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Film & TV

Jodie’s Short Film: Constructing a Scene

Jodie Foster

Lesson time 22:50 min

Using the short scene that she wrote with Scott, Jodie demonstrates how you can begin to visualize your story by mapping out a shot list.

Jodie Foster
Teaches Filmmaking
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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Well, we're going to figure out how to construct a scene. It's impossible to do that without knowing it in the context of the whole film. But we're going to really-- We're going to make some decisions early on, decisions about tone, about style. I see this really more as an indie film. We're not going to have a lot of money. We're going to have to be economical. And this story is well served by that genre, well served by knowing that you have constraints, and it'll allow it to have a kind of rawness and sort of a reality, a kind of gritty reality, that really reflects that particular character, the struggle of a woman who has just gotten out of prison who's trying desperately to be a mom, the mom that she was hoping to be, but she keeps getting dragged into crime. I work a little differently, because I've spent my life in front of the camera as opposed to behind it. And when I imagine a scene, when I imagine the construction of a scene, I very often imagine it as if I was the actor in the scene. So I will imagine myself as each one of the characters. I'll imagine myself, in this case, I'll imagine myself as the mom, as Amy. I'll imagine myself as the nurse. And then, perhaps later on if we ever looked at other scenes, I'd imagine myself as the child, as the anesthesiologist, as the second nurse, et cetera. And that's kind of how I might construct a scene like this. I usually don't do storyboards, except for elaborate shots where there might be stunts or where they might be very difficult camera moves or where it's very important for the crew to understand the sequence of shots and how exactly how they will play inside the film. Don't get too caught up in controlling and manicuring every single shot. Because A, it will change. You will get there and there is such a thing as a location, which is different than what you had in your mind. There are actors there, there are other existences, whether it's lens sizes, et cetera, that you may not be able to know about. But more importantly, you will waste a lot of time on a detail that you will not be open to the rest of the myriad of things that you'll have to be connecting with. So the way this particular script is written, it comes in with a very hard cut. I mean, you're hearing something over black, and you have a hard cut of a woman's face. And then, even as it's written, even as Scott has imagined it, we pull back a little bit to reveal more of the environment that this woman is in. Her face is, perhaps, looking directly into camera. That's a device that I like to use actually. It's very connective and interesting to have a character looking directly into the camera. It's sort of almost upsetting to the audience to be stared at like that. It works very well in a scene like this where she has very few lines. She just answers huh or no. And then, we're disoriented at the fact that she's looking directly at us. So that first shot, knowing that we're going to be pulling back, we will end...

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.

Amazing teacher. Being a professional filmmaker I still learned a lot, especially about the relationship with actors

This class was, by far, the most valuable of the ones that I have watched. Jodie's ability to reach an audience, draw them in and teach on such a deep level left me in awe. I learned so much about every aspect of the moviemaking process and really appreciated the depth of the material that she presented. Thank you Jodie for sharing your experiences with us.

I've learn more about actor and director relationship, how to talk better to the actor, what they like or don't like

great class but wish it was longer. I felt she had so much more to talk about and then she was gone. The examples used help make the process understandable. She can teach and is closer to the Ron Howard model than the Martin Scorcesse Master Class. Maybe she can be persuaded to do a Part 2.



A lot of great advice on camera placement for novice filmmakers in this one. As a cinematographer, I can tell you the blueprint view is a great way for the director to communicate to me what views they want and how many setups I need to plan for. Another HUGE gem in all this advice is when Jodie suggests shooting more than just a few lines of dialog when doing specific shots (like close ups) so you'll have them once you get into the editing room. You'll be thankful you did!

Rebecca F.

Love Jodie's thought process of why this shot and/or that shot. Very detail-oriented with realistic details. I like how Jodie doesn't patronize the audience. I feel better about my drawing skills! LOL. I love the camera angle information because I don't have any experience with that. Jodie is so humble and honest. A woman's point of view! I love it.

Noel H.

Jodie Foster is superp! I listen to her instructions at work and people ask me what radio station I am listening to. And I lie and say NPR. Because Jodie's voice is like that of someone who would be on NPR. I love it. And I am learning useful skills. And I too find a schedule very important! Thank you Jodie, I will continue listening to your Master Class! One technical note though, when I click on the stars rating the lesson, the stars don't stay lit. So I will use my words. All your lessons have a five star rating. Thank you!


Fantastic lesson! I especially like the blueprint at the end. I've never seen that but it makes it so clear. I love how she includes communicating everything to everyone.

William D.

I am enjoying every one of these lessons - I am just trying to stop myself from skipping ahead to see the end product!

Samantha G.

"All I'm doing is sitting at a desk thinking with a pen and a piece of paper and a lot of talking. And that's pretty much directing." That has to be the most simple way I've heard someone describe directing. That really takes a huge weight off of my shoulders when I think about everything that goes on behind the scenes of film.

Xavier L.

This is sooo cool Learning from her. She's a great teacher and she defines things to you in a very comprehensive way.

J'nee H.

I come from an advertising background where the visual story has to be simple and short. Our story boards were often sketched but redrawn and colored by a solid artist. I find her scratches pretty fun. As long as she can read her own "visual writing." I'm so glad she explained how the location, set, costuming, etc. impact the process and change the end product.

Jim D B.

I'm really struck, on all of these lessons, by how relaxed and comfortable Jodie is. It's like taking lessons from a friend, the information absorbs easily when it comes across easily. Appreciated.


As I'm watching this, my mind is thinking of so many things I can apply to my own films - Jodie is so inspiring!