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The Art of Screenwriting: Spike Lee

When you think of great screenwriters, Spike Lee is one of the first names that comes to mind for most. His innovative technique in writing is a perfect example of how the research and work behind a screenplay is just as important as actually writing.

Lee represents a screenwriter who understands the importance of the work that goes into a script. Although most screenwriters at this level put in an abundance of work into their craft, Lee takes a step further with his overall understanding of history and how it can be used in a script.

Over the years, Lee has created some of the most moving and telling stories that we will continue to look at and analyze. Other than his original scripts, Lee is a prime example of someone who can take real events and portray them exactly how they should look in a film.

To highlight the importance of his influence on screenwriting, we’re going to take a deep dive into the art of screenwriting and Spike Lee. Let’s get started!

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As noted earlier, Lee is a writer who insists on doing the research before you begin your script. Even if you’re creating an original fictional script, you should read about real-life events that are similar to your story. Doing so will help you take your script to an entirely new level.

Although research might sound like a no brainer and isn't already part of screenwriting, to begin with, it's not as common as you might expect. Once you start your first script, you may find yourself just wanting to get the script done instead of doing any sort of research.

The truth is if you can take the proper amount of time to study certain aspects of your script, then it'll make it a more robust script. At least that's what Lee's approach has been to writing script since he first started.

Truth in Characters

One part of Spike Lee's writing you'll notice is how he has truth in his characters. Whether they're a criminal, a police officer, or just a standard citizen, they have a revelation to them. Meaning that even if what they're doing is wrong, they think what they're doing is right.

For example, the best villains in scripts are usually ones who don’t know they’re a villain. It doesn’t make any sense for a villain to be evil just for the sake of being evil.

One aspect you'll notice from Lee is how the truth in character will have multiple meanings to it. A role might be a certain way early in the script, but as the story unfolds, they usually change as a result of their surroundings.

Focus on Chunks

As screenwriters, we've all heard about the three-act structure. Whether it understands the midpoint of a script or the rising action, we all have a general idea of how a story can be told.

With Lees writing, you can tell he has focused chunks in his writing. Meaning certain parts of his story are unique and stand out on their own in comparison to the rest. This is because Lee writes in such a way where each piece of his films can tell a story in and of itself.

Usually, Lee utilizes the three-act structure as a way to have three separate mini three-act structures in his script. This means that every third or so into one of his scripts, you have already witnessed a three-act structure.

As you can probably guess, this is very difficult to do. Still, it's part of the reason Lee is such a prominent figure in screenwriting.


We hope you enjoyed our piece on the art of screenwriting and Spike Lee. As noted, he’s an incredible writer and filmmaker that you should check out if you haven’t already.

Best Films:

● Malcolm X (1992)

● BlacKkKlansman (2018)

● Do the Right Thing (1989)

● She’s Gotta Have It (1986)


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