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Arts & Entertainment

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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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.

This is by far the best filmmaking masterclass I have ever seen. It comes from the heart and Spike's passion comes through. So inspiring to hear him speak and it has taught me many things. I'm a 45-year-old aspiring filmmaker, this is invaluable information, to help speed up my learning process, having started so late in life to become a filmmaker. Thank you, Spike!

Some great practical advice on the actual process of what it takes to make an independent film, as well as thoughtful insights on the reason philosophy of filmmaking, and why it is important in our culture.

This is the best MasterClass I have ever watched.

This class has helped me understand how all the pieces fit together, not only for Spike Lee, but how I can also get the pieces to fit together on my feature projects a well. Thoroughly enjoyed the class!


Christopher A.

Spike is a new mentor, one that I had been seeking for what feels like half of my life. Spike thank you for doing this for us. Sometimes you just work and work so so hard and other people seep in with a fraction of the effort. It is good to hear you say that yes it does take that hard work and it's not just not an overnight success. The language that you speak is too familiar to me coming from too many struggles, but it brings me comfort to know I am not alone.

tuphr N.

Documentaries are a great way to examine the truth. I have heard that feature filmmakers are advised not to make documentaries as it confuses the audience/market about what the filmmaker does. But Spike is obviously not pandering to so called 'market forces' of the film business.

Maxim O.

Both narratives and documentaries have the opportunity to educate. Also, big ups to Spike for admitting his reasoning behind making "4 Little Girls" into a documentary.

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.