Arts & Entertainment

Directing Actors

Jodie Foster

Lesson time 21:18 min

Jodie teaches you how to work with an actor on set to create a compelling scene.

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

Topics include: Be a Good Parent · Directing Child Actors · Make Notes Specific and Positive · Adapt to the Actor · Multiple Takes · Collaborate With Your Actors · Give the Inch


Very often, the biggest worry that students and new filmmakers have is, how do I direct actors? And what happens if an actor won't do what I'm asking them to do? It is a fear that keeps people up at night, and it does happen. And occasionally, you'll have a personality of an actor who doesn't really want to do what you were hoping that they would do. And you sometimes have to be flexible enough to be able to change your ideas that you came up with. As I said, you can't make a film in your hotel room all by yourself. It requires for you to collaborate. And that also means that an actor's process has to come into your process. I very often talk about this analogy that good directing is good parenting. A good parent is somebody who loves you no matter how much pain you have on your face, who is there to be supportive and to say, yes, yes, yes, who's a cheerleader of positivity and who allows you to jump off a building, and to do something ridiculous and be foolish. And you know that they'll still be there. They may even agree that it was foolish, but they can't wait to do it again. So somebody who is a part of that process. Martin Scorsese. That was my experience with Martin Scorsese. But an actor also wants a good parent who says to them, the train is leaving the station at 8:32, and it's arriving at the other end at 11:45 so that they have constraints, that they have a structure that they can depend on and that they can feel safe inside. They don't want to feel like they're wallowing somewhere. And what happens if they drown? There will be nobody there to save them. So a good parent is both things. Both controlling and freeing. I like to bring that to the process with actors that may feel scared. They may be nervous. They may have butterflies. And the first thing they do is they put their heels down and they say, I cannot move and I will not move. I try to make them feel comfortable that I'm going to give them the freedom, but that they're also going to have my structure. [MUSIC PLAYING] I've worked with a lot of children. And unlike a lot of people, I love working with children and animals, because they're pure and they're honest. When a child does not want to throw that bowl of spaghetti anymore, they will not throw that bowl of spaghetti one more time. When that cat does not want to cough up another fur ball, there will not be another fur ball. And knowing that, they operate out of total honesty in that they can't be bribed by fame, or money, or more food. That they will only do something if we feel like it's real and that it comes organically to them I think is a real help. It means that you don't force them into situations that are wrong. I remember once trying to force a child actor to put his hands in his pockets and to say the lines with his hands in his pockets, because I had an idea in my head that that would feel like something that I was looking for. And every time he put his hands in his pockets, he became ...

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.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

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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