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Written by:
Martin Barrett
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spike lee masterclass

Spike Lee MasterClass Review 2023

Spike Lee is one of the greatest and most prolific filmmakers of all time. Whether it’s making fantastic feature films, in-depth and frank documentaries, famous music videos, or even television, Spike Lee has brought his signature style and directing sensibility to all of his projects. 

Just like other aspiring filmmakers Spike Lee’s films are the best, which makes him one of the most valuable filmmaking teachers there could be. But how can you learn from him? Well, Spike Lee is actually a tenured professor at New York University, but not everybody is able to go there. So where can you turn?

This is where MasterClass comes in! MasterClass is a popular online educational platform, where subscribers are given access to an enormous range of educational courses taught by famous professionals and experts.

Whether masterclass students want to learn photography, cooking, writing, or anything else, then there’s likely a MasterClass course on it.

Spike Lee offers a MasterClass himself, where Spike teaches independent filmmaking. Lee got his start as an independent filmmaker, before moving onto bigger budgets, so he knows what he’s talking about.

But what does Spike Lee’s MasterClass offer? And is it worth the price?

We’ve got all the answers below! In our detailed review of Spike Lee’s MasterClass, we’re going to break down the course’s contents, positives, and negatives. Read on!

Who Is Spike Lee?

Spike Lee is a massively successful, critically acclaimed filmmaker who has been making stylish, thought-provoking, and fascinating films for over three decades.

He saw success from the very start, winning a Student Academy Award for a 1983 student film, and going on to win an honorary Oscar in 2016, as well as a shared Oscar for the screenplay of 2019’s “BlacKkKlansman”. 

He’s incredibly prolific, having made over 20 feature films, as well as numerous documentaries and other projects. In the 1990s alone he released 9 films!

You’ll have heard that his recent film, because many of them are critically acclaimed and famous: “Do the Right Thing”, “Mo’ Better Blues”, “Malcolm X”, “Jungle Fever”, “Crooklyn”, just to name a few.

His first full-length feature film, though, was “She’s Gotta Have It”. This is one of the most successful independent films ever, made with a budget of just $175,000 and bringing in over $7 million from audiences.

Not only did Lee direct and write it, but he also starred in, produced, and edited the film (to name a few roles). As a result, Spike Lee is the perfect teacher for a class on independent filmmaking.

Much of Lee’s work explores race relations in thought-provoking, challenging ways, as well as other themes like politics and media.

What Does Spike Lee’s MasterClass Offer?

The course “Spike Lee Teaches Independent Filmmaking” consists of 19 video lessons hosted by Lee himself, with the course running a total of 3 hours and 11 minutes.

Across the lessons, Lee covers many of the key factors in creating a successful independent film, bringing his own experience to the table. 

Script

After an introductory video, Lesson 2 gets right into screenwriting – the origin of any film. Lee has written or co-written most of the scripts he’s directed, and holds a shared Oscar for screenwriting too.

As a result, he has plenty of proven experience when it comes to writing a film, and he shares his own detailed filmmaking process with filmmaking course students here.

Additionally, he gives advice on writing partners, because collaborating on a screenplay is very different.

Spike explains his index card technique that should help you to structure stories better. 

Story

Speaking of storytelling, Lesson 3 sees Lee explaining how to craft compelling, complex stories. He’ll explain how to fill your right story with bold, memorable distinct characters, as well as make work that reacts to social injustice.

One of the many strengths of Lee’s filmmaking is his tackling of real-world issues, and he teaches you how to embrace and explore them too.

On the topic of truth in the film, Lesson 4 has Lee talk you through “On The Waterfront” (1954), a work by a different director but one that captures similarly complex themes and issues.

Funding

In Lesson 6, Lee covers funding, which is crucial to independent films. You won’t have a lot of money for them, but whatever you can get is important. Lee explains the struggle for financing “Malcolm X”, and the importance of determination and resilience.

The tip-heavy Lesson 5 also offers advice on sticking to a realistic budget via a shooting schedule.

Casting And Actors

Spike Lee MasterClass Review 2023 1

For Lesson 7, Lee explains how important getting the correct casting process is, sharing his own experiences. Later, in Lesson 12, Lee offers essential advice on directing your actors. Communication is key here, and Lee teaches you how to help your actors unleash their best performance. 

With that being said, Lesson 13 then covers the importance of improvisation. It’s important to let your actors have input, and sometimes running with their ideas will end up better.

Pieces Of A Film

In Lessons 8 and 9, Lee examines the importance of cinematography, explaining how to work with your director of photography and how to capture images that move audiences.

Planning is essential to this, though, and Lesson 10 explains the importance of storyboards to construct a scene.

Meanwhile, Lesson 14 looks at opening title sequences, which are a great tool for making an impact on your audience straight from the start of your independent film. 

After that, Lesson 15 teaches the importance of music in cinema. Lee explains how music can enhance your film’s drama, whether it’s from a composer’s score or a pre-existing track.

Lesson 16 then looks at editing, with Lee using examples to show how you can edit images together in order to create tension, unease, joy, and so many other emotions in your audience. 

Diversity

In Lesson 17, Lee explains the responsibility of a filmmaker to create a diverse project, with inclusion in the film and in the crew.

How Much Does Spike Lee’s MasterClass Cost?

You can only access Spike Lee’s Masterclass through an annual MasterClass subscription ($180), which gives you access to countless other courses too. MasterClass has a 30-day refund guarantee.

The Positives

Spike Lee is a brilliant teacher who has lots of experience, especially when it comes to creating a hugely successful independent film.

His lessons cover the essentials of filmmaking (directing actors, screenwriting, music, cinematography, editing, etc.) and offer unique insight into them. 

Lee uses great examples to back his work up, too, picking clips that help illustrate his advice.

We didn’t cover it, but there is also a lesson on documentary storytelling, and how it differs from narrative film storytelling. This is brilliantly useful for nonfiction filmmakers, too. 

The Negatives

Speaking of nonfiction filmmaking, this doesn’t get nearly as much coverage as one-sided narrative filmmaking. 

Additionally, the course isn’t totally for beginners, because it assumes that you have some knowledge of the fundamentals of filmmaking, like cinematography and music. With that said, its information will certainly help you understand these better.

Pro

  • Lee’s extremely knowledgeable and experiences
  • Examples illustrate lessons
  • Essentials of filmmaking covered

Cons

  • Documentary filmmaking could have more camera coverage
  • Absolute beginners might struggle

Final Thoughts

Spike Lee’s MasterClass offers fantastic, in-depth guidance on the independent filmmaking process

We hope that you have liked this Spike Lee MasterClass review and it will help you to gain the audience’s attention and key role to stay organized!