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BY Abu Mubarik, 7:25pm April 03, 2023,

How Spike Lee became one of the most powerful movie producers in the world

Spike Lee. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Spike Lee is an American movie director and producer with over 35 films to his credit. The college professor, writer, and actor first made his debut as a movie director with “She’s Gotta Have It” in 1986.

Since then, Lee, who was born Shelton Jackson Lee in Atlanta, Georgia, has produced films like “Do the Right Thing,” 1989, “Jungle Fever,” 1991, and “Malcolm X,” 1992.

His venture into filmmaking was influenced by his family background. His father, William, was a jazz musician and composer. Lee attended Brooklyn’s John Dewey High School, and Morehouse College, a historically black college in Atlanta. While in college, he made his first student film, “Last Hustle in Brooklyn.” 

After graduating with a B.A. in Mass Communications, he continued to New York University, where he obtained his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1978. Although “Last Hustle in Brooklyn” was his first student film, his independent film, “Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads,” was the first student film to be showcased at Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films Festival.

His active film career started in 1985 when he shot a movie in under just two weeks with a budget of $175,000. However, the movie grossed more than $7 million at the U.S. box office.

In 1989, he released a film called “Do the Right Thing,” which later garnered him a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The movie, which was shot with a budget of just $6 million, generated nearly $40 million at the box office. However, his next movie, “Mo’ Better Blues” will generate controversy over its antisemitic undertones. Lee later released another film, a documentary called “4 Little Girls,” which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary.

According to thethings, one of Lee’s most recent films, BlacKkKlansman, garnered $87 million worldwide at the box office. Spike made the movie on a budget of just $15 million.

His most financially rewarding film was his 2006 movie titled “Inside Man,” which reportedly made a whopping $187 million worldwide, Refinery29 reported.

Lee’s influence is not only limited to film. He has directed commercials for giant brands like Levi’s, Nike, Converse, Taco Bell, and Ben & Jerry’s. He also starred in a Capital One commercial with Charles Barkley and Samuel L. Jackson. Additionally, he was reportedly paid $200,000 by the NYPD to consult on a new policing campaign in 2016.

Lee is also a heavy investor in real estate. He is said to own a townhouse on the Upper East Side, a property he acquired in the 1990s for $16 million, and a mansion in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard. 

He also owns a production company, Forty Acres and a Mule, which is headquartered in Brooklyn; according to Refinery29, he acquired the building for $820,000.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: April 3, 2023


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