Film & TV

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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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.

I learned the most important attribute I need to work on is my dedication. It may be in your heart and in your head but if the work is not tangible, it's not done.

This class has made me feel that my dream of being a filmmaker is more realistic than I thought. I feel a greater sense of urgency to create films that can be agents for change.

Loved Spike Lee's Master Class -- as a filmmaker myself it confirmed many things I've already been doing but it also added information and ways of working that I will add to my "filmmaker tool chest." Thank you!

Perfect insight of what it takes as an independent filmmaker. The Ron Howard is how to direct, but this one is how to balance the job of Filmmaking. This was a spike lee joint for sure! Thank you!


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.

Michael B.

His enthusiasm is like the epitome of that... the freedom to express his opinion. And the beauty of it is that everyone can still live their lives, because nothing major is happening but a work of art. That's American, because of our values written in the Constitution.

Michael B.

love his enthusiasm... everyone in the world is entitled to have their own opinion and to have the freedom of speech to express that opinion. No one would care as much, perhaps, if Colin was just using the bathroom during the national anthem, because he really had to go. It was because of the idea behind what he did. Right or wrong, maybe it isn't worth it to punish someone with no opportunities for work just for expressing their opinion in a harmless protest, an opinion that was moving them so forcefully internally.

Justin W.

Yo... I agree 100% with what Spike is saying here but... what does Kaep's story have to do with making films? If he spoke about how he would turn Kaep's story into a film and how he would structure that, great, cool, useful. But just comparing it to On The Waterfront? Not that useful. (On The Waterfront, btw, was Elia Kazan's cinematic justification for turning the Group Theatre members into HUAC - a great film, but its whole "truth to power" thing is bullshit when you know that)

Michael U.

Because Spike Lee is a fan of Elia Kazan I would love for him to do an updated version of "A Face in the Crowd".

Philip C.

Go Spike! A perfect example of how a story can be timeless and relevant decades beyond its making.


Use your platform boy.....that’s what I luv about this man....always screaming and teaching.....”how to speak truth to power”.....I pledge to follow these lessons 🥇

Louise J.

love 'On the Waterfront" when Marlon Brando says "i could have been a contender" and Leonard Bernstein's music is there in the background not too loud so the scene between him and his brother is so heartbreaking- "You're my brother you should have looked after me" Thanks so much Spike Lee!! Love your films and extreme respect!! Your classes are so amazingly inspiring!