For actors who find themselves waiting to land penetrating roles in projects they love, sometimes the answer is to take matters into their own hands and create their own projects. But the idea of filmmaking can be overwhelming as it involves a whole new set of skills from learning screenwriting rules to using highly technical equipment to assembling a qualified team.

But perhaps some actors will find inspiration from the Academy Honorary Award-winning director David Lynch through his online MasterClass. After all, Lynch has forged his own unique path in the world of filmmaking, and he feels no obligation to follow cinematic tradition. “In cinema, I don’t like rules,” he declares. The fruits of his creative efforts include Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, Eraserhead, Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks, Inland Empire, and The Elephant Man

“Everything is connected in some way or another. You could be working on a painting, and suddenly, something in that gives you an idea for a film. Music, painting, cinema—this is the art life,” Lynch asserts. Indeed, he’s speaking about his own artistic journey when he says this. Early on, Lynch studied to be an artist, but he found himself wanting to see his paintings move. So he made a short film to animate his artwork using the cheapest camera he could find. A fire was lit inside of him; Lynch soon switched his studies to filmmaking, and he received a scholarship at the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film Studies. He thrived when he was given the freedom to explore his own ideas. “You learned that if you were going to get something done, you would have to do it yourself,” he said about the school’s chaotic learning environment.

Indeed, with his artistic eye as well as his drive to take risks and experiment, Lynch has become known as a renaissance man of modern filmmaking. He believes there is no formula for writing a good script. Teaching students to look beyond traditional aspects of storytelling, he shares how he “catches new ideas” and translates them into imaginative, expressive, and even surreal visions for the screen.

“Ideas are everything,” Lynch insists. “We’re nothing without an idea. So I go where the ideas lead. When we get an idea that we love, you see it and feel it and know it all at once. The desire for an idea is like putting a little piece of bait on a hook and lowering it into the water. You don’t know when they’re going to come or what will trigger them. But lo and behold, on a lucky day—Bingo! You’ll catch an idea and … party time!”

In his online class, Lynch deconstructs his personal process for catching new ideas and allowing them to guide each step in bringing his vision to the screen. And he teaches students to connect with their own creative capabilities and apply them to film and other forms of art. The class features 12 lessons, each of which is about 12 minutes:

  • Introduction: The Art Life
  • Catching Ideas
  • Creativity and the Writing Process
  • Educating Yourself
  • Casting for Character
  • Working with Actors
  • On Set: Creating a Happy Family
  • Production Design: Building Unique Worlds
  • Cinematography: Manifesting David’s Vision
  • Sound Design and Scoring
  • Breaking the Rules
  • Make It True to the Ideas

“If you want to make a feature-length film all you need to do is get 70 ideas and you write these scenes on three-by-five cards. Then when you have 70 of them, you’ve got a feature film,” he shares.

Lynch’s course also delves into topics such as guerilla filmmaking and post-production techniques. And on top of that, he tags on a bonus chapter on another topic he’s passionate about: Transcendental Meditation (which Lynch practices twice a day).

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