Monday, August 20, 2018

Judd Apatow's MasterClass is a decent program, if less ambitious than other entries

(Note: this post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after using one of my links.)

There's a point in Judd Apatow's MasterClass where he tells the student's there's never been an easier time for them to find out what makes their idols tick. Says Apatow, "Just go to YouTube, type in the person's name and 'interview.'" And he's right.

Unfortunately, that same advice is what makes Apatow's Masterclass less of an obvious recommend for me than the earlier courses offered by Ron Howard, Shonda Rhimes, and Aaron Sorkin. Those three not only offered the benefit of their experience, they also went above and beyond to add value to their class so it wasn't just a series of lectures. Shonda did a deep dive on the development of two of her pilots, Sorkin assembled a class of writing students to serve as a mock writer's room to break an episode of The West Wing, and Howard went above and beyond. He took us to set as he blocked, rehearsed and shot a scene, then staged and shot it two more ways in different styles.

A lot of these classes are meant for people who have less practical experience than I do. At times, that means some early lectures may come off as basic, but they're useful for laying groundwork on the fundamentals. The segments where the participants get creative usually end up being the ones that justify the $90 cost I essentially am recommending. This is where Apatow's class puts me in a bind.

This is the second class I've watched that's 100% lectures. David Mamet also did not venture out of his chair, but I concluded that the style and the content of that was professorial enough that it met the level of a decent introductory or intermediate screenwriting class. On a personal level, I enjoyed Judd's class more. He was less pompous, very relatable, and comes across as a genial guy who just wants to give you the benefit of his experience through a lot of really great stories that span his career.

But I keep coming back to the fact that there are hundreds of Apatow interviews out there that cover a lot of the same ground. He has annotated screenplays that also contain a great deal of the information in these lectures and in the scripts offered as bonus materials. If you're interested in those, they include:

The 40 Year-Old Virgin Brainstorm
The 40 Year-Old Virgin Script
The 40 Year-Old Virgin Beat Sheet
Knocked Up Script
Knocked Up table read draft with notes
148 page vomit draft of FUNNY PEOPLE with handwritten notes on them
LOVE season map

It's a decent collection of extras, and Judd's lectures cover a varied range of topics - everything from how you can mine your own life to develop a story to how you set goals to turn out a rough draft. There's some great advice in there about casting and how he uses improv to engage the actor's creativity. It's one of those missed opportunities that Apatow only lectures about this instead of getting a couple acting students and actually workshopping this lesson with them. With a whole series of videos here directed at actors, it could have been valuable for both aspiring comedy directors and actors to see Judd in action.

This is not to say that his advice isn't solid. For as many times as Apatow brings up improv, he also impresses upon his audience the importance of strong story. He posits an exercise where the writer takes all the jokes out of their script, saying "The stories should work just as well without jokes." Considering he popularized, if not pioneered, a style of comedy where some scenes linger a little too long on extended riffs, it's good to see advice like this reinforced.

But so much of what Apatow discusses is available in those free resources he advocated earlier. He talks about how when he started out there was nothing like the internet, or podcasts on comedy. He had to go to the library to look up microfiche on Lenny Bruce. His comedy academy was interviewing comedians for his school paper. That's actually a great story and a good story to get students thinking about ways to research beyond using a Google search bar.

In a world where there weren't a hundred Apatow interviews and commentaries readily available, it would be extremely easy for me to say, "Buy this." But that fact and the comparison to other MasterClass productions makes this a more complicated sell. I think I enjoyed this more than David Mamet's class, which was also entirely lectures and also would be best received by those in an early point in their writing ventures. Apatow's advice is relatable, practical and no bullshit. Mamet is knowledgeable, but reminds you of the professor who talks just to hear himself. Apatow comes off as the kind of instructor who would engage his students and know how to focus their passion.

So here's what my recommendation is going to come down to: with MasterClass you can either purchase a la carte, each class for $90, or you can get an All-Access Pass for $180/year. That means that for the cost of TWO classes you can get everything. Look at that list below. If there are two classes that look interesting, get All-Access Pass and then put Apatow on your Watch list.

For my money, Ron Howard's class is essential, and there's a wealth to be gotten out of either Shonda Rhimes, Aaron Sorkin's or both. I have no problem recommending any of those three at the $90 pricetag. If it won't break your budget and you just have to check them out then maybe Judd's course can be an extra incentive to amoritize.

You can purchase Judd Apatow's MasterClass here for $90.

If the All-Access Pass for $180/year is more your speed, go here.

Prior MasterClass Reviews:
Aaron Sorkin's MasterClass on TV Writing (review)
David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing (review)
Ron Howard Teaches Directing (review)
Shonda Rhimes Teaches TV Writing (review)
Dustin Hoffman's MasterClass on Directing (review)

The full MasterClass roster:

Martin Scorsese teaches Filmmaking
Werner Herzog teaches Filmmaking
Shonda Rhimes teaches TV Writing
Aaron Sorkin's Masterclass on TV Writing
David Mamet teaches Dramatic Writing
Steve Martin teaches Comedy
Judy Blume teaches Writing
James Patterson teaches Writing

Samuel L. Jackson teaches Acting
Helen Mirren teaches Acting

Christina Aguilera's MasterClass 
deadmau5's MasterClass 
Herbie Hancock teaches Jazz
Hans Zimmer teaches Film Scoring
Reba McEntire teaches Country Music
Usher teaches Performance

Stephen Curry teaches Basketball
Serena Williams teaches Tennis
Garry Kasparov teaches Chess

Wolfgang Puck teaches Cooking
Gordon Ramsay teaches Cooking.
Thomas Keller teaches Cooking

Jane Goodall teaches Conservation
Marc Jacobs teaches Fashion Design
Annie Leibovitz teaches Photography

No comments:

Post a Comment