Chapter 2 of 17 from Mira Nair

Discovering Your Unique Voice


Mira’s philosophy for filmmaking is rooted in individuality and creating films only you can make. Learn how to forge your own path, hone your craft, and use your distinctiveness to your advantage.

Topics include: Preserve Your Distinctiveness • Find Your Craft Your Own Way • Don’t Worry About Finding an Audience • Pursue Films Only You Can Make

Mira’s philosophy for filmmaking is rooted in individuality and creating films only you can make. Learn how to forge your own path, hone your craft, and use your distinctiveness to your advantage.

Topics include: Preserve Your Distinctiveness • Find Your Craft Your Own Way • Don’t Worry About Finding an Audience • Pursue Films Only You Can Make

Mira Nair

Mira Nair Teaches Independent Filmmaking

The Oscar-nominated director teaches her methods for directing powerful performances, maximizing budgets, and bringing authentic stories to life.

Learn More


Harness the power of your roots

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mira Nair approaches directing with the “heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant”—spurred on by rejection and fighting to bring uncompromising stories to film. In the Golden Lion-winning director’s MasterClass, learn to make a big impact on a small budget, evoke the best from actors and non-actors, and protect your creative vision so you tell the story that can only come from you.

In her first-ever online class, Mira Nair teaches you to find the strength in your unique story and draw the best from your budget and creative vision.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Mira will also critique select student work.


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

I learned how to direct. She explained it with so many details including all of the great natural sounds. Such a blessing 🙏

My top favorite MasterClass on here next to Ron Howard and Shonda Rhimes' classes. LOVED IT! Thanks so much Mira, for being incredible and such an inspiration!

So interesting to listen to such a strong woman, with a great passion for stories. I have learnt so much from this masterclass and I really enjoyed the practical shooting of the scene section. Would love to see more of this in future masterclasses.

oh i so so enjoyed this wonderful woman's guidance even though I am a photographer I now get alot more from her to improve my want to pull from people emotion...and seeing how she works all aspects of her craft and the collaborative way in which she works inspires me to better mine. thank you Mira....The Ugandan School looks like a hidden gem!! I will pass it on.


Ify M.

Thank you Mira, This assignment made me dig deep into my past and opened my eyes to see how my current perspective based on various factors can shape my storytelling.


So glad she encourages us to make my own film, with my own vision and in my own ways. As I am making my second feature film at the moment, I am for sure going through many of the situations she mentioned and I feel so much better that it is okay for me to not want to be a part of the pack. Thank you.

Partha B.

Yes, I can totally identify with what she said: is it your story? Or, you're doing somebody else's? Mimicking? I have seen most of her films, and I was particularly blown away by the power of Salam Bombay and Mississippi Masala, because they were so real. Not Slumdog Millionaire. Not Born Into Brothels. She showed us for real the race situation in America, especially in the Indian immigrant community. Nobody else ever did it, before or after.

R.G. R.

Her own experience speaks as loudly as her true and dynamic words that suggests one needs to discover one's own voice. This is not an easy thing to do, but her own experience as a filmmaker proves that it is worth it. It is about the art, not the fame or acknowledgement that comes from it.

Thank you Masterclass for being more inclusive of women of color. Indian filmakers often do not get their due on western platforms unless they are selling the western stereotype. It's wonderful to hear Mira Nair's unapologetic commentary.

Sylvie B.

Sometimes I fee it's an honor to listen to some of the teachers here. It's an honor to listen to you. To watch you Beautiful soul..... Thank you.

Dex D.

So hard to find some of the films in our homework without Filmstruck. Can't wait for the Criterion channel to come out so I can hit her suggestions. I watched Chronicle of Summer on Vimeo but no subtitles. Still a fascinating watch. Anyone find a subtitled version somewhere?

Karmen B.

Thank you kindly, Mira. Your teachings here and your authentic beautiful art of story telling inspires me to realize my own uniqueness. Wonderful lesson.

Sydne H.

"Don't be afraid to make a film of your own because you haven't seen one like it... make that film because you haven't seen a story done like that." I strongly believe we all have our own experiences, perspectives and stories to tell and they are more powerful if they don't follow a trend of what we are constantly surrounded with.

Mia S.

"After 'Salaam Bombay!' especially, which was a hit, went to the Oscars, did the whole thing - I got a lot of offers. What one of my earliest criteria for looking at these offers that came from without and not from within was to ask myself the central question: Can anyone else make this film? Or am I really put on this earth to make it, because I can make it my way? What does it say to me? It's a very good criteria for me, because if anyone else I can think of can make this film, it should be made by another person. But if there's a point of view and a way in that I think only I will have or I can bring something special to it, then I'll make it. 'Mississippi Masala,' because of the success of my first film, I was invited to pitch at studios, and heads of studios, and at one such studio in 1990, I was pitching and I had already attached Denzel Washingotn to it. He was now Flavor of the Month already, with his Oscar from 'Glory.' He didn't have to respond to a first-time filmmaker like myself, but he had seen 'Salaam Bombay!' and he said, 'Well, an Asian love story with an African American? That's something I'll never see,' he said. So he agreed to meet me. When I was at the studio, I was pitching thinking I had the greatest star with me anyway, so it should be easy. But they listened to the story and they said to me, 'For this kind of film I think you should really make room for a white protagonist.' Verbatim quote. That is the center of the piece. I smiled and laughed and said to him, 'You know, I can promise you one thing - in this film, all the waiters in the film will be white.' And I laughed and he laughed and I was shown the door. It happened in different ways a lot of times, because in that time, there was scarcely a film that was about an African American that was that easy to find, and certainly not one that put brown skin and black skin together in one frame - and not, certainly, in a love story. Which is precisely why I think 'Mississippi Masala' lives on, because it still speaks the truth in a very modern way about things that people don't want to say - which is, that whatever in the politics of the time. At the same time, I did not know that I would reach an audience; I did not know there was an audience, because there was no other film like that around that I had seen that say, 'Oh, I want to make that one.' I always like to remind young filmmakers to trust themselves, in terms of their stories. Not to think that - 'Oh, I've got to make a film like that one' or 'I can't make this film because I haven't seen it,' but to precisely do that - make the story because you haven't seen it, but because it is your story, something that interests you, and that you will immerse yourself in it to be able to bring to us all facets of it. Not to be imitative, not to be just one of the pack - because, you know, why bother?"


We go to the movies to have a collective experience that lifts us up or that sinks us, too, but that somehow transports us to either a world that we have never seen, in which we see and feel that there is resonance, and that there is commonality, and that you can see, actually, yourself, despite it being somewhere miles away from you and in a language that you've never seen before. We make movies to transport you, to uplift you, and I hope, sometimes, to give one hope, you know, of how to see something that you had closed your mind on, or you never knew existed, but how that can give you a way to look at the world anew. This is a big thing for me is-- is how to do something without being a lecture about it, without it being-- feeling like homework, with having a sense of, for me, fun, and mischief, and light, and color, and life, and incredible brutality, but jammed with tenderness of some sort, you know. That kind of balancing act is what I like to do in my films, in terms of trying to combine what the world actually is full of, which is brutality and tenderness, you know, which is extremes of sorts. And human beings live that extreme in every way of our journeys, you know. And so, you know, I will tell you be unafraid. If you feel-- you know, you are not a foreigner to yourself. You come from somewhere. Your roots are strong. And do not diffuse them, you know. Go into them and-- and learn the craft of telling a story. That is a craft that should be learned and can be learned. But don't be afraid of putting yourself, and your work, and your culture, and your language, and your, you know, people, even, in the forefront of your drama, of your art, and of your craft. You know, being a brown person, you know, in a sea of black and white, when I first came to America at 18, 19, was a interesting lesson of how to preserve my own distinctiveness, rather than becoming part of the gang, you know. I did not come there to melt into the melting pot. I came very much knowing where my roots are. And I always believe it's my roots, because my roots are strong, that I can fly. [MUSIC PLAYING] I never studied fiction film. I never went to school for it. I went to school, in a sense, to study documentary filmmaking. And my school really was the world in which I did that. In making cinema verite documentary, which is essentially unmanipulated documentary-- choosing a subject, choosing a world that you enter in, and then filming it-- it is a crazy profession because you don't quite know what that day is going to yield. You don't know if you're crazy to do-- to follow a subway newsstand worker as he goes back to his boarding house in Queens. What will he dream about? What will you capture? What will he do? And so many days would pass, where I would think, what am I doing here? You know, what is going to happen next? But the nature of cinema verite documentary is that I would film for four to six to eight months not knowing where t...