Film & TV

Storytelling for Documentaries

Spike Lee

Lesson time 6:49 min

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.

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.

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"

Spike is awesome. He tells it like it is, no sugarcoating. He gets into the nuts and bolts of filmmaking and his enthusiasm for his craft comes shining through!

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.

I've been able to understand the very DNA of a Spike Lee film and his process of making a film from thinking about it from scratch to being in the editing room. Spike is certainly one of he most authentic filmmakers of our times.


Chava G.

I have always been attracted to documentaries, and I applaud everyone of your efforts. You have reached into the psyche of many people across the world by telling the historical narrative and witnessing on the flooding of New Orleans and the Murderous Bombing That Resulted In The Deaths Of Four Beautiful Black Baby Girls. It is uncomfortable because it has been made invisible. I can stand the hurtful discomfort, even welcome it as you shed the truth light and help us work through it for the betterment of us all. As everyone realizes the truth, more and more are made free, you are worthy of such appreciation and gratitude. I wish there was more I could do than just keep referring others and buying a ticket. Good on you Master teacher, Spike Lee and HBO too.

Jeffrey H.

It has been a minute since I sat in a film school classroom. My introduction to documentary filmmaking was at Temple University. I was introduced to the works of Frederick Wiseman, and the idea of anthropology filmmaking. One of my research papers was on an episode of "Eyes on the Prize" a civil rights series directed by Henry Hampton. Documentaries are more sellable films now than when I got out of college. If I had to choose what my first film would be, it may be a documentary.


i had seen 4 little girls on hbo years ago what a great documentary by spike lee

Santiago M.

Thank you very much Spyke! I had seen some of your films but I didn’t know who you were as a person. This course has allowed me to get to learn a lot from you. Very potent information and thank you for teaching from the heart . I appreciate and I’m learning from the way you talk, as it shows how much importance you give to every word that you use. Gracias!!

Steven J.

I can improve my master class doing what I’ve learned and early years of the year 2010 where when you do a documentary you have to let people which is the witnesses of the people that you’re interviewing they’re the ones who is telling the story so there’s no Cheesy narrator could tell the story better than the witnesses or the people that are being interviewed because like the way Martin Scorsese says it editing is writing and writing is editing.

Leslie L.

Please can we have a Spike Lee class on documentaries? I would really love that!


Spike's lesson's are so interesting because you absolutely don't know what he is going to say next. And the lesson over before I take all my notes. All this new way to make a documentary I really need to know. Thanks Spike.

Sulondia H.

This lesson has me wanting to do a documentary. I love the realness/ harsh truths of documentaries with the different stories of the ones involved tied down to make one complete story. #Fascinating.

Joseph S.

Good segment, his perspective on the difference between documentaries and feature film was enlightening. I will one day get there, I see it is about the story...