David Lynch Teaches an Online Course on Film & Creativity

How many of us became David Lynch fans while first watch­ing one of his films? And how many of those fans also left filled with the desire to make a film them­selves? Though the long-cir­cu­lat­ing term “Lynchi­an” puts a name to Lynch’s dis­tinc­tive­ly stim­u­lat­ing and dis­turb­ing cin­e­mat­ic style, it increas­ing­ly seems that no film­mak­er, no mat­ter how skilled, can quite pull off that style but Lynch him­self. But even if you can nev­er be the man who direct­ed the likes of Eraser­head, Blue Vel­vet, and Mul­hol­land Dri­ve (and co-cre­at­ed the sim­i­lar­ly inim­itable tele­vi­sion series Twin Peaks), you can still learn a great deal about film­mak­ing from him that you can’t learn from any­one else.

Now online edu­ca­tion com­pa­ny Mas­ter­Class has made some of his knowl­edge eas­i­ly acces­si­ble in the form of their new course “David Lynch Teach­es Cre­ativ­i­ty and Film.” In Lynch’s world — unlike Hol­ly­wood in gen­er­al — you can’t make a film with­out cre­ativ­i­ty. But of what does cre­ativ­i­ty con­sist? “Ideas are every­thing,” says Lynch in the trail­er for his Mas­ter­Class above. “We’re noth­ing with­out an idea. So I go where the ideas lead.” He has long liked to make an anal­o­gy with fish­ing: you put a piece of bait on a hook, cast your line out into the world, and wait for an idea to bite. Dif­fer­ent idea-fish­ing meth­ods work for dif­fer­ent peo­ple, and Lynch has spo­ken of his suc­cess with drink­ing a milk­shake at Bob’s Big Boy every day for sev­en years, and even more so with decade after decade of twice-dai­ly med­i­ta­tion.

How­ev­er you fish for ideas, “you don’t know when they’re going to come or what will trig­ger them. Lo and behold, on a lucky day, bin­go, you’ll catch an idea, and… par­ty time.” Lynch also drops an unex­pect­ed­ly prac­ti­cal piece of advice to do with all this in the trail­er: “If you want to make a fea­ture-length film, all you need to do is get 70 ideas.” Then you take those 70 ideas, write them on cards, and put the cards in order — and not nec­es­sar­i­ly in a nar­ra­tive­ly con­ven­tion­al order. “In cin­e­ma, I don’t like rules,” Lynch says, a state­ment that will sur­prise nei­ther his boost­ers nor his detrac­tors. He cov­ers that ter­ri­to­ry in the eleventh les­son of his Mas­ter­Class, which explains the dif­fer­ence between “restric­tions that sti­fle cre­ativ­i­ty from those that actu­al­ly help you to think out­side the box.” Oth­er lessons get into “how to approach a blank page,” “how to iden­ti­fy and rec­og­nize the right per­former for a part,” and “how David han­dles the pres­sures of the set while pro­tect­ing a cre­ative space for the cast and crew.”

A final “bonus chap­ter” offers Lynch’s views on tran­scen­den­tal med­i­ta­tion, a prac­tice that has taught him “to approach life and work with deep­er aware­ness” and “enjoy the ‘doing’ of almost any activ­i­ty.” That sets “David Lynch Teach­es Cre­ativ­i­ty and Film” apart from the oth­er film­mak­ing cours­es Mas­ter­class offers, taught by such an intel­lec­tu­al­ly and aes­thet­i­cal­ly var­ied set of lumi­nar­ies as Mar­tin Scors­ese, Ken Burns, Jodie Fos­ter, Spike Lee, and Wern­er Her­zog. You can take all of those, and any oth­er Mas­ter­class besides, with the site’s “all-access pass,” or just this one course for $90. And even if you don’t, you’d do pret­ty well to take with you into your film­mak­ing career the words by which Lynch him­self has clear­ly lived: “Nev­er give up final cut and total cre­ative free­dom.” For a com­plete list of Mas­ter­class cours­es, click here.

FYI: If you sign up for a Mas­ter­Class course by click­ing on the affil­i­ate links in this post, Open Cul­ture will receive a small fee that helps sup­port our oper­a­tion.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed David Lynch Explains Where He Gets His Ideas

David Lynch Explains How Med­i­ta­tion Boosts Our Cre­ativ­i­ty (Plus Free Resources to Help You Start Med­i­tat­ing)

How David Lynch Got Cre­ative Inspi­ra­tion? By Drink­ing a Milk­shake at Bob’s Big Boy, Every Sin­gle Day, for Sev­en Straight Years

The Sur­re­al Film­mak­ing of David Lynch Explained in 9 Video Essays

David Lynch Presents the His­to­ry of Sur­re­al­ist Film (1987)

David Lynch Teach­es Typ­ing: A New Inter­ac­tive Com­e­dy Game

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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