From Jodie Foster's MasterClass

Creating the Vision for Your Film

As a director, your job is to communicate with your collaborators to create the vision for your film. Jodie discusses the tools she uses so you can bring your ideas to life.

Topics include: Creating a Visual Language · Start From the Emotional Centerpoint · Assemble Your Team · Create a List of Your Decisions · The List: Little Man Tate · Every Choice Needs a Reason


As a director, your job is to communicate with your collaborators to create the vision for your film. Jodie discusses the tools she uses so you can bring your ideas to life.

Topics include: Creating a Visual Language · Start From the Emotional Centerpoint · Assemble Your Team · Create a List of Your Decisions · The List: Little Man Tate · Every Choice Needs a Reason

Jodie Foster

Teaches Filmmaking

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In the beginning of getting a movie together, when you finally maybe get your green light and you're ready to go, you're going to have to start assembling a language-- a visual language, a sound language, a musical language, all of the different languages that are going to come to play in accomplishing your screenplay. And you're going to start hiring people, piece by piece. You're going to have to talk to them about what's in your heart, what are you thinking, and you can use anything that feels comfortable to do that. Sometimes you can use images, images that might have come off of your iPhone, or that might have come from books at the library. You can see that I have a bunch of iPhone images in the back of us that I might put together in a little book and show to the cinematographer or to the production designer about ideas that I might have for locations, or what things would look like, or colors, or framing. How to achieve movement, ideas that I have about movement. Or maybe even just references from paintings. References from mythology, for example. Anything that helps you have a dialogue will work. It can be movies. You can show ideas from films, moving images that you've seen. But first and foremost comes the emotional and character-driven dialogue that you start about your movie. [MUSIC PLAYING] I always like to use an emotional language to start with. So instead of saying, for example, I'd like you to make the light bright. And I want you to shine it on the actor's face and I want it to be darker behind, I might say, to start with, I might say I want a feeling of the character being isolated. I want a feeling of just, of being inside their face and having them floating and not really knowing exactly where they are in the world because they're disembodied. I start with that language and then we move into the techniques that allow us to get there. We're always translating each other. So we're always using different languages in order to speak to each other on a set. You have 175 people, or perhaps more, that have different expertises. With the director of photography, for example, you may speak very differently than you might with a composer. That's why starting with an emotional language is always the right place. I always see people-- sometimes young filmmakers can get overwhelmed because they think that there are-- they look at the movie and they see that they have a schedule of 35 days, and they have so much to accomplish, and they so much to say. And they can get mired down in all of the technique and the technology that they may understand or not understand. And the truth, really asking that very simple question, is it true or is it not true? Is it real? Is it not real? Is this true to my experience? Is this what I really believe? And that process of wanting to communicate more of your self towards the other is really the most important question that you have to ask, and that's really the language that yo...

Storytelling in action

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.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Excellent road map for how to make a movie. Details and case studies were invaluable. Ms. Foster is an excellent teacher.

I learned a lot from Jodie. I have taken other classes on this platform but Jodie really explained the process from start to finish in a comprehensible hands-on way. I was fully engaged and understood everything Jodie explained and am extremely grateful she did this for future filmmakers.

I am an independent self taught filmmaker who has plenty of stories to tell. Im excited about the opportunity to learn thru your system from some of my favorite writers, directors, actors, and producers. I have completed 10 classes so far and will continue to educate myself. Thank you for offering these classes. My Youtube channel is JAY HORN FILMS. Peace.

Outstanding class. Great info and experiences. Jodie was absolutely the most enthusiastic instructor.


A fellow student

This is such a great lesson, Jodie is truly inspiring and her expertise and passion for this work is truly evident. Thank you!


I’m coming from the camera department perspective trying to envision myself in directing my own writing. I found this helpful.


The closest I've ever been to film-making was creating sale videos of jumping horses (set to music), so I'm watching this more as an author who dreams of seeing her stories on the big-screen someday. But, I'm finding this fascinating and I love Jodie's approach. Especially her focus on the inner story of the characters. It's reassuring to know that is considered in the movie making process.

Sydne H.

I love that she continues to reiterate the importance of asking what is true to the vision, the character, and the story so that in the end your project illustrates the evolution it was intended to tell. Side note: you can feel her passion through these videos and that alone is inspiring.

Erin E.

see, I'll probably never make a film. may write one, that's all. but this is so good about collaboration and even just what art is all about.

Noah H.

In addition to what I just posted: the pdf for this lesson is extremely helpful. I'm considering a project to work on and the materials in the pdf are excellent reminders.

Noah H.

This was a wonderful lesson. It's hit all the notes I needed it to. I wish my film classes in school had been as well-delivered. I've been taking Jodie's class in tandem with Ron Howard's and that combo has definitely been working for me.

Alonna S.

Notes: Establish your film’s language. Inspirational images from photos, paintings, movies, etc. Start with an emotional language: Ex. the character’s face (floating) in isolation. Then techniques to get there. (Ask yourself) Is this true or not true? (to my experience and what I believe) Figure out “how” you’re going to communicate with others on the team and are they someone who you’re gonna want to spend (this much) time with? Rely on each expert to be the chief in charge of their own work. Team building begins like this: Line Producer, then production designer, and production manager. Director of photography (in general, they have a style). Make a chronological list from scene one to the last scene. And share info with that department (team). Things may change on the day. ex. Write notes about how many extras and how they’re moving in a particular scene. ex. negative space to convey loneliness “Getting ready to shoot” day. Print out the list and give to department heads. She puts hers in a drawer because she’ll probably remember/feel those previous creative ideas. Be open to surprises. (she creates a slim three- hole binder) With things like what the scene is about, technique, clear basics for the crew to be “on the same page” with a shared end goal. ex. (Lindy music) chose something with music beats—when shooting—that's easy to match in editing. Chose a lens, crop, etc. with intention to creatively control image from beginning to end. Some are structural, some are instinctual as an artist. Do the choices feel honest/true? What is true to that character?

Patti S.

I really enjoyed this chapter and lesson. It really helped me think about how to communicate my idea, breaking down the vision with the emotion/feeling. I did hit the door with not knowing how because I don't know enough (i.e. the music, the lens selection). This section helped me understand all the different views (i.e. DP, Weather, comer angles... ) break them down logically. Helped to have a template.

The Fool

Every choice needs a reason. "Form follows functon", ye olde Design theory standard. I just had the worst time in college with students who would get totally offended when you asked why they want to bring an idea into a project or asked how it supports the project or asked how it develops the story. They snarled like cats who had a hot poker shoved up their rectum. They would hiss "I just thought it was interesting," when nobody but them was interested and it's not interesting at all if you can't expand on it and follow through on it. Kids these days...I guess they can't all be the Little Girl Who Lived Down The Lane.