From Jodie Foster's MasterClass

Jodie’s Short Film: Constructing a Scene

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.

Topics include: Jodie’s Short Film: Constructing a Scene


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.

Topics include: Jodie’s Short Film: Constructing a Scene

Jodie Foster

Teaches Filmmaking

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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.

Ow, many things I learned. Particular this class with J.Foster. I'll ready to shoot my first feature. Thank you MasterClass!

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 the advice and Jodie's energy, her passion in the explanation of the process. she looks directly at the camera and you feel as if you're there

It's just so very interesting to listen and watch people that have reached for their Bliss. Seeing that there are those that just get up and do it; to go for it, no matter how scary it is. It gives me courage and motivation to chase my Dreams overtime I turn on Master Class.


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!

Jerry K.

Great, practical advice on how to design and shoot a scene. Loved hearing Jodie say, "A pen, a paper, and a lot of talking... That's Directing!"

Melvin H.

I love that JODIE FOSTER can't draw. I always feel so self conscious because I can't draw. Doesn't stop her from getting her visual language down and it shouldn't stop me, or anyone!


That's a LOT of talking to communicate and collaborate. Ultimately, it's a TEAM EFFORT to create a film.


Knowing all the shots, which shots to stick to for the emotional journey of the film and how all these shots work together in the editing process is visualization. Transitioning can be complex. Engaging. Communicating. Articulating.... I understand why a filmmaker would need to utilize the storyboarding process much better now.

Julio J. I.

Love the raw nature of this class. Showing how filmmaking isn't pretty. It's quite complex in fact. All to produce a story that can evoke emotion. It is a beautiful irony.