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.
His success in the film industry has endeared him to many hearts and whenever he speaks, people are willing to listen to him. He recently sat down for a fireside chat with Leah Smart, editor of LinkedIn News and podcaster of Everyday Better, at the LinkedIn Talent Connect Summit in New York.
Touching on his journey to success, Lee noted that no matter who you are, you won’t become successful overnight. For him, the sooner you internalize that, the better.
“One of the worst lies that’s been told to young people is that there’s a thing called ‘overnight success.’ That’s done a lot of damage to people,” Lee, 66, said. “It’s not like you’re just out there, and the hand of God is going to come down from the heavens and say, ‘You are the next one.’ That is BS.”
He also stressed that success is usually preceded by a lot of work even if it doesn’t seem so on the surface. He also added that: if you are waiting for the right opportunity and do not do anything to prepare for it or hasten its presence, you probably won’t achieve what you want, CNBC Make It reported.
Highlighting his own journey and challenges, he noted that when he graduated from Morehouse College in 1979, he wanted to go to film school. “But that whole thing of … moving out to LA and working your way up from the mailroom, that don’t work for Black people,” he said.
He was rejected from film schools at the University of Southern California and the American Film Institute. However, he got accepted at New York University — based on the quality of his work, rather than his results on standardized tests like the GRE, he said.
He further noted at the LinkedIn summit that “There are going to be times where you want to cry and you want to quit. You can’t quit. You’ve got to keep going!”