Jodie Foster Teaches Filmmaking in New MasterClass

January 22, 2019

Hollywood legend Jodie Foster is ready to share many valuable insights she’s learned over the course of 50 years in the entertainment industry with students via an online Masterclass. From the point of view of an actor-director, the two-time Academy Award-winning actress hopes to guide aspiring filmmakers through the ambitious process of making a movie. Taking it one step at a time, Foster reveals her unique and personal approach.

“When you act and direct at the same time, it’s a balancing act,” the 56-year-old actress says. “Actors tend to focus on the moment, but directors have to do more than that. The director is the leader.”

Students can learn at their own pace on their mobile device or desktop computer. The online class features 18 lessons along with a downloadable workbook and, according to the website, “access to exclusive supplemental materials from Jodie’s archive.” Students are invited to upload their own videos to receive feedback from the class. And a select number of students will receive a critique from Jodie herself.

Foster speaks about the anxiety directors often experience because they are constantly questioning aspects of the film from beginning to end. A director might realize the script needs to change halfway through the shoot, or some unexpected weather might have the potential to throw a monkey wrench into the production.

To pull through, Foster emphasizes the importance of relying on the knowledge and expertise of others on set. “You’re never going to know every single thing that your crew member knows. But what you do have to have is a unifying language of vision,” she says.

Lessons include how to map out a shot list, storyboarding, and effective ways to collaborate with screenwriters. Her good friend, Scott Frank, who wrote her directorial debut Little Man Tate sits down with her to demonstrate ways to examine character, plot structure, tension in scenes, and adding a sense of realism throughout a script.

Foster also teaches students the essentials of prepping, scheduling, and casting. With acclaimed performances in films like The Accused and The Silence of the Lambs, Foster knows exactly what style of directors bring out an actor’s best work. So, in particular, she discusses ways in which directors can collaborate with actors in the quest of inspiring “a powerful and honest performance.” In addition, Foster’s lessons include tips on how to shoot the film, and she shares insights about camera coverage.

When it comes to post-production, Foster discusses how she reviews the dailies as well as how she chooses one performance over another in the editing room. Demonstrating with raw footage from her thriller film Money Monster, she walks students through the process of assembling a scene.

In addition to Little Man Tate and Money Monster, Foster directed the 1995 family comedy-drama Home for the Holidays starring Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr., the 2011 comedy-drama The Beaver starring Mel Gibson and herself, as well as episodes of the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, House of Cards, and Black Mirror.

Most of all, through her class, Foster hopes to inspire students to find their personal story and help them tell it with authenticity. She shares personal experiences with failure as she seeks to humanize the process. Interested aspiring filmmakers can learn more about the class at MasterClass.com

“The truth is that everything that you have to know is inside of you. Every decision-making process is instinctual, can come from within. And as long as you have a pen and paper to write it down, you’re in good shape,” Foster says.


Jodie Foster’s Thoughts on Superhero Movies

January 6, 2018

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years, you will have noticed the ubiquitous nature of superhero films like Batman, Iron Man, Spiderman, Superman–gosh, lotta men here (thank God for Wonder Woman)–The Avengers, Doctor Strange, and so on–as well as mega blockbusters like Transformers, Mission Impossible, Star Trek, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic Park flooding the film market.

For those who attend the cinema to escape the vagaries and anxieties of the modern world, this is most likely a good thing. These movies tend to be visually spectacular, if not mind-blowing, and the action and laughs just keep on coming.

But for those who go to the cinema to have their intellect challenged and to feel culturally enriched, this trend is probably not such a good thing. Take Jodie Foster; she recently stated rather emphatically in an interview with Radio Times, “Going to the movies has become like a theme park.” And as not to be misunderstood, the two-time Academy Award-winning actress continued, “Studios making bad content in order to appeal to the masses and shareholders is like fracking–you get the best return right now, but you wreck the earth.”

The Silence of the Lambs star summed up her thoughts with a brash and unambiguous statement: “It’s ruining the viewing habits of the American population and then ultimately the rest of the world.”

It’s probably safe to say that most people don’t go to Marvel or DC films to plumb the depths of the soul or to comprehend the mysteries of a universal mind. Chekov and Dostoevsky aren’t necessarily well represented in the stark world of the hero and the supervillain. But to dismiss such films as common escapism is perhaps a miscalculation. Take Batman for instance. Bruce Wayne is dealing with the death of his beloved father, the trauma of a childhood event, as well as his savage craving for revenge; the Hulk’s Bruce Banner is said to struggle with the after-effects of child abuse and latent Dissociative Identity Disorder; the Silver Surfer is a lonely old soul who generally chooses the path of peace; and Doctor Strange is an arrogant surgeon humbled by a horrifying accident. In fact, Strange ultimately battles an archdemon whom many consider a god. To some, this is pretty heady stuff.

In response to Jodie Foster’s unforgiving examination of the film industry, James Gunn, writer-director of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films, had this to say: “I think Foster looks at film in an old-fashioned way where spectacle film can’t be thought-provoking. It’s often true but not always. Her belief system is pretty common and isn’t totally without basis. I say not without basis because most studio franchise films are somewhat soulless–and that is a real danger to the future of movies. But there are also quite a few exceptions.”

What do you think about Foster’s opinions? Are spectacle films pure shlock? Or do they offer some real drama within the strictures of a bombastic genre?


Jodie Foster Defends Kristin Stewart and All Budding Actors

August 16, 2012

“Just to set the record straight, a salary for a given on-screen performance does not include the right to invade anyone’s privacy, to destroy someone’s sense of self.” –Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster recently blasted modern media while defending her Panic Room co-star Kristin Stewart: “If I had to grow up in this media culture, I don’t think I could survive it emotionally,” Foster said. Jodie was of course referring to Stewart’s recent tryst captured by much-obliged paparazzi with Snow White And The Huntsman director Rupert Sanders. Although an affair is not a capital crime, Hollywood can be an unforgiving place and Stewart’s career could be adversely affected. In response, Foster wrote an open letter to the industry detailing the ongoing battle modern actors must fight to maintain even the slightest shred of privacy. “If I were a young actor today I would quit before I started.” Foster challenges the assumption that Stewart–and other high-profile actors whose mistakes are made public–will survive unscathed by such public scrutiny. She questions if those in similar situations will eventually buckle under the pressure and resort to overdosing or other self-inflicted harm, emphasizing all human beings are vulnerable.

Let’s face it, there’s no way to get through this life mistake free. And errors in judgment are a great way to learn the important lessons in a world of competition and corruption. But mistakes made in such a public industry can be costly, and a young actor would be wise to take note. We all should be entitled to our desires and to our personal lives, but it’s important to consider the consequences before you do anything that could be captured by a zoom lens lying in wait or the ever-present iPhone. And fortify yourself with a heavy cushion of healthy self-esteem and plenty of strong friendships. This is a high-stakes game, and you want to give yourself every opportunity to succeed. Let’s be honest, when it comes to show business, the media seems to relish a dirty story, and is a bit bored with virtue.

What do you think about Jodie’s open letter? Do you agree with her?