MASTERCLASS – Worth the $ for Screenwriters and Filmmakers?
by Beverly Nault
No doubt you’ve seen it advertised and wondered if Masterclass is worth the cost. With a plethora of online, zoom, and video courses available, what does Masterclass have the others don’t? I wondered the same thing. For those of you who already subscribe, let me know what your favorites are.
When a group of experts in a wide range of topics gather in one place, viewers’ pocketbooks diminish but exposure to new interests grows. (LL needs work)
Masterclass opened its virtual doors on May 12, 2015, with three instructors and had added twelve classes by 2017. By this writing, in the spring of 2023, Masterclass lists over 180 classes over 11 categories. Their model has changed slightly, but the expansion indicates the idea is hitting its stride with enough subscribers to keep the momentum going.
Our own Jessica Brown edited these Masterclass videos!
David Axelrod and Karl Rove
Classes cover topics like writing, sports, cooking, self-awareness, acting. The list goes on. As of 2019, the company expanded into politics, economics, and video game design. Many instructors do live demonstrations if the topic can be illustrated visually. Writing and filmmaking classes are mostly studio-style, with the instructor addressing the camera in a conversational approach. There’s no herky-jerky back and forth with a producer, and the editing is seamless, which makes for a pleasant experience. The producer may ask questions and provide prompts, but the editing is so well done I never felt like it was more than the instructor speaking directly to me.
The writing and filmmaking classes range from Aaron Sorkin to Ron Howard to David Mamet, with more being added all the time.
I find their website a little daunting to navigate. At first, I felt like a snorkeler paddling over the Great Barrier Reef with one fin. Then I resorted to reading the Wiki listing, which attempts to keep a continually updated list of classes. But some of it is just a learning curve that keeps you returning for more. Well played, MasterClass.
I stumbled into the newish “Sessions” area where, for instance, Annie Liebowitz teaches a class on photography to a roomful of students. Some instructors, like Christina Aguilera, run contests for students who can prove their technique improved by applying Masterclass lessons.
Back to the Masterclass website. They divide classes into major categories, with some instructors being cross listed. For example, James Patterson is listed under both Arts and Entertainment and Writing.
- It’s highly curated. The teachers are undoubtedly some of the best in their fields, and they’re all in one “library” divided into searchable interests. I watched two in their GOAT area. One on making coffee and the other pizza. While I might not travel to pick the beans on the plantation like Dale Harris, world champion espresso/cappuccino barista, does, I know a lot more about what to look for in a good cup besides judging that swirly milk design thingy on top.
- The production quality is top-notch. Film clips of the topic’s process are intercut for visual appeal and information. From Martin Scorcese’s explanation of scene choices to Serena Williams’ demonstration of a great backhand, nothing distracts from the lesson.
- There’s a wide range of topics, and they’re always adding more. For storytellers, the chance to listen in on diverse crafts, hobbies, and skills can inspire new ideas, broaden your knowledge or inform current projects.
- Masterclass Hour is also available on SXM channel 109, but of course you must subscribe to SXM as well. I’ve listened to short bits edited out of the longer classes on the Masterclass Hour, and then gone to the website to hear more because they captured my interest.
- There is a 30-Day money-back guarantee.
- The cost can seem prohibitive if you’re just interested in one specific area. They have adjusted some of their pricing, and they offer discount trials subscribers can share.
- Pricing changes and so I won’t list them here, but right now they offer Individual – 1 account and 1 device with no extras, such as downloadable classes Duo and Family plans for more than one person and multiple devices. Mileage may vary.
- Subject areas may seem too broad, especially if you’re already a gourmet cook or can give Roger Federer a good game, then you may not find the respective classes helpful.
- No way to interact with the experts like in other online classes.
I recommend MasterClass for anyone who wants to be exposed to or learn more about a subject or hear from someone who would ordinarily be out of reach. Having the best of the best in one place is a luxury and a treat for the mind. Exposure to varied topics in one site can expand one’s knowledge and inspire a new scene, character, approach, or even a new screenplay. Maybe my next project will be set in a pizzeria with the best cappuccino in the world and Serena Williams stops by. Let me know what you think, and which classes you found interesting.
About Beverly Nault: Beverly Nault was a technical writer for an aerospace software company before she began writing creatively for publication. In 2011, her first novel, Fresh Start Summer, and memoir Lessons from the Mountain, What I Learned from Erin Walton, written with actor Mary McDonough, both released. Since then, Bev’s had ten novels and several short stories published. She’s been a freelance editor for fiction and non-fiction writers, a first reader for a literary agency, and staff acquisitions editor for the literary journal, Eastern Iowa Review. Bev lives in Mesa with her husband Gary where she dabbles in tennis, and excels at spoiling their three grandchildren.