Over the years I’ve taken many of Masterclass’ remarkable online courses. They have had and continue to get remarkable filmmakers and storytellers to teach masterclass’. Just a few of the legends they have had are Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Spike Lee, Werner Herzog, Ken Burn, and Judd Apatow just to name a few. I decided to put together my Top 10 list for the best filmmaking and storytelling Masterclass has to offer.
In Werner’s filmmaking course you’ll get tips on storytelling, cinematography, locations, self-financing, documentary interview techniques, and how to bring your ideas to life. By the end, you’ll make uncompromising films.
Learn the art of documentary and feature filmmaking from Werner Herzog, a self-taught filmmaker who has created 70 films and won over 50 awards, including the best director award at Cannes Film Festival. As a film director, it’s your job to lead the platoon.
When Christian Bale had to eat real maggots in Rescue Dawn, Werner offered to eat them first. Werner explains the power of leading by example to inspire your cast and crew. His filmmaking advice includes tips on working with actors both on set and before cameras start shooting in order to create characters audiences love.
Werner offers filmmaking lessons on a number of subjects including camera technique, the basics of cinematography, working with cinematographers, and painting with light to bring your vision to life.
Learn how to use one camera to make the best film possible. Werner dedicates four lessons to documentary filmmaking. He discusses his techniques to “crack a human being open.” You must get to the heart of your subject in order to tell a beautiful and brilliant nonfiction story.
In his first-ever online class, award-winning director, writer, producer, and comedian Judd Apatow teaches his process for creating great comedy. You’ll learn how to create hilarious storylines, write great stand-up, and direct comedies that leave audiences laughing.
Judd Apatow is one of the most successful, influential, and respected comedic minds of our time. He has spent his entire life in pursuit of comedy—starting with his first job washing dishes at a local comedy club, just so he could be close to the action. Since then, Apatow has built an empire of “funny” as a writer, director, producer, and stand-up act.
From Bridesmaids to Knocked Up to Freaks and Geeks, his work has been nominated for numerous awards and set box office records. In addition to his signature brand of comedy, which marries gut-busting raunchiness with relatable characters and heartfelt emotion, he is known for his uncanny ability to identify up-and-coming talent.
At his core, Apatow is a champion of the underdog and this is reflected in his work, as well as his activism and his philanthropy. Judd Apatow’s MasterClass teaches you a new way to think about comedy. Through case studies, scene breakdowns, and candid stories, you’ll learn everything he knows about the art of making people laugh.
In Ken Burns’s MasterClass, the documentary filmmaker teaches his techniques for distilling complex truths into captivating stories like The Vietnam War and Brooklyn Bridge. Learn how the 15-time Emmy Award winner captures “the drama of truth” from first treatment to the final edit. Ken Burns is arguably America’s most celebrated filmmaker of historical documentaries with nearly 40 years of masterful storytelling.
Since the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Burns has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed documentaries ever made, including The Civil War; Baseball; Jazz; The Statue of Liberty; The War; The National Parks: America’s Best Idea; The Roosevelts: An Intimate History; Jackie Robinson; Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War; and The Vietnam War, which has been seen by over 39 million people.
His work has garnered numerous awards including 15 Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and two Oscar nominations; and in 2008, Burns was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award. His newest film, The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science, will air nationally on PBS on September 25, 2018.
In his MasterClass, Burns will teach students how to uncover and highlight the natural “drama of truth,” and he will demonstrate how documentaries can match, and even exceed, the depth of fictional narrative. Burns will deconstruct scenes from some of his most notable works to explain how he finds the “human story” in true events, and he’ll share the filmmaking techniques he utilizes to “wake the dead.”
His class will embolden students to tell stories that interweave deep and difficult themes of the American experience—race, gender, power, politics, and war—and teach them how to distill vast research into compelling narratives that embrace complex truths and multiple points of view.
Named one of the Dictionary of Literary Biography’s top ten living post-modern writers, Neil Gaiman may be one of the most awarded and prolific writers alive. He has received the Newbery and Carnegie Medals, and his writing has been awarded four Hugos, two Nebulas, one World Fantasy Award, and nine Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, among many other honors. Not constrained by genre or medium, Neil’s work includes poetry, short stories, journalism, novels, graphic novels, screenplays, and books for young readers.
In Neil Gaiman MasterClass, the author of Coraline, American Gods, Stardust, and The Sandman series teaches his approach to the art and craft of storytelling. In his MasterClass, Neil Gaiman will teach you his creative process for generating original ideas and building those ideas into stories, worlds, and characters that engage and fascinate. Using some of his most celebrated work as case studies, he’ll teach you how he crafts convincing characters and stories driven by essential truths.
In her first-ever online class, award-winning photographer Annie Leibovitz teaches her process for working with light, creating concepts, and finding your point of view as an artist. Through case studies and on-site lessons with Annie during a magazine shoot, you’ll learn her photography techniques and be inspired to try new ways of approaching your craft.
In a career that spans four decades, Annie Leibovitz has created iconic photographs of the world’s greatest leaders and artists. From her intimate portraits of John Lennon to her dynamic images of Serena Williams, Annie’s work has graced the covers of hundreds of magazines, including Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, and Vogue. In 1972, Annie became the first woman to be named chief photographer at Rolling Stone. Since then, her work has been exhibited in the Smithsonian Institute, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Some of Annie’s most indelible images include John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous “kiss” portrait, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. album cover, and Demi Moore’s often-imitated pregnancy portrait on the cover of Vanity Fair.
For photographers and artists, Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass is the best way to learn how to transcend technology and create timeless pieces of art, no matter what gear you have. In her MasterClass, Annie Leibovitz takes you on a live photo shoot, giving you rare insight into the process of her work. Learn how she conducts research, plans the photo shoot, scouts locations, and interacts with both her team and subject. Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass will take you beyond the technical and into the art of photography.
In his first-ever online class, Spike Lee Masterclass lets you in on his uncompromising approach to filmmaking. You’ll learn about writing, self-producing, working with actors, and making movies that break down barriers Spike Lee is an auteur and master storyteller who has written, directed, produced, and acted in films ranging from big studio pictures to micro-budget independents.
His work stands as a testament to cinema’s power to entertain, explore, celebrate, and critique American culture and social-political issues. Spike Lee’s MasterClass teaches students how to tell stories that need to be told. He analyzes his work both on the page and on the screen, and dives into the technicalities of writing stories, working with actors, camera angles, financing, and choosing music. Lee addresses the hurdles facing first-time filmmakers and shares learnings from his own experiences with overcoming obstacles in the film industry.
He discusses his drive to impact culture with his movies and urges students to be conscious of the relationship between their work and the world.
In her first-ever online class, Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster uses her decades of experience on both sides of the camera to provide a unique and personal approach to filmmaking.
From storyboarding and casting to collaborating with writers and inspiring memorable performances, Jodie teaches students how to bring their stories from the page to the screen. Over her 52-year career, Foster has appeared in over 40 major films, directed four feature-length movies, and won nearly 60 awards—among them, two Academy Awards, two BAFTA Awards, four Juniper Awards, and three Golden Globes, including the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement.
Foster started her career at the tender age of three and ascended to superstardom with striking performances in Taxi Driver, The Silence of the Lambs, The Accused, and Nell, portraying complex characters alongside acting heavyweights Robert De Niro, Anthony Hopkins, and Liam Neeson. Foster made her directorial debut in 1991 with Little Man Tate, following up with Home for the Holidays in 1995 and The Beaver in 2011. Her most recent feature film, Money Monster (2016), stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts.
Since then, Foster has ventured into television, directing episodes of Netflix original series House of Cards, Black Mirror, and Orange Is the New Black, which earned her an Emmy nomination.
Martin Scorsese drew his first storyboard when he was eight. Today he’s a legendary director whose films—from Mean Streets to The Wolf of Wall Street—have shaped movie history. In his first-ever online class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach to filmmaking, from storytelling to editing to working with actors.
He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make—and watch—movies. Learn from the Academy Award-winning director in his first online course. In 20+ lessons, Martin Scorsese breaks down his approach to filmmaking through the history of film.
From The Terminator and Titanic to Avatar, James Cameron has directed some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. Now, for the first time in his 40-year career, he opens up about his process. Through behind-the-scenes breakdowns, James shares his approach to developing ideas, storylines, and characters; harnessing technology; and worldbuilding on any budget. Explore the innovation and imagination behind epic moviemaking.
Using specific scene breakdowns from his renowned films, including Aliens, The Terminator, Titanic and Avatar, Cameron teaches members how to identify stories that demand telling, build tension, create compelling characters—whether man, machine or alien—and harness technology to fully immerse audiences in imagined worlds. Cameron also offers practical advice that applies to all levels of film production, no matter the budget, big or small. Interlaced with intimate insights from his storied career, from how dreams inspire his work to lessons on leadership, Cameron’s class will leave members inspired to share the insider knowledge they’ve learned with others and empowered to make their own movies.
Learn about directing a film in Ron Howard’s first-ever online class. The two-time Academy Award winner has directed some of the most beloved movies of all time, including Splash, Parenthood, Apollo 13, and A Beautiful Mind, Ron Howard shares techniques that have made him one of the most respected filmmakers in Hollywood.
In his MasterClass, Ron Howard deconstructs the craft of directing, offering practical, hands-on tips for both aspiring and experienced filmmakers. Learn how he evaluates scripts, casts actors, works with writers and cinematographers, blocks scenes, and collaborates with his crew. Ron believes that directing is a teachable craft, and he brings decades of experience—both in front of and behind the camera—to his class.
Ron breaks down the process of directing, sharing relatable advice grounded in lessons from decades of work in Hollywood. He directs actors and camera operators through a Frost/Nixon scene to represent three different ways to stage a scene: a feature film, Steadicam, and run-and-gun. You will get a rare firsthand glimpse into exactly how Ron makes each decision as he directs.
Learn how to write incredible screenplays from Aaron Sorkin in the most comprehensive screenwriting course he’s ever taught. In addition to both improving your storytelling skills and outlining what it takes to write incredible scripts, Aaron invites you into his writer’s room for an eight-part screenwriting case study where he and his team will script, rewrite, and break down a new Season 5 premiere of The West Wing.
Aaron Sorkin first broke out with his Broadway play (and the film adaptation of) “A Few Good Men” starring Tom Cruise before creating “The West Wing” and the remarkable HBO show “Newsroom“. He won an Oscar for writing “The Social Network” and was nominated again for “Moneyball”; more recently, he wrote “Steve Jobs.”
Diving deep into screenwriting fundamentals, Aaron offers detailed lessons on narrative structure, character development, generating new ideas, and his signature style of dialogue. Aaron knows that great screenwriting requires intention and obstacle. He dedicates several lessons to explaining how to create conflict, raise dramatic stakes, and keep audiences watching.
Designed to offer useful lessons to seasoned and emerging screenwriters, Aaron’s class can be enjoyed by writers of all skill levels.
Over the course of 25 video lessons spanning five hours, as well as a 30-page workbook and interactive assignments. His workbook includes an entire lecture devoted exclusively to the walk-and-talk. Sorkin is going to share “his rules of storytelling, dialogue, [and] character development,” critique select student submissions, and work with real-world examples from the decades he’s spent writing movies, TV shows, and plays.