From Jodie Foster's MasterClass

Exploring the Big Idea in Film

Jodie breaks down the concept of the “big idea” in film. You’ll discover how you can use it as a tool to hone your storytelling skills.

Topics include: The Big Idea: Money Monster · Apply Your Signature to Other Films

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Jodie breaks down the concept of the “big idea” in film. You’ll discover how you can use it as a tool to hone your storytelling skills.

Topics include: The Big Idea: Money Monster · Apply Your Signature to Other Films

Jodie Foster

Teaches Filmmaking

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Preview

So what is the big idea? The big idea isn't the plot. It is the story. It's what you're trying to say. It-- it-- the big idea is something that encapsulates the vision of your film in a very simple way-- the reason that you are fascinated. Now, this idea may be the reason that you got involved in the film the first place. But it may evolve over time, and it may turn into-- it may turn into something that you hadn't anticipated. The idea might change. You might realize that the thing that you were fascinated with in the beginning has transformed and morphed into something different. In a way, the big idea is the vision. It's the inspirational one line that keeps-- is the question, really, that keeps the filmmaker on this momentum, this ball of discovery. So it's always interesting as an exercise to define what the big idea is in the movies that you see. What is that one thing that is sort of life changing or life shaking about that film? Sometimes you can discover that big idea intentionally-- the way Jane Campion does in "The Piano," for example, where she really-- that is-- that is really intentional that she says-- this character, in-- in order to finally say, I want to live-- that she cuts the rope at the end of the movie and takes this big gasp. That's a very intentional moment. If you look at a film like a Martin Scorsese movie, like "Taxi Driver," for example, there is a scene in that movie that is the seminal moment in the movie that everybody always remembers, where Robert De Niro says, "You talking to me"? That scene, for me, is very emblematic-- is a signpost for what the big idea of the movie is. The big idea for me is that-- the 1970s, you know, there is a lost man who came back from war and didn't know where he belonged. He wasn't an American. He wasn't a soldier. He was just an anonymous ghost in the middle of a big city. And all he wants-- his motivation in this film is to be something. That is really articulated in the scene that Robert De Niro has, where he improvised this, you know, this wonderful line, "Are you talking to me"? That's an-- an idea that is elaborated through character. Martin Scorsese didn't talk to him about you know symbolism or coming up with something. It was just something that happened because the actor was so in character. And in that moment, you know, he had a gun, he had some guns strapped to him. And Martin Scorsese he just let him be free. And I think he let him find a-- a speech, or something, or a movement, or a gesture-- a piece of language that said everything. And for me, that moment is Robert De Niro looking in the mirror and-- and asking himself, you know, in character, pretending to be somebody who's bigger and more important than he is, and looking at a stranger and pretending that that stranger is looking back at him, and asking him very cockily, you know, "You talking to me"? That tells you everything about the character of "Taxi Driver." The big idea in M...

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.

Reviews

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

Love the teacher. Love the insights. Will be a huge help in our up and coming film.

As a female myself, I feel incredibly inspired and moved by Jodie, her story, and her perspective in filmmaking. I feel humbled to have the chance to hear her speak and I'm excited to incorporate what I've learned as I experiment with my own filmmaking as I learn the ropes and come to find my own voice.

Thank you for the detail included in the lessons. Seeing the storyboarding to the types of shots, the original footage before we see the edited version. . . Those types of details helped a lot.

Loved it. Showed both sides of the crew the actors and filmmakers

Comments

Mia S.

"You definitely don't need to know the big idea of your film before you make it, even while you're making it. The thing that you need to know is that you love it, you're inspired by it, it keeps you up at night. I think that an obsession is a signifier for something that is worth exploring. It's through that exploration, very often through that conscious and unconscious exploration, that a director comes to understand that their movie represents them, that their movie is a part of their awakening and their becoming. My favorite exercise is going to a movie and reimagining it. You go into a film and you say, 'How could I have that so that it feels like me?' It's not better - not, 'How could I have made that movie better?' but 'How could I make that movie fit some of the things I want to say?' 'The Martian' - I would like to inhabit the point of view of that man, Matt Damon's character; so maybe the film starts when he wakes up, everybody's left him already and he wakes up on this planet, the red planet - so the point of view immediately is the point of view of somebody who's in that spacesuit, somebody who's in that module, somebody who's seeing things in a way that is confused. He doesn't know what's up or down, what's oxygenated, what isn't, and the camera, as he is - the point of view of the film is the point of view of a man in abject loneliness. The plants that he comes up with, we watch that - maybe there are reveries. In order to propel himself to live, he's going to go back to his past and say, 'Why did I leave that girlfriend? Why did I join the space program?' Maybe his memories are faulty, aren't true. Maybe in his memories are celebrities; maybe Johnny Depp appears in his memory, because they're not really memories, they're fantasies. You can change the rules because they're from his perspective, and he is somebody who's just trying to live, so maybe he's creating these thoughts and pondering his life in a way that he might not do if he was in a regular film with all sorts of other characters' points of view. That path or that journey of a singular person doing whatever it takes in order to stay alive - and the craziness and fantasies of musical numbers, who knows what might be happening in his psyche? The film itself might be very contained an inexpensive - an indie movie that is nonlinear, that happens in one area (this setup) but maybe this red planet that we shoot someplace inexpensive like Morocco, I don't know. And we let the fantasy sequences be the things that give us some scope. Reimagine it and embrace it as if this film had your signature."

Davide M.

Interesting perspective on life. I never saw you as a child prodigy. I saw you as a great actor. It was later I learned of your directing skills. To date, you put on one of the most believable characters I've ever seen. I'll leave it up to you decide which one. Thank you for sharing.

Mia S.

"So what is 'the big idea'? The big idea isn't the plot, it is the story. It's what you're trying to say. The big idea is something that encapsulates the vision of your film in a very simple way - the reason that you are fascinated. Now, this idea may be the reason that you got involved in the film in the first place, but it may evolve over time, it may turn into something that you hadn't anticipated. The idea might change - you might realize that the thing you were fascinated with in the beginning has transformed, morphed into something different. In a way, the big idea is the vision. It's the inspirational one line that is the question, really, that keeps the filmmaker on this momentum, this ball of discovery. It's always interesting as an exercise to define what the big idea is in the movies that you see. What is that one thing that is sort of life-changing or life shaking about that film? Sometimes you can discover that big idea intentionally, the way Jane Campion does in 'The Piano,' for example, where that is really intentional that she says, 'I want to live' - that she cuts the rope at the end of the movie and takes this big gasp. That's a very intentional moment. If you look at a film like a Martin Scorsese movie, 'Taxi Driver' for example, there is a scene in that movie that is the seminal moment in the movie that everybody always remembers, where Robert De Niro says, 'You talking to me?' That scene for me is very emblematic, is a signpost for what the big idea of the movie is. The big idea for me is that the 1970s, there is a lost man who came back from war and didn't know where he belonged; he wasn't an American, he wasn't a soldier, he was just an anonymous ghost in the middle of a big city. And all he wants - his motivation in this film - is to be something. That is really articulated in the scene that De Niro has where he improvised this wonderful line, 'Are you talking to me?' That's an idea that is elaborated through character. Scorsese didn't talk to him about symbolism or coming up with something, it was just something that happened because the actor was so in character. And in that moment, he had a gun, some guns strapped to him, and Scorsese just let him be free. I think he let him find a speech, or something - a movement or a gesture, a piece of language that said everything. For me, that moment is Robert De Niro looking in the mirror and asking himself - in character, pretending to be someone bigger and more important than he is, and looking at a stranger and pretending that that stranger is looking back at him and asking him, very cockily, 'You talking to me?' That tells you everything about the character of 'Taxi Driver.' The big idea in 'Money Monster,' for me, has to do with men and failure and what men do in order to vanquish that feeling of failure. They tend to blame outwards, and in that particular movie, all of the male characters are surrounded by these strong women. In some ways, these strong women who they fear are disappointed by them. Kyle's scene where he is onstage and his girlfriend comes and everybody thinks that somehow she's going to be able to talk him off the ledge - his eight-month pregnant girlfriend - and in fact she, little by little, starts berating him and it becomes just this momentous, dark, rage-filled attack on Kyle (Jack O'Connell's character). This sort of fits in with the big idea of the movie about men and failure, about who men become in the face of this masculine disappointment in themselves."

Janet J.

Yes I have the big idea in my book i made from a script but want to add more to the script to make it into a full length movie from my life soul journey and added to the idea of the book into a longer book and eventually animation or movie A GIRL NAMED ZINNIE

Angela A.

I've always thought the Star Wars saga would be so different told from a female perspective. Padme calling her mom and saying "Mom, I'm pregnant, the father is a Jedi, I'm so screwed" and her mom hanging up and devising a plan to bring her little girl home and raising that baby with her, or Leia and how she grew up, because you don't become a rebel princess just because you like the hairstyle. Something in her childhood, something about the Force in her as a little girl, what her parents told her in order to turn her into the kind of woman who would lead a rebellion, or even Anakin's mother's life after she gave up her son.

Lee

The Martian also for me is an inspiration. Having been employed in my earlier years after college were in management in the space program.

Lee

Money Monster for me is not a retread but a reality. Hopefully, along the way, as a professional actor will be blessed to have the opportunity such a character in a production or perhaps as a writer my consciousnesses will come to be flooded by my subconsciousness of a character's mindset in creative and teaching sort of way.

Lee

Jodie Foster a "remarkable" lady has a deep spirituality. The Great Holy Spirit, for some unknown reason. to me has given a "sixth sense." Sense Jodie too has also been awesomely blessed in a beautiful unique way. A gem of a person with a keen sense of self perception reflected in the characters she plays as an actress and the ability to bring that out in the actors she directs in a production.

Lee

Ah yes! Taxi Driver Can relate to coming back to the world after serving in country.

A fellow student

Your inspiration has filled my inner being. Freeing ones mind to release content from a series of spiritual awakenings while being abused in a church that devalues any female and then escaping into a world that saved her and then repeated the same abusive life while living with an illness that creates limitations that she hides for decades. Having been warned by the powerful church hierarchy of a lifetime of retribution and the ultimate threat of taking her children, she embarks on a miraculous path of finding a cure for her illness, creating a new life of security and success by using her ultimate potential of releasing this story to save countless others that have walked the same path.