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Film & TV

Deconstructing Visual Choices: The Beaver

Jodie Foster

Lesson time 16:30 min

Jodie breaks down a storyboard sequence from her movie The Beaver to explain how she chose shots that help convey the emotional message of the scene.

Jodie Foster
Teaches Filmmaking
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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So we managed to drag out some storyboards from "The Beaver," executed by a much better storyboard artist than myself, thank goodness. You'll be able to see how we constructed quite a difficult scene. It is the scene where Walter attempts suicide. He's had a night of drinking. He's distraught. He's depressed, and he decides to try to kill himself by hanging himself on a shower curtain rod. He even messes that up. And the shower curtain rod falls, and he is in the bathtub. He drags the curtain rod with him out to the balcony. We notice that he still has this puppet on his hand that he's forgotten about. He drags the shower curtain out to the balcony, and he climbs up onto the railing. He thinks about his life and about that one moment where he's about to throw it all away and about to finally kill himself. And the beaver puppet pops up into his face and says, "Oy." And that confusion of that sends him backwards. Falling backwards into a stunt, of course, where he hits the television set, which comes crashing on his head and knocks him out. [MUSIC PLAYING] PUPPET: Oy. - We needed to storyboard that sequence because it involves a man hanging over a curtain rod, falling into a bathtub, dragging this curtain rod, standing over the railing of a hotel-- obviously this is dangerous-- falling backwards, and having a big television set fall on his head. We needed to be very meticulous about how this was going to be executed and how it was going to be cut together, obviously, to keep the actors safe. But more importantly, in order to tell the story beats that we needed to tell as economically as possible. So I'll grab my storyboards. As you can see, the storyboards start off on the curtain rod and him attaching his necktie. And we boom down into a profile of Walter. Then I like to jump back to this wide frame. And the film was filmed in anamorphic ratio-- the sort of wider ratio with these lovely anamorphic lenses-- so it allows you to have this very, you know, painterly vision of this distraught man standing in the bathtub with a necktie attached to him. A very sad image with a lot of negative space on both sides. Walter's feet step up, so we see his feet step up onto the bathtub. And we have to boom up a little bit from his feet, so that we see him about to hang. Then, we cut to a frontal, where he's tightening this noose. It felt important to me to add these pieces. To not have it all play in this big wide shot-- in this lonely wide shot. We need to understand that this man is about to commit suicide and that this is agony for him. It's important to see that on his face, to see him be distraught. One of the things that is of concern in this sequence is that the film is kind of a black comedy. There are black comedy quirky elements to it. So yes, is this a sad movie about somebody who's attempting suicide. But we have some quirky parts to it. So we don't want to have the suicide...

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.

Jody Foster, Thank U for Providing Me All the Tools 2 Succeed!!!

great class but wish it was longer. I felt she had so much more to talk about and then she was gone. The examples used help make the process understandable. She can teach and is closer to the Ron Howard model than the Martin Scorcesse Master Class. Maybe she can be persuaded to do a Part 2.

My first class went wonderfully! Progressed at my own pace and finished in just four days. Can not wait to take more classes!

a great confident approach, her experience as an actor/director, and a sensitive person that can take you by the hand and help to learn something that is not on the books


Robin Z.

Sorry...I feel this woman is way too intelligent for the stuff she has to work on....mediocre product that she does not deserve....I feel she could do so much more...deeper, less commercial stuff....

Rebecca F.

Ms. Foster, I'm a 54-year-old woman and have been writing thriller scripts with a woman as the main character trying to get something made for the past 15 years. I can't tell you how many men who have told me not to follow my passion. It's so refreshing to hear and watch you, a woman, teach a film making class. You've done it. You're successful. You're a woman. It's just so inspiring.


I suppose that's where previs might be useful (Transitioning from the rod to talent), pre-shoot the sequence in 3D using an anamorphic len for the 3D camera

A fellow student

I Dive in this class, because I'm a fan of the work of Jodie. But what really impresses me is how she teaches us how simple is to create a movie. I'm allays saying that every work can be easy after we know how to do it... film making wasn't in that list until now.

Chad E.

The shot transitioning techniques are interesting and helpful. Planning shot angles and coverage ahead of time is especially necessary with a single camera setup. Otherwise, people will all be standing around waiting and understandably grumbling while you figure it out.

Miguel E.

i love the idea of showing the episode before explain it. that helps me a lot to understand the sequence of ideas.

Jerry K.

Jodie has a superior thought process and attention to detail. A very instructive lesson!

Tim G.

I am really enjoying this class, but after watching the clip with Mel Gibson standing on the edge of the balcony and falling back into the room, hearing Jodie say, “obviously, we need to protect the actor, but more importantly...” made me laugh out loud. I know she didn’t mean to make organizing the shoot and the production costs sound more important than Mel Gibson’s safety, but it’s still funny to hear said aloud.


Jodie has such a fantastic teaching style that both informs and instructs at the same time.

The Fool

Ha! The Hanged Man. I know him, what a card. A good exercise for story-boarding practice is to copy frames from a movie. Any camera changes, actor motion, object motion, lighting change, you freeze frame on. Then doodle it into a little movie screen oriented box as best as you can quickly. You're not making art, you're making production illustrations. Write some notes about what happens. Graphical outlined arrows are used for what the camera is meant to do. A thin lined arrow from an actor or object can show what motion they make like swinging their head around or lifting the gun from their belt. Try different tools, crayon, charcoal, China marker, pen, phones, tablets, and other assorted software. Public Domain movies will allow you to legally capture frames to your computer/phone and then trace over them in some paint software that supports layers to create storyboards that are accurate to the frames if you aren't practiced at drawing. You can do some filming on your phone and then try the same thing, it might seem silly in your phone when you're zooming into a doorbell but present a wholly different story once you storyboard it, cutting to the guy in the mask inside with his hands in the safe.