Arts & Entertainment


Jodie Foster

Lesson time 17:21 min

Jodie argues that casting is one of the most important decisions you can make as a filmmaker. Learn how she approaches the casting process and what you can look for in an actor when casting your own films.

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Topics include: Casting Can Shape Your Story · Follow Your Fascinations · The Casting Session · Case Study: Jennifer Lawrence in The Beaver · Tough Calls: Check Your Instincts · Keep Fighting for the One You Believe In


Casting your movie, I would say, is the most important thing, because there are a lot of choices that you can change in the moment. There are a lot of decisions that you can make and remake over time. But with an actor, you've chosen a human being that comes with a whole history of possibility and impossibilities. And hopefully, you've made that choice carefully, because in 20 minutes, you're not going to be able to change drastically somebody's entire performance. Hopefully, you know when you cast an actor-- you've known that you're on the same train, that you're speaking the same language, that hopefully you're telling the same story. And hopefully, they are open enough to tell you what they've been working on. I think people sometimes believe that a director entirely creates a performance from an actor. I've never found that to be true. I found that a director can inspire an actor to bring a performance to the table, that a director can collaborate with an actor during their process. But it really is the actor who, through preparation, brings everything to the table. And then it really is the director as a kind of dog whisperer who's able to shepherd that actor and to shift and maybe change them slightly in certain different directions. But you really only have a few minutes to change an actor's performance. So it's-- hopefully, you've gotten the right actor. Occasionally, an actor will pop out to you when you're reading a script. But for me, that doesn't happen very often. I think-- for me, I think about the story first. I think about the changes that I might want to make to that story, the development process of the script. And then little by little, actors might emerge. The casting process is really what starts making it all bubble up, where you start seeing actors say the lines. And you start understanding why dialogue works or doesn't work. And then you start understanding why that actor is correct or why that actor isn't quite right. That process of having that time of watching actors inhabit the characters and come up with things and bring things to the table, that to me is so important. And I would never cut it short. These days, we have all this technology with video, and you can see people remotely. And you can scroll through 50 different performances in a very short period of time. And sometimes that shortchanges the process of hearing the words over and over again spoken, watching actors grapple and struggle with problems in the screenplay. I like to take as much time as I can in the casting process. And I like to be in the room if I can. I've been working with the same casting director for many, many years, a good friend, Avy Kaufman, and Avy, a very well-known casting director. We were all very young together. And the experience that we had together that I think was the most seminal for us was finding the little boy to play Tate in "Little Man Tate." We went through hundreds of children, lots of actor ...

About the Instructor

Go behind the scenes with two-time Oscar-winner Jodie Foster, star of Silence of the Lambs and director of Little Man Tate. In her first online film class, she’ll teach you how to bring your vision to life. Jodie discusses her experience on both sides of the camera to guide you through every step of the filmmaking process, from storyboarding to casting and camera coverage. Everyone has a story. Learn how to tell yours.

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Jodie Foster

In her first-ever online class, Jodie Foster teaches you how to bring stories from page to screen with emotion and confidence.

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