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Arts & Entertainment

Finding the Story

Mira Nair

Lesson time 14:13 min

Mira teaches the importance of tapping into culture and politics to inspire your story. Learn how tenacity, collaboration, and feedback are key elements in developing a story into a script.

Mira Nair
Teaches Independent Filmmaking
The Oscar-nominated director teaches her methods for directing powerful performances, maximizing budgets, and bringing authentic stories to life.
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The only way to find a story that possesses you and doesn't let you go is by engaging with life, is by arming yourself with curiosity and education. Read, engage, get involved with your street. Get involved with the issues of the day. Organize, you know, feel a part of a community that is asking for something or that is correcting something. It doesn't work to just sit at home and suck it out of your thumb in a kind of highly technological culture, where you are just seeing what other people are doing and wanting to be like them. It works for some people, if you want to join that, kind of, the lemmings of the mainstream. But it doesn't work for me. But if your films come out of other people's films only, there is a lot of room for getting inspired by other people's work. And one must, because there are no hugely new ways to tell a story. You've got to know what the great people are before you have done, you know, to get the juice, to understand everything-- the vocabulary, everything. And even to understand what the rest of the world might look like and how actually common it might be and how unusual it might be for where you stand. But that is key, you know, to remain curious but to constantly be engaged, because there's only so much that you can get from borrowed places. In terms of ideas, I have always loved, devoured, needed books to survive. You know, I have loved the written word. I have loved-- especially, you know, subcontinental writing in English across this world. I mean, it was such a boon to me as I grew up, you know, because we grew up on Enid Blyton. We grew up on English books. Everybody was Tom, Dick, or bloody Harry. There was no Ajay or Rita or Geeta or Meeta or, you know, there were no names that meant anything to us. I remember the early years of reading Ved Mehta, or , or Anita Desai, Nayantara Sahgal-- these were authors that just opened my mind like you can't imagine when I was a teenager, because they were writing of my world. They were writing of a world in which I mattered, you know. And that is what affected my cinema later hugely, because actually nothing is more powerful than seeing your own language, your own color, your own people, your own dramas on screen. And that is why I say this. We have a film school here and in Kampala, in . And that is why I always say, you know, if we don't tell our own stories, no one else will. You've got to make us matter. This is where the story is-- right here. Oftentimes, the beginnings of my ideas for stories come out of the politics of what is going on today, you know. Like I am thinking of a story nowadays of the depth of racism in Indian society. And the reason I'm thinking about it is because last year, there were actual lynchings or burnings of African students in India. Now, people don't know this, but entire generations of many African leaders and in several countries across this continent have been educated in India. There's a l...

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 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 in film production, evoke the best from actors and nonactors, and protect your creative vision so you tell the story that can only come from you.


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

As an aspiring Independent Film Maker, this course delivered brilliantly by Mira Nair helps me be grounded and prepared for what awaits me on my film making journey. Embracing the opportunities and working with the challenges to tell 'Your Story'.

It has given me a deeper insight as to what direction is all about.

Mira Nair is a hero and i'm so grateful that she shared her wisdom here.

Mira is a gentle soul, and watching her direct and hearing her lecture will make you a more empathetic filmmaker and person.


Chika O.

She's so elegant and eloquent. "Make room or a white protagonist." Wow. Her reply was amazing- having them as waiters!

A fellow student

I have all the means of making my first film but can't find a script that is worth producing, I truly believe that filmmakers should choose their first script thoroughly before starting on their journey, A poorly made first film could potentially morph into a big psychological blow for any first time film maker. Any suggestions on how to make the leap?

A fellow student

I'm wondering what is the line between getting inspired by the things that the other great people have done allowing yourself to actually move away from any kind of inspiration and believe in your own ability to tell a story?

Iolani G.

I am learning so much. Thank you Mira this is so helpful. I have desired to know how to get started on a film and how to write and produce a film and this is so very inspiring and makes so much sense to me. I am grateful. Thank you!

Frank B.

attn. John Sidoti Hi John, Thanks for your speedy reply. It works like a charm now. Kind regards, Frank

Frank B.

The PDF download seems to have an error... As this is a superb Masterclass I love to be able to download the PDFs.


The stories that seem to appeal to me are the ones that I tend to want to escape to. The events that happen in real life are too painful for me and the people in my life.

Ify M.

Got so much value from this lesson. While I was listening to you Mira, the depth of my story just flashed through my eyes and I wrote it down. Will expand on it as I go. Thank you for sharing these golden nuggets with us. Kind Regards, Ify.

Phil S.

I just want to write every word she says down and re-read it over and over again.

Karmen B.

Brilliant advise awakening inner desires to demand acknowledgement of one's own roots. Thank you, Mira for paving the way with your craft, wisdom and compassion.