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Film & TV

The Acting Process

Jodie Foster

Lesson time 17:26 min

Drawing from her own acting process, Jodie teaches you how to inspire a powerful and honest performance from an actor.

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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I think, you know, the biggest problem that directors have with actors is that they just don't understand what acting is. And so they're intimidated by it. And they try all of these other ways to either prove that they are-- have power over you or that they know what they're doing, when the truth is they're just kind of intimidated by the process of what acting is. There's really three parts to acting. There's three layers. There's the part that the character is showing you, the part that they're communicating. There is the part that they're hiding. And there's the part that's completely unconscious, that they don't really realize is a part of their story. We're always working juggling those three different layers of meaning. In some characters, like Nell, you know, those layers are less severe. She's not hiding as much. She doesn't know that she's supposed to hide. The character like Clarice Starling in "Silence of the Lambs," you have somebody who's very aware that her words have effect. And she is presenting an image for Dr. Lecter to-- basically, to manipulate him, to get him to do what the FBI wants her to do. At the same time, she is begrudgingly revealing sides of herself. And at the same time, she's naive enough and young enough in some ways to not really 100% understand why she is on this mission, that there is a whole part of her story that's not understood even to her. I don't like preciousness. I don't like to be approached in a precious way. So I prefer somebody to be incredibly blunt and honest and tell me exactly what they mean. If they'd like me to be faster, I like to hear faster. If they'd like me to be slower, I like to hear slower. I tend to feel manipulated if somebody-- I can see somebody or notice that somebody is either trying to change the way they would speak in order to get a result from me. Actors tend to not like to be forced into result. They like to find the way themselves. I personally like directors to be prepared. I love them to be open to chance and open to spontaneity. But I want them to have a Plan A. There are too many things that can go wrong. And there's too many people's times that can be wasted. An actor's energy is important. The crew's energy is important. And so if somehow you're doing 25 takes for no reason, except that the director is unprepared, then there is a-- oh, you lose respect for the director. I don't like direction that's result-oriented, where the director tells you where he wants to get emotionally. You know, I'd like you to cry at the end, or I'd like you to laugh on this line. Or I'd like the audience to feel such and such. I want the audience to be sad or the audience to be happy. If you start making decisions-- if an actor starts making a decision about result, they'll immediately be blocked and never be able to get there. So that's an important one. Mostly, I like a director to include me in the process. I've been an actor for a really long time. I love-- ...

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.

that masterclass was great! thank you very much!

This is the best class on filmmaking I've seen. Very useful information.

A ton of info here -- and a TON of raw authenticity. Thanks, Jodie. Really well organized sessions. Super helpful!

Jodie, the fact that you do not feel a master of your craft after all you've accomplished reveals the key to greatness--staying hungry and curious.


Milad T.

She did say at one point how you're not supposed to tell an actor to feel sad or how to feel in general. So I'm wondering what the alternative solution is. How are you supposed to get an actor to feel or express a certain emotion? I've been wondering this for a long time so it would be nice if someone responded with an answer.

A fellow student

she would've been a professor for sure. She has a patient and detailed nature. She is great.

Robin Z.

I think your greatest talent is acting....that is where your spirit runs free...the film making process seems too burdened by what you do best...

Susan H. you pull Nell right into reality after so many years is a testament to your craft. What an honor to watch this class.

Mary S.

Great course. I am finding her words of wisdom and her sharing of her experiences very soothing and encouraging. I am in lock down in Saudi Arabia due to the pandemic with contact with my patients on an emergency only basis. I am using this time to find ways to explore new avenues of learning. This is my 12th MasterClass and have found this to be awesome. Wonderful way to stay connected with the world. Thank you, Jodie.


This whole course for me is inspiring. The aspects of developing a story based on a personal experience were very informative and opened up a way for me to explore not only directing but acting. I find Jodie's approach and manner so open and helpful as a creative person asking questions. Her pointing a finger to the emotional aspects of storytelling were especially helpful. Thank You Jodie.

Rebecca F.

I've not had the chance to work with actors yet! I love this information! I appreciate Jodie's honesty and I'm glad she became an actor and is open to teaching us and opening herself up to this!

Susan D.

I love how you mention "She goes to the mirror" and then you mirror the shot. #Brilliant

Riaz R.

I'm just listening away about acting, then suddenly you're on the floor shooting lightning bolts right through the screen, then we carry on with the regular class. Amazing. Fingers crossed you'll do a complete course on acting, especially a deeper dive into the process that enables a person to recall on demand whatever it was that can evoke such a powerful feeling in the viewer. A chance to get into how expressing a target emotion can 'block' that outcome from the actor, as you point out.

Dan U.

‘If you can focus on the thing that moves you and has resonance you’ll always find your way’. Also...don’t only become the character....transform yourself into leaving who you are and be the person you portray. You did not just portray Clarice not only acted the were her as long as necessary and left Jodie some place else. See Carlito’s way: Sean Penn was Dave Kleinfeld, a crooked attorney and Al Pacino was Carlitos Brigante as were many of the characters. Penn was so good if you saw him walking next to Kleinfeld you would think they were two separate people all together. Christian Bale does this remarkable well and Merle Streep....those dialects! I’m really digging this class!