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Arts & Entertainment

Speaking Truth to Power: On the Waterfront

Spike Lee

Lesson time 09:40 min

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.

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.

Spike has a masterful approach to blending elements of music, cinematography and action to really drive home the emotion of a scene. I feel like I now know what to be mindful of when creating that.

I really liked Spike's insight on film making. I can tell he knows exactly what he's talking about, and I appreciate that he's teaching this class

Fantastic! My favorite Masterclass; Spike is really a teacher and love how he broke things down and explained them and really communicated ideas so that they could be understood and applied. I feel my filmmaking will be improved by doing this class.

Thank you Spike for the inspiration, the integrity, thank you for shining the truth.



I love how he gets specific not just about himself but about the interface between himself and the work, the particulars and process rather than stating only a lot of "I do this", he breaks things down about art and message etc. in another work very specifically. Mostly though what is breathtaking is watching him connect On the Waterfront to more recent events.

Charlene R.

This riiiiight here! I love the passion and insight! I'm even more ignited! Thanks!!!

A fellow student

This moved me to TEARS. "We're not fn working until KAEPERNICK works!" If only this had been the case. Excellent lesson. Love the analysis.

Mike E.

The authenticity in Spike's films is what caught my attention from the first time I saw "Do The Right Thing".

Ian B.

Love how fearlessly Spike speaks truth in his movies (and in his everyday life) and encourages aspiring filmmakers to do the same. Amazing artist and person.👌

A fellow student

"We're not working... until KAEPERNICK works!" Spike Lee is a powerful speaker in this lesson. On the Waterfront is my favorite film, so it was really encouraging to hear it's one of Spike's too. I'm glad I'm not the only weirdo who wants to watch it over and over again. He made the film feel even more relevant and urgent than ever. Time for a rewatch.

anouk I.

i love watching directors talk about/watch their favourite films. spike speaks so passionately about the movie and what it means to him and he just becomes so enthralled with it when he's watching - it's really such an endearing and inspiring thing to see.

Chava G.

This is eye opening, mind blowing and a place of interaction unparalleled. Black on that, I am still going to tell the truth! I love this , Love this teacher, man!

Matt H.

beautiful. We're not going to work...unless you let Colin Kaepernick/Marlon Brando work. Power to the people!!! ~ !! JUSTICE ~ We have to win... the music to go with this writing ~

A fellow student

A Walk to Remember is one of my all time favorite movies. I know it’s not exactly a classic, but it means a lot to me as a writer.