Best Screenwriting and Filmmaking Advice from the Masterclass Trailers

by Ken Miyamoto on July 3, 2019

If you can't afford the expense of watching the enthralling film and television MasterClass videos, what screenwriting and filmmaking advice can you pick up from the trailers for each class? Or if you're considering paying for all-year access, check out the video trailers via these links:


You've all had the ads pop up in your social media feed and on YouTube ad placements — those amazing MasterClass trailers featuring some of the biggest names in film and television. Like any good trailer, they tease you. But then you realize that to view the class, you have to pay for the annual $180 service.

While this may be a worthwhile expense, there's still a way to learn from the trailers alone.

Here we feature a compiled list of the best advice quotes from the MasterClass trailers and clips that all screenwriters can learn from.

David Lynch 

"Ideas are everything. We are nothing with the idea. So I go where the ideas lead. When we get an idea that we love, you'll see it and feel it and know it all at once."

"A desire for an idea is like putting a little piece of bait on a hook and lowering it into the water. You don't know when they're going to come or what will trigger them, but low and behold, on a lucky day, bingo. You'll catch an idea. And party time."

"If you want to make a feature-length film, all you need to do is get seventy ideas. And you write these scenes on three-by-five cards and when you've got seventy of them, you've got a feature film."

"Everything is connected in some way or another. You could be working on a painting and suddenly something in that gives you an idea for a film."

"I don't like rules. In Mulholland Drive, we only had one shot left to get. [And we got it] by breaking the rules."

Neil Gaiman

"The process of doing your second draft is a process of making it look like you knew what you were doing all along."

"[Writing] is like driving through the fog with one headlight out. You can't see very far ahead of yourself, but every now and again the mists will clear."

"Worldbuilding is honestly the joy of getting to play God. Every little detail that you can smuggle with you into your fiction makes your world more real."

"Human beings are storytelling creatures. Stories are vital. We convey truth with stories. That is the magic of fiction."

"You need that conviction of 'This is brilliant. This is the greatest idea that anybody's ever had.' And by writing it you will set the world on fire."

Jodie Foster

"The director is the leader. And as a leader, what you do have to have is a unifying language of vision. You have to make a decision and then support that decision."

"It's important to know that you're going to be filled with anxiety. You're never going to know every single thing that your crew member knows. The truth is that everything that you need to know is inside of you. Every decision-making process is instinctual and can come from within. And as long as you have a pen and paper to write it down, you're in good shape."

Mira Nair

"Filmmaking is a disease and you have to be sick — and I'm super sick."

"The first thing that I would tell an aspiring filmmaker is to educate yourself. Be permeable to what is around you — with humility, and respect, and also the ability to see yourself in that world so that world trust you. That's key."

"Actors look for the ability to trust. Your work as a director is to create a space where they are allowed to bloom."

"Films under the guise of entertainment should open ways into your heart."

"Nothing is more powerful than seeing your own language, your own color, your own people, your own dramas on screen. If you don't tell your own story, no one else will."

Dan Brown

"Write as though nobody is watching. Because nobody is watching."

"Suspense is all about making promises to your reader. You're telling your reader, 'I know something you don't know, but I promise I'll tell you if you keep going.'" 

"Take the pressure off of yourself. Every single idea has been done over and over. You don't need a big idea. You need big hows. How do you create tension? How do you build character? What the moral gray area that we're going to be writing in?"

"If you're not sure what to write, write the wrong thing a few times. And let that be the process by which you find the right thing."

"Put a secret in a character's back story."

"Write your villain first because your villain is going to define your hero."

"There were some dark times when I wasn't sure I was going to accomplish this. There will be days when you just don't know if you can do it. And on those days, what is going to save you, is your process."

"Write until you're ready to show the world what you've done."

Spike Lee

"When you're an independent filmmaker and making films outside of Hollywood, that's hard. You have to pray on bended knee at the church of cinema."

"But you have these tools that can help you tell a story. When I show someone that is a little weak, you shoot them from above. When I show someone that is powerful, you shoot them from below."

"There is a history of American cinema which has denigrated the fame, belittled, dehumanized. It's documented... as a filmmaker, it's not something to play with. It's going to take many decades to retell these stories... make films for a diverse audience."

"Just grab the camera and go. Fight to get your vision on the screen."

"A majority of people on this Earth go to the grave having hated the job they worked their whole life. So if you're able to make a living doing what you love, you won."

Judd Apatow

"People should look at comedy as drama when they're writing. It really doesn't help to think of these stories as comedy stories. They should be stories that work just as well without any jokes."

"If you have a great story and great characters, it's easy to find a way to make it funny. The problem with a lot of comedies is they are serving a comedic purpose primarily. And they don't really have a reason to exist."

"Difficult circumstances lend themselves to comedy. It allows it to be both dramatic and funny."

Ron Howard

"When it comes to collaboration around your project, I would say try to keep the kind of mental and emotional equilibrium, so that you're open and you hear everybody. But ultimately, you listen to yourself... because these projects are not made by committees. Yes, you want to take into account the comments and ideas that are coming at you, but you have to run them through your filter. And it's vitality important to have the strength and confidence to do that."

"We all understand stories. It makes us believe we can direct. And we probably all can. We all have our own instincts but what we have to do is back up that instinct with something called craft."

"Ultimately [as a director], you are the storyteller. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how big your crew is. It doesn't matter how much money you have to spend. It's what you're capturing in the frame lines that's going to have an impact on the audience or not."

"Go out, find a story you love, and tell it."

R.L. Stine

"You have to be very careful what you include in your books because you don't want to date your books... it's a horrible mistake. You have to be careful about that."

"What makes a monster a monster. I think it's anything not controlled... a monster is out of control. I don't think there's anything scarier than something that is completely out of control and something you can't do anything about. That's a monster."

"I start generally with the ending. If I know the ending, then I can spend the whole [story] fooling the reader."

"My big rule for writing middle-grade horror is that they have to know that it's a fantasy. The real world can't interfere. There's no divorce, no guns, no one ever dies. Once you've established that, you can go pretty far with the scares. Writing for teens is kind of the opposite. It has to be very real. They have to believe this is happening."

David Mamet

"There's only two things that can teach people about drama. There's the silent teacher and the speaking teacher. The speaking teacher is the audience. You cannot learn how to write drama without writing plays and putting it in front of the audience and getting humiliated... and if you're easily shamed, you're not going to learn."

"The silent teacher is the empty page. You gotta look at that empty page and say, 'Man, somebody's trying to tell me something. I gotta start to listen. Because the process doesn't feel like creation so much as it does discovery. There's something there. If I start with this premise, there's something there. Something's trying to tell me something and it wants to get onto that page. It exists outside of your mind. And trying to be a receptacle to that is the silent teacher."

"The rules to me are very, very simple. Your job is to tell a story. A story has a hero and he or she wants one thing."

"I'm not any less confused than you are. I just got into the habit of doing it."

"We're given a great gift and a great responsibility, which is to tell stories as honestly as we can."

Aaron Sorkin

"You don't have an idea until you can use the words but, except, and then. Things like that. 'It was a normal day like any other day when all of a sudden I went to the beach to go surfing and the surfing was great, but then...' You don't have an idea until that happens." 

"If it's the place that you're attracted to — whether it's the White House or Newsroom or Cable Sports Show — if it's the place that you're attracted to, that's a TV series. If the characters, metaphorically speaking, die at the end of the story — if there's no more story after that — then it's a feature."

"Here's something important to remember about dialogue. No one ever in life starts a sentence with 'damnit'."

Learn how to write great movie dialogue with this free guide.

"I'm in a constant state of writer's block. That is my default position."

"Dialogue is where the art comes in. Taking some words that someone has just said, holding them in your hand, and then punching them in the face with it."

"The worst crime that you can commit is telling the audience something they already know."

"It's not just that dialogue sounds like music to me. It actually is music."

Margaret Atwood

"Little Red Riding Hood. Let's start the story a different way — It was dark inside the wolf."

"As a writer, your goal is to keep your reader believing your story even though both of you know it's fiction."

"If you really do want to write, and you're struggling to get started, you're afraid of something. Remember, it's only you and the page. The waste paper basket is your friend. It was invented for you by God."

"You become a writer by writing. There is no other way. So do it and do it more. Do it better. Fail. Fail better."

Steve Martin

"Remember. You are a thought machine. You have a thousand, a million thoughts a day. Everything you see, hear, and experience is usable."

"You have to think, what's it good for? What circumstance is it good for. Is it good for stand-up [comedy], or is it good for saying at a party or at a dinner table."

"I was talking to some students and they were saying things like, 'How do I get an agent? Where do I get my headshots?' And I just thought, 'Shouldn't the first thing you should be thinking about is how do I be good?'"

"Editing is one of your most powerful tools."

Malcolm Gladwell

"Narratives are about the resolution of problems. That's what a narrative is. I set up certain kinds of things and then I solve all of the little questions. I answer the little questions you have in your mind. With suspense, there's certain questions I don't answer. So your natural reaction is as a reader is, 'Wait. Why?!'"

"You can withhold information for unreasonable periods of time, and leave your audience saying, 'Well, wait a minute. Why haven't I been told that?"

Shonda Rhimes

"A cliche is anything you've heard or seen before — so don't do it. Any line of dialogue you've already heard anyone say before is already a cliche. So don't write it down, it shouldn't be done. Any scene? Do something original. Why would you do it again? Someone's already done it. Granted, there's almost nothing new under the sun, but there are different interpretations and different ways of doing things that are new."

"There's a trick I learned about giving speeches. If you can give your speech at double-time speed with music playing really loudly, then you can give your speech under any circumstance. So if you can turn your pitch into a speech that you can give at double-time speed while music is playing really loudly, it doesn't matter how stressed you are in that room, you can deliver your speech calmly... you can do it... put yourself in the highest stress situation in practice so that you can be prepared to do it in a less stressful situation."

Martin Scorsese

"If you don't get physically ill seeing your first rough cut, something's wrong."

"People think it's good editing if you can see it. Good editing is something else too when you don't see it."

"If the actors want to take a scene to a certain place, I'll go with them there. There are things I know don't work immediately, but you shoot it because it's a process... I like to tell the actors to try anything... you need to give them that freedom."

James Patterson

"When it comes to endings... write down everything that could possibly happen. Absolutely everything. I don't care how ridiculous it is... think through all of the characters. Think through everything's that's happened. Think through everything that hasn't happened. What could possibly happen? Bullet after bullet after bullet. Then pick the most outrageous one of them that makes sense. It's gotta make sense... the most outrageous one is going to be the best one in my opinion."

"My first novel was turned down by thirty-one publishers."

Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.

He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies

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