Jodie Foster is best known as an actress, a child star who worked her way through the Hollywood system. She describes her journey as having had many father figures, who helped guide her talent as an actress and served as a springboard into honing her skills as a writer and director. In her master class, she exudes passion and energy for the work, demonstrating that with some people skills, vision, creativity and organisation almost anyone can direct.
While encouraging, making it seem within reach, it’s much more complicated than one would think. Foster talks about various aspects of the craft from the perspective of an actor-director. Having amassed great experience in front of camera, she is well-versed in the intricacies of the relationship between the director and his or her lead actor. In her masterclass she discusses the ins and outs of pulling together the threads, problem-solving on the go and doing your preparation. While a great deal of her advice is thoughtful, inspiring and based on a great deal of experience, she also delves into the practical aspects of the art form.
Having a one-on-one meeting with her screenwriter ahead of preparing for a short film, she uses this practical outlay as a guide to gearing up to preparing your film. Using sketches to flesh out the story board, showing her method in the way she prepares shots and grapples with the dialogue of the screenplay, it’s not just simply cerebral but also very hands-on.
Tinkering away on a short film idea based on a real-life moment, she narrows it down making you think that the production will go ahead. Working with this impetus does give you a much clearer idea of the steps necessary to bring all the various aspects of your film together, yet probably would have been even more engaging to have had an actual on-the-ground experience of the set and making of the short film.
Obviously this was too ambitious, not getting to the point of actually showcasing any aspects further than the on-paper drafting and prep work. Her masterclass has a wealth of special insights that could only be gleaned from someone who has made the transition from in front of to behind camera. Much of the concept behind her working is summed up by the symbol of a dance. Using her own films as case studies, she refers back to The Beaver, Little Man Tate, Money Monster and her performance in Nell.
She realises the importance of collaboration, the need to be able to have a unique understanding and this undercurrent and driving force to her work is one idea that she keeps coming back to. Furthermore, her position as a female filmmaker also provides a unique and valuable perspective on the craft. It’s wonderful to get this kind of one-on-one interaction with the actor turned director and it definitely shows another side to Foster, exemplifying her giddiness and passion about bringing her visions to life.