I remarked briefly here at Writing Boots about these video "Master Classes" that have people like Ron Howard teaching movie direction, Steve Martin teaching comedy and Aaron Sorkin teaching playwriting. If the people who can do are teaching, I wrote, what are the people who can't do going to do?
Instead of being a smart-ass, why didn't I do what Washington Post writer Dan Zak did, and actually experience some of these "seminars"?
They seem to be utter horsehockey, just as I suspected. Well-lit celebs spin yarns their kids won't listen to, and give philosophical advice that they are in no position to offer. Steve Martin to advises you to find "the mysterious well inside you that you can let out." So that's where Land Shark came from!
“I mean, I remember just being sort of so surprised when I would see the imagery, and what you — what you got from a situation, or something, that, you know — I mean literally — couldn’t believe it came out,” the famed photographer says, ostensibly talking about making portraits. “Like, oh my God, this is, like, amazing. So. I think that there — it just — it takes doing it over and over and over.”
Actor Helen Mirren advises would-be actors to be on time, and "Don't be an asshole." What an asshole.
Hoopster Steph Curry gets a cut of the gate for telling us what any seventh-grade coach would: “All the greatest shooters are great at using their legs as the foundation for their shot. They don’t shoot with their arms. They shoot with their legs first.”
Actually, when it comes to NBA shooters, even the worst ones shoot with their legs. Curry is a shooting genius. Why? He he couldn't tell you. So how (or why) would he bother teaching you?
Not for the money, Zak says; the "Master Class" teachers don't make as much as you might think. It seems they just like gassing on, in front of a camera. Or as one famous instructor put it, “Master Class takes my experiences and combines them in a way that now allows me to give back to others.”
Ted Williams was the last guy to hit .400. Had the sweetest swing you ever saw. Saw every molecule of a baseball, at 90 m.p.h. He was a terrible baseball manager, everyone knows that. Or at least they used to.
I also know a lot of great writers who I would never hire to teach one of our speechwriting workshops. Why? Because it's teachers I need. Now, I would never hire a mediocre writer to teach for us. But the chances that someone who doesn't love to teach—who doesn't for some psychological reason need to teach—would do the thinking, refining, reimagining and patient teaching required to help a group of grown-ups actually learn something new … well, there's no chance of that.
These "Master Class" teachers are masters, all right.
Masters, as my seventh grade gym teacher used to call us boys, of bation.