Arts & Entertainment

Structuring Films, Part 2

Judd Apatow

Lesson time 13:30 min

Judd teaches you how to make the most out of your opening scenes and utilize "set pieces" for maximum comedic effect.

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

Topics include: Take Time to Establish Characters in Your Openings • Identify the Ending That Is Closest to Your Heart • Serve the Story With Every Scene • Space Set Pieces Thoughtfully


For some of my movies, the openings are completely stolen from the opening of "Stripes." I remember watching that and thinking this is the perfect opening. Because what is it? It's Bill Murray driving cab intercut with Harold Ramis teaching English to people who don't speak English. And they cut back and forth, and we see how they handle it. Ultimately, Bill Murray gets in a fight with the woman in his cab. He stops on a bridge, gets out of the car, and tosses the keys into the Hudson River. And Harold Ramis winds up teaching all of the foreign students curse words and is not taking his job very seriously. Then they meet, and they talk about how terrible their lives are going. Then they see a commercial for the army, and that's the set up. And so with the movie like the 40-Year Old Virgin, sometimes I just try to start as simply as possible. It starts, and you see where he lives. You see a shot of this little apartment complex. You go inside, he's asleep, he's hugging a large pillow. But there's something about the way he's doing it, which makes you instantly realize it's like it's a woman. This is all he has. It's between his legs, and there's all this science fiction paraphernalia in his bedroom, toys everywhere. So he's living like a child. Then we see his morning, and what is his morning? It's him exercising. We thought well, a virgin would have a lot of energy. He's not having sex, so he just exercises like crazy to deal with his frustration. Then we see him alone in the tub, and it's suddenly very quiet and very sad that he's just alone just with his nose sticking out of the tub. Then we see him making breakfast, and he's amazing at it. It looks like a restaurant made it. And he serves it to himself almost like a waiter. And we thought, yes, because he's alone, he's become a good chef. He has tons of time on his hands because he's a virgin. Then he says goodbye to his neighbors who are an elderly couple who live above him. And you realize, oh, he's sweet and lonely. And he hangs out with them, and he's going to watch "Survivor" with them. And that paints the whole picture of the guy who doesn't go to a club, he goes and hangs out with the elderly people above him. Then when he walks away, they say that kid needs to get laid. And we realize that the whole world knows that something needs to change for this guy. So you love him, you already love him three minutes in because he's a nice guy. He's trying to treat himself well. He's scared, he's kind to other people. Then he walks into work. He takes his tire with him so the bike doesn't get stolen. And when he walks in, he instantly becomes very shy and a woman asks him about some product at this stereo store, and he looks terrified. And then Romany Malco leaps in, and you can tell, oh, this is how other people deal with this. They're all over it. And then he goes into the stockroom in the back of the room with Seth and shuts the door. And now, we know he's the guy t...

About the Instructor

No joke: at age 15, Judd Apatow took a dishwashing job at a comedy club to watch the acts. Today, he’s the comedic genius behind hits including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids, and Freaks and Geeks. In his first-ever online comedy class, the Emmy Award winner teaches you how to create hilarious storylines, write great stand-up, and direct movies that leave audiences laughing.

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Judd Apatow

Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.

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