Film & TV

Structuring Films, Part 2

Judd Apatow

Lesson time 12:34 min

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

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

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...


Get serious about comedy

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.



Reviews

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

This class brings learning and laughs with a feel of it coming from a comfy place in Judd's heart.

Iv seen many classes, I think you guys need to have more INSERTS of the things they are talking about, more scnes and behind the scene footages . Thanks a lot , love it

The class was very informative. Judd comes off as a sincere guy that truly wants others to succeed.

I'm just very thankful that Mr. Apatow is such an engaging and entertaining teacher. Nothing felt like a lesson. In fact, I preferred watching him than procrastinating by switching to something on Netflix. This is high praise indeed. A lovely human being.


Comments

Dan U.

This is , so far, classic comedy and film screen writing 101. We are forty percent finished so I do know where this will lead. A lot of pointers and ideas that became a sequence of scenes but not a lot of substance thus far. He trying to break it all down to its finite parts but struck on the appetizer and forget about the meal and he’ll no on the desert. Stay tuned

Aaron K.

I am currently writing an action comedy story. Everyone who has read it thinks it should be a movie. Everytime I watch a new lesson it helps me to develop the story even further as I am inspired by Judd. By the time this class is over, I will have finished my masterpiece. Then I can have Judd reject it and I can start on my next great story. THis class is worth every penny I paid. Thank you Judd!

Daniel B.

Every class I walk away with a nugget of wisdom. I started my screen play as a comedy and realized how much better it is as a drama and the funny parts come naturally. It is nice not feeling to force jokes. From this class I now know the best way to end my screen play.

A fellow student

This was a particularly insightful lesson. I really appreciate the reference to "Stripes" and how the audience is quickly introduced to those 2 characters

Tara R.

Yet another helpful lesson, I love structure talk, it really does take the pressure off. Looking forward to the next one about the writing process though!

Mia S.

"I think that you can take a left turn for comedy in any movie. But the key is, it works much better if it's serving something. If it's not serving anything, usually you can get away with something like that in a movie, but when it is serving the overall story or character, it's funnier. In 'Funny People,' there's a scene where George Simmons goes to the doctor and the doctor's basically saying, it doesn't look like he's getting better. George Simmons is so upset that he just starts insulting the doctor like he's a heckler at a comedy club, that's how he deals with his sadness - through anger. Hurt turns into rage. So for no reason other than he's upset, he starts telling him how he looks like the terrorist in 'Die Hard,' and Seth's character starts doing the same thing. It becomes a really funny scene that's actually a very sad scene about finding out that you're not getting better. In one sense, it feels like just a diversion, just a big comedic diversion, but then when you think about it, it's not at all - it's actually there to say, 'This is how a comedian deals with his pain, which is to be funny, and sometimes to be funny in a lacerating way.' Sometimes you just know you need a laugh somewhere

Mia S.

"In a lot of my movies, I do openings that take their time telling you everything you need to know about these people, and then a problem lands. So his problem is, They know, they're going to try to change it. In 'Tranwreck,' it's a similar thing. She's going about her life, we start, we see her sleeping with a stranger, we see her at work with her job at this snarky magazine, this gossipy place, and she's assigned this story, and as soon as she meets the doctor, we know this story, whichng is - this mess of a person is going to fall in love with this guy and it's going to force her to decide whether or not she wants to grow up. The example I always give is 'The 40 Year Old Virgin's ending. How are you going to end a movie about a virgin? Well, you could have him have sex, that seems like the right ending. Or he doesn't have sex, right? That's your other option. Or he dies before getting the chance to have sex, or he has sex and is happy after, or has sex and dies very close after he had sex. If you wrote down every ending, there's only like eight that you could think of. Some seem silly, some feel like whatever my style is. Or you have him tell her that he's a virgin, she's like, 'I don't mind,' and he's immediately hit by a bus and it's like a Coen Brothers ending, like 'A Serious Man,' the tornado is coming. When you know these rules and you know there's only so many options, it's a little bit less daunting when you're trying to work all of this out because the choice you make is the that's closest to your heart, it's the thing that you care about, that you're trying to say. You might see a Coen brothers movie and at the end the point is, Life is dark, The End. Or you might want to see a movie or make a movie where you're saying good things happen to people and people grow up and it's hard and this is how it happens sometimes. And it's all very valid - it really is about the point of view of the director or the writer, how they see the world. You may see the world as a place with a cut eyeball or just a happy kiss and a roll in the ocean."

Mia S.

"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 a cab, intercut with Howard 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. 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 setup. With a 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,' 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 with his nose sticking out of the tub. Then we see him making breakfast, and he's amazing at it, and he serves it to himself almost like a waiter. We thought, 'Because he's alone, he's become a good chef. He has tons of time on his hands.' Then he says goodbye to his neighbors, an elderly couple, and you realize, 'Oh, he's sweet and lonely and hangs out with them, and that paints a 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 - he's a nice guy, 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. 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. Then Romany Malco leaps in and you could tell, 'Oh, this is how other people deal with this.' Then he goes into the stock room, in the back of the room and shuts the door and now we know he's a guy that doesn't want to be on the floor, he's hiding in this very sad, sterile room with this freaky guy played by Seth. Within seven minutes, we know almost everything we need to know about him. Then he's invited to this poker game, because they want to steal his money - they're not inviting him as a friend, he's the weird guy at the store. Then in the poker game, they're sharing sex stories and his are so clearly made up that they realize he's a virgin and decide that they need to help him change that."

Jack M.

These two lessons on Structuring Film give us absolute clarity on the process. Revealing his secrets is an immeasurable act of generosity from a consummate pro. Many, many thanks Mr. Apatow.

Warren D.

Both Structuring Films 1 & 2 are excellent. The detailed explanations for characters, scenes and structures have been valuable, not only for screen writing, but for writing fiction generally.