot on Good Times for example! We did not grow up in the projects though but many of the storylines still hit home. Watching a Black family interact on television was an eye-opener to me.

Stefania G.

If we actually had diversity at the highest executive levels of film making we wouldn't be having this whitewashed garbage like ghost in the shell


I haven't seen BlacKkKlansman but I will. I've heard the argument for film as an agent of change, and come across books that said as much. I wish films meant more than they do but it is asking a lot of a given film to dramatically "change" anything. I'm sure there are examples but I can't think of many. And that assumes the film is even seen widely, which in itself is difficult. I'd say focus on telling the story and get it out there and let the chips fall where they will. The gatekeepers I have heard are mainly businesspeople who may not even know the history of cinema. They are going to ask if the movie/film can be commercially viable. The industry needs diversity w/out question.

Moussa M.

Film is a very powerful toll , so we need to use it wisely for the benefit of humanity .


This lesson brought back memories. I watched a lot of westerns when I was very young. I loved them. I mean, back in my single digit days. And right now I am feeling the same feelings I felt when, as a young teenager (13 or 14), I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

Tyler H.

Great lesson, but I do wanna say the john ford situation has a little more to it. Ford if anything shows the natives and the white men to be one in the same. A pessimistic approach to humanity. Ethan Edward's it literally identical to Scar in the searchers. Ford's final western Cheyenne Autumn is literally about the white man's miss treatment towards native Americans. Highly recommend reading Roger Ebert's review for the searchers and Scorsese video on the searchers. Scorsese practically remade the searchers with taxi driver.