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


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

Learn More


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.


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

Jodie Foster is a top notch teacher. Whether you are interested in making movies, or an author like myself, you will glean a mountain of gems from this Masterclass. Highly recommend!

understanding the acting process better and how an actor wants to be treated. To come from the emotional truth first and then apply the technical, to trust one's gut.

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

Jodie's approach was very human and fun. It was refreshing to feel invited to the process and even see her own goofy habits like the stick drawings etc. I feel really inspired to bring elements of my own story into the work I do moving forward. Thanks!


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

Joey T.

Hmm. men in failure? how about a story of women failing? -- coming out of their relationship delusions...their impossible and unrealistic expectations for relationships? You have given me the inspiration to make a film about that Ms. Foster as I, unfortunately, have met gobs and gobs of women who have made very poor choices in men and few come to realize until their 30s and 40s when successful wealthy guys have become embittered and lost interest and respect for them by then. Initially one puts women on a pedestal when one is young and full of hope. But thank you for the inspiration.

Jason C.

I love the movie Elysium you have once acted, but I was wondering if you could point out some directions on such things like camera angles, colour with 'visual references' in your future classes, it is my only suggestion.

Alan C.

So two people meet , they like each other , they have a great time together . Then some outside influence tells him something bad about her , then tells her something bad about him . They break up , and don't like each other anymore . They gain new relationships , find out what really happened , and though they are not in a relationship with each other anymore , at least they know what happened .


I loved the idea of re-imagining a film. It opens the doors to all kinds of possibilities.