What advice does Spike Lee have for film school graduates?

Welcome to our ongoing Learning from the Masters and Industry Insiders series where we seek out and feature excellent videos, interviews, and discussions of the art, craft, and business of screenwriting and pull the best words of wisdom, writing tips, and screenwriting advice.

Here we turn to the Film Courage video Spike Lee’s Advice To Film School Graduates (see link at end of this article) and we recap Spike Lee’s words of advice:

You Can’t Be Lazy

“I’ve had students who were lazy. And laziness is something I really can’t tolerate because laziness speaks at a sense of entitlement. That’s just not a good look in this industry, where you think that you’re entitled to something… you think you deserve something… because you’re wherever you think you are. It doesn’t work like that.”

The people that make it in the film and television industries are those that work harder and smarter than everyone else. You can’t be lazy. You can’t be complacent. You can’t coast. And you need to know that you’re not entitled to anything.

You have to put in the hours and the time, just like everyone else.

Film Degrees Don’t Matter in Hollywood

“A lot of people come out of [film school] thinking that because you have this degree from NYU, USC, AFI, or Columbia… in the real world, they don’t give a s***. If you don’t have the talent, that degree doesn’t mean a thing.”

You don’t go to film school to get a degree. You go there to get the necessary experience that you need to start to create a body of work.

A film degree will not get you into Hollywood. The work will.

You Need Films, Scripts, or Reels Coming Out of Film School

“If you’re coming out of school you should have, if you’re a director, you should have a film. If you’re a DP, you should have a reel. An editor should have a reel. If you’re a screenwriter, you should have scripts. People really want to see the work you’ve done.” 

Don’t use film school to gain enough credits to get a piece of paper called a degree. If you’re going to go to film school, you should be using that time to create as much as you can.

If you’re a director, you should be making multiple short films. And if you can, do your best to try and make a feature. Utilize the tools that a film school can offer.

If you’re a DP or editor, work with your peers to get those opportunities you need to create a reel of solid work.

If you’re a screenwriter, you should be writing as much as you possibly can.

That’s what film school is really for.


Watch the whole video below!

Learn more via Film Courage and watch the video on YouTube: Spike Lee’s Advice To Film School Graduates


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Michael Lee

Author Michael Lee

Michael Lee has worked in development as a script reader and story analyst for a major studio, Emmy Award-winning production company, and iconic movie director.

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