From Jodie Foster's MasterClass

Directing Actors

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

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


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

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

Jodie Foster

Teaches Filmmaking

Learn More


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 ...

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.

This was an excellent class. I really enjoyed the thought and process that went into this instructor. They are obviously a master at their craft and interesting perspective.

Jodie Foster is a great teacher. I've studied with the other filmmaking teachers at Masterclass and each instructor has their own style of teaching. Jodie's complements the others. She's a great teacher and I've learnt so much from her, her workbook and suggested reading materials. Thank you Jodie for being a part of Masterclass.

I love Jode Fosters class! She is so very honest about the process, so generous with her advice and such warm and eloquent! Thank you!

Wonderful teacher and human being. I've learned a great deal from this lesson.



I watched this lesson many times, her clarity and respect for the craft is incredible. I enjoyed this so much.

Donna K.

I enjoyed this lesson so much. Jodie's clarity in explaining the process of filmmaking is empowering to all and of course her acting/directing work is second to none. Clear boundaries embracing the art of 'taking chances' is the real tea!


Wow. Just wow. I have always intuitively respected and admired Jodie Foster, but watching this, I realize she is everything I thought she was, and more. If I was ever in the position to have one of my books made into a movie, I would want Jodie as the director, because she gets it. (Stop laughing, I can have my dreams too...LOL!) And what a top-notch teacher she is, on top of everything else. A thousand thumbs up, Jodie! Thank you for sharing yourself so fully in this masterclass.


Again, lots of GREAT tips on what a Director should do to make a successful film, from set to screen. :)


What was Clooney ? meaningful, a Child's body needed to align physiologically yo present truth. Is this also true for adults?

John B.

I am not a director. Nor an actor. But I am an avid moviegoer. And an intensely curious person. Jodie Foster is the cream of the crop, as a person, an intellect, an actor, and a director. Her communication skills are phenomenal and her passion for her craft is infectious. Along the way, she drops pearls of wisdom for life. For example, "give an inch" = Respect.


Multiple takes is part of being in the cast and crew in films. I liked the show and tell clips. Good class :)

John S.

So lovely to listen to Ms. Foster invite us into her world on her directing process! Fantastic! As with every director I meet or listen to in an interview I learn something new so that I can put their ideas into my directing toolbox. In TV directing time is something you don't have when it comes to establishing a working relationship with your actors. One trick I use on every show I direct is to make sure you meet the cast before shooting and most importantly EVERY morning before they call cast to set. I make sure I visit each and everyone, on the makeup trailer, the cast trailer or wherever I can to discuss the day'work and answer any questions they might have. Not only will the cast fully appreciate your effort but it shows you care about the process!Most importantly It can save you invaluable time on the set when everyone is on the same page! Cheers!


I didn't even think about accommodating and planning for different acting styles. While one actor is happy to do a million takes, the other may be a perfectionist and need time to get in character. Great thoughts!


Not all directors have people's skills, especially writers/directors. To be an actor takes a thick skin and a collections of tools and weapons to deliver the best we can. Directors tend to like the sound of their own voices. If a director doesn't know how to communicate with the actor, I find that to start, it is always better to give notes in a private setting, and not in front of the entire cast and crew from a megaphone.