"Spike Lee" by thomas.rome is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Spike Lee” by thomas.rome is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Storytelling comes naturally to some, while others have to learn and improve upon their skills over time. In Stephen Denning’s book, The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling, he says, “Storytelling is more than an essential set of tools to get things done: It’s a way for leaders — wherever they may sit — to embody the change they seek.”

In his masterclass, the renowned writer, director, and producer Spike Lee shares several storytelling lessons.

Here are three:

  1. Do The Research. Before creating a movie, Lee spends a lot of time immersing himself in his topic by reading books and articles, listening to the music of that era, and checks out the competition (related work including movies and documentaries others have created on the topic). Research gives your story perspective, and without it, “your story will likely be one-sided,” says Lee. How exactly does Lee do this? He goes old school. He takes detailed notes on index cards, places them in a box, and when the box is full, he is ready to begin his story.
  2. Craft The Story. An emotional connection with the audience is the pinnacle of storytelling. Lee crafts a story without a formula. It’s about the setup, conflict, and resolution.
  3. Do The Work. In Lee’s case, this means writing the script. The best way to do this is to break down the big-hairy task into less-intimidating (5 o’clock shadow) deliverables. Nevertheless, creating something from nothing is challenging work that requires focus, organization, and working hours.

There are simply no shortcuts to crafting a story that people find relatable, moving, and compelling – one that inspires a community around something and for others to tell their own stories. Or to “do the right thing.