As one of the first African American directors hired by the major studios, Michael Schultz forever changed the game by opening doors for directors of color. Starting in the ‘70s and ‘80s with such features as Cooley High (1975), Car Wash (1976), Which Way is Up? (1977), Krush Groove (1985), and The Last Dragon (1985). In 2004, Michael directed the award-winning film Woman Thou Art Loosed (2004), which won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Independent Film, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Panavision Spirit Award, and numerous other awards and nominations. Schultz’s influential career has spanned more than four decades during which he has directed feature films, movies for television, children’s programming, and episodes of television’s most popular series including Black-ish; Star; New Girl; Crazy-Ex-Girlfriend; Arrow; All American and its spinoff, All American: Homecoming; and more.
Schultz was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin—Madison and Marquette University. He joined the Negro Ensemble Company in 1968 and won the Obie Award for Best Director (Dramatic) for The NEC’s Song of the Lusitanian Bogey.
That brought him to Broadway where he was nominated for the 1969 Tony Award as Best Director (Dramatic) for Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? starring Al Pacino.
His breakthrough into film was Lorraine Hansberry’s To Be Young, Gifted and Black, which he restaged for television in 1972.
In 1991, Schultz was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame
In 2011, he was honored by the DGA’s African American Steering Committee.
In 2021, Cooley High was given one of the highest honors bestowed on a film when it was inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.