THE DIRECTOR’S CUT: An Inside Scoop on How Movies Are Made (adults)

THE DIRECTOR’S CUT: An Inside Scoop on How Movies Are Made

Jason Ensler

An online ZOOM class | Thursdays |  3:00pm – 5:00pm (2:00pm – 4:00pm PT )  | $120 for all three sessions
July 30, August 6, August 13, 2020

Your zoom link will come from kris@ahhaa.org. Please check your spam folder if you have not received an email by the morning of the class. 

Waitlist Only–SOLD OUT

Join television (THE WEST WING, LETHAL WEAPON, GRACE + FRANKIE, BROOKLYN 99, GOSSIP GIRL and THE NEWSROOM) and movie director Jason Ensler for a rare behind-the-scenes look at directing for film. From setting the scene (and the theme), to bringing a script to life, to the constant evolution of characters and how we see them, this online class will give participants a view into the nuances of creating riveting and powerful film. For movie buffs, film nerds, and Netflix bingers alike, this class will be entertaining, informative, and may change how you watch tv and movies forever!

Jason Ensler is a writer, director and producer.  After graduating Brandeis University, he spent a year doing stand-up comedy in New York. One night in Greenwich Village, Dave Chappelle went on stage before him, proving once and for all that Ensler was on the wrong career path.  He quickly enrolled in the USC School for Cinematic Arts and got his MFA.  For the last 20 years he has directed television and movies, including the pilots for HART OF DIXIE, FRANKLIN + BASH, and the acclaimed cult series ANDY BARKER, P.I (available to #bingewatch on Amazon). He’s directed episodes of THE WEST WING, LETHAL WEAPON, GRACE + FRANKIE, BROOKLYN 99, GOSSIP GIRL and THE NEWSROOM. He recently served as the executive producer on FOX’s THE PASSAGE and THE EXORCIST and is currently the producing director for the hit series LOVE, VICTOR (available to #bingewatch on Hulu).   In 2020 he fled to Colorado to ride out the storm with his Leica M9, Nikon FM II and a prayer that we get back to work soon.  Meanwhile, he’s available on zoom for directing seminars and game nights.


Movies to Watch:

Ordinary People, 1980 – Written by Alvin Sargent, Directed by Robert Redford

The Babadook, 2014 – Written and Directed by Jennifer Kent

As a director, you must know your theme: it becomes a riverbed through which all your decisions are made.  Both Ordinary People and The Babadook are studies of loss, self-blame and redemption.  Both films ask the question: what happens when your unconquerable grief creates or reveals a monster in the house? Though they are drastically different films, there are visual similarities that can teach us common cinematic tropes.  We’ll study how to shoot intimate scenes in intimate spaces, and examine the use of color to convey character’s emotional journeys.  And, of course, eyelines.

Additional Viewing: 

Manchester by the Sea, 2016 – Written + Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Ghost, 1990 – Written by Bruce Joel Rubin, Directed by Jerry Zucker

The Sweet Hereafter, 1997 – Written + Directed by Atom Egoyan


You’ve got a script.  Now you need to put it on its feet.  What tools do you, as a director, have at your disposal to elevate the material and bring it to life?  In our second session, we’ll examine the six questions you should ask yourself before blocking a scene, and how the answers to those questions will inform your choice of lenses, lighting, space, movement and eyelines.  We’ll review on-set approaches to working with actors to get authentic performances and learn the vast visual difference between moments of connection and disconnection.

Movies To Watch (optional since I’ll be playing clips in class):

Moonstruck, 1987 – Written by John Patrick Shanley, Directed by Norman Jewison

Die Hard, 1988 – Written by Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza, Directed by John McTiernan

Get Out, 2017 – Written + Directed by Jordan Peele

You Were Never Really Here, 2017 – Written + Directed by Lynn Ramsey

Thelma + Louise, 1991 – Written by Callie Khouir, Directed by Ridley Scott


Movies to Watch:

Moonlight, 2018 – Written + Directed by Barry Jenkins

Portrait of a Lady on Fire, 2019 – Written + Directed by Celine Sciamma

In 1975, film critic Laura Mulvey coined the term the “male gaze,” roughly defined then as a way of looking at women in cinema as an object of heterosexual male longing.  The phrase has evolved, coming to mean any approach to story telling that is about conquest, power, objectification and violence – to name a few.  In our third session, we’ll look at examples in popular American cinema, dissect the technical visual choices that reinforce the “male gaze,” while considering alternatives that seek to tell stories through the lens of compassion, healing, and love.  Specifically, the recent films Moonlight and Portrait of a Lady on Fire bear witness to their characters emotional lives without objectifying or controlling them. In both films, characters are transformed incrementally by love. We’ll track those changes visually and examine the use of and absence of sound to empathetically portray characters’ inner worlds.

Additional Viewing:

Call Me By Your Name, 2017 – Written by James Ivory, Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Before Sunrise, 1995 – Written by Kim Krizan + Richard Linklater, Directed by Richard Linklater

Desert Hearts, 1985 – Written by Natalie Cooper, Directed by Donna Deitch


Waitlist for All Sessions