From Jodie Foster's MasterClass

Jodie’s Short Film: Building Your Story Into a Screenplay, Part 1

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Jodie translates a real-life experience into a dramatic scene with Scott Frank, the screenwriter of her first film, Little Man Tate.

Topics include: Jodie’s Short Film: Building Your Story Into a Screenplay, Part 1


Inspiration can come from anywhere. Jodie translates a real-life experience into a dramatic scene with Scott Frank, the screenwriter of her first film, Little Man Tate.

Topics include: Jodie’s Short Film: Building Your Story Into a Screenplay, Part 1

Jodie Foster

Teaches Filmmaking

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The process of coming up with the scripts, whether it's for a short or for a feature, there's a lot of different ways to do that. I decided to find a personal moment of my own, something that I'll never forget, just a little blip in my life, I'll tell it to you now. And then we'll turn it into a scene, or maybe a series of scenes. We'll see as time goes on. When my son was probably-- I don't know-- five-years-old, six-years-old, he had to have his tonsils and his adenoids out and some ear tubes put in there as well. We took him to the lovely hospital, a wonderful otolaryngologist, is what she's called. I hope I pronounced that correctly. And as he was going into the anesthesia, we were kidding around with him. And there came a moment where the anesthesiologist said, we're going to play spaceman. And he started talking to him and making him laugh about how they were going to count down, count backwards. My son was too young to count backwards. He put the mask over his mouth. And he was laughing and smiling with me. And he started counting backwards, or frontwards, in his case. And there was just this kind of devastating moment, where as he was counting, he realized that something was happening to him. And I projected while I'm watching him, looking at his eyes, I projected this kind of fear and betrayal that somehow I'd betrayed him, that I had lied to him, that I told him that something was going to happen that wasn't happening. And now his body was melting. And he was out of control. And at that one moment, I wanted to stop the whole procedure. Because I felt like my child was-- was going and that I had done something terrible to him, and that there was no way for me to stop this experiment. I wanted to say, wait, wait, wait. And at that, his eyes rolled back in his head and crazy, twitchy things happened. And he was out. I was devastated. I was absolutely devastated in that moment and, you know, shaken, taken away. They said, everything's fine. It's going to be great. 15-20 minutes later, they wheel him back in. He's asleep. Everything's fine. And I hear kind of a funny sound over there. And it was like, wow, there's kind of a funny sound over there. And then suddenly, my son pops up like in a scary movie and starts screaming and kicking and going, no, no, no, craziness. And I'm trying to hold him down and tell him that everything's okay. And tears are coming to my eyes. And a nurse comes over and pops him with some kind of anesthesia that just knocks him down. And she explains to me that, oh, this is completely normal. This is just a immersion trauma. This is how we know that the anesthesia is harmless. And at this I'm floored. I'm completely floored. The child has been crawling, trying to grab on to me and say no. Of course, everything was fine. 20 minutes later, he woke up and said, this is the best hospital I've ever seen. I can't wait to come back to this hospital. They gave him some kind of a balloon or a teddy...

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.

Great practical examples of the craft of film directing. Inspired me to pursue a career in film production,

This is the best lesson I watched so far, and not only beacause the charm of the teacher but beacuse of the very practical different demonstrated parts of the process of making a movie. It's really a great inspiration and help. Thanks.

I enjoyed Jodie Foster, she is great, I learned more than I anticipated. Thank you.

Beginner level and having a Masterclass experience gave me a true perspective of the filmmaking process from the comfort of my home computer. Jodie Foster was exemplary and spoke so well to my level.


svetlana Y.

This was really interesting :) The writer is 100% right about the big picture, but her input as an actor who is basically already in character does enhance the way scenes are constructed a lot.

Nina T.

I appreciate how they collaborated in this process. It’s exciting to know that even though as a screenplay writer, no matter how many times you rewrite your script when the director gets involved they make minor and sometimes when needed, major changes to improve the story you’re trying to tell, and I love how the director envisions what you’ve created as a writer and takes hold of that vision and improves on it to help bring your story to life.

Ryan K.

For those having an issue with downloading the PDF. The popup that shows on the video itself didn't work for me a couple times. I tried the "Download PDF" button though below the video description and that worked no problem. Maybe give that a shot? Fun video to see the creative process between her and Scott though!

Theresa P.

This has been one of the most helpful MasterClasses I've watched so far. Seeing the decision-making and collaborative process is really useful. Excited for Part 2.

Xavier L.

That's my girl!! Love her to death man!! I'm a fan of her films and I'm a fan of her being a teacher too!! She's Jodie the Great! Much Respect to you babe!!

Genji J.

I love the way of breaking the scenes down gives the reader or actor the opportunity to understand whats going on in the scene

Tonya P.

That was incredibly powerful to watch it play out. Very inspiring, Thank You So Much

Richard F.

Just a story note. I think the main character is a more of an addict than a hardened criminal. As such, her inner conflict is the love of her child versus the temptation of her addiction. You can show this in the scene where she is visibly struggling which item to keep (the teddy bear or the phone). I think this film would be good as a redemption story.

Patti S.

It was nice to see this screenplay and all the changes. I have been working on my own for sometime, life long dream, assumed never to be used. I am thankful to finally watch real professionals use and change as they go. Can be intimidating to know as a screenwriter it always gets changed.

Vartan N.

This is such a candid and rich lesson revealing how a filmmaker and writer can collaborate to make a much better story and script. I am truly grateful and amazed. Thank you very much Jodie Foster, Scott Frank, and Masterclass!