PRODUCT REVIEW

David Lynch MasterClass Review: Is it Worth it?

Sam Chapman
December 3, 2021

David Lynch MasterClass review synopsis

What you’ll learn: Where great ideas come from, how to turn an idea into a vision you can make real, and the basics of filmmaking.

How long does the David Lynch MasterClass take?: 2 hours and 52 minutes across 13 videos.

Similar courses: Jodie Foster Teaches Filmmaking, Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking, Spike Lee Teaches Independent Filmmaking, Martin Scorcese Teaches Filmmaking, James Cameron Teaches Filmmaking, Ron Howard Teaches Directing, Shonda Rhimes Teaches Scriptwriting

Do I recommend David Lynch’s MasterClass? Yes, but mostly if you’re already a fan of his work or love seeing artists unpack their creative processes.

Take the David Lynch MasterClass

David Lynch is one of the most artistic, original filmmakers in the history of cinema. From surreal cult films like Eraserhead and Inland Empire to more accessible (but still unique) work like The Elephant Man and The Straight Story, Lynch has been enchanting and confusing filmgoers for over 50 years.

David Lynch fishing for ideas

What does a gifted artist like Lynch think about when he’s at work? When starting the course, I was skeptical that Lynch could teach a repeatable process for creating extraordinary films in his style.

Fortunately, that’s not what he’s set out to do here. David Lynch doesn’t want to teach you to make movies like David Lynch — he trains you to unlock your own creative process to make the movies only you can make.

In this review, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the David Lynch MasterClass, including cost, content, pros, and cons, and ultimately, whether it’s worth it.

So Fire Walk With Me down The Lost Highway and let’s get started.

Disclosure: In the interest of full transparency, Codeless uses affiliate links in our MasterClass reviews to cover our site’s costs.

Our Verdict

If you’re a dedicated fan of Lynch’s work, you’ll be thrilled to get this inside look at how he thinks. Watching this MasterClass makes it easy to see where Twin Peaks, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive came from.

David Lynch MasterClass Unlock your creativity

$15 /month
PROS
  • Lynch shares stories about how aspects of his movies came to life, often shedding light on surprising origins.
  • His approach to filmmaking is impressively comprehensive, starting with the screenplay and ending with post-production.
  • You can apply the lessons he teaches about creativity other media than film.
  • The online community adds an extra level of interaction to the course.
  • The class includes a bonus lesson on transcendental meditation.
CONS
  • Lynch talks very slowly. I recommend viewing the whole course at 1.5x speed.
  • He tends to go off-topic quite often (but his tangents are all interesting enough that you may not mind).
  • The workbook doesn’t mirror the class, instead sharing anecdotes that illustrate Lynch’s points and worldview. It’s a great read but might be a problem if you don’t want to take your own notes.

A few frequently-asked questions…

Let’s start by answering a few of the most common questions about the David Lynch MasterClass.

Do I need a subscription to access this course?

Yes, like any other MasterClass, the David Lynch course is only available to paying subscribers. Subscriptions start at $15 per month.

How long is David Lynch’s MasterClass?

The David Lynch MasterClass consists of 13 videos and runs a total of 2 hours and 52 minutes.

Does MasterClass have a cancellation policy?

MasterClass offers a full refund for the first 30 days after you sign up.

Is the David Lynch MasterClass worth it?

If you love Lynch’s movies, or you want to know how a true film auteur thinks, this MasterClass is for you. For the nuts and bolts of filmmaking, you might want to seek out another film-focused MasterClass, like James Cameron’s course.

Level up your creative process with the David Lynch MasterClass.

About David Lynch

At first, David Lynch wanted to be a painter. But the unexpected success of his “moving painting” called Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times) turned his attention toward film instead.

After launching his career with the cult horror film Eraserhead (1977), Lynch went on to create some of the most acclaimed films of the last several decades, including The Elephant Man (1980), Blue Velvet (1986), Lost Highway (1997), and Mulholland Drive (2001). In 1990, he co-created the seminal TV series Twin Peaks and even directed its revival in 2017.

Some movies from David Lynch’s filmography

Lynch’s use of dream sequences, non-linear narratives, and bizarre imagery has led him to be called “the first popular surrealist.” He’s been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director three times and won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Wild at Heart in 1990.

How much does the David Lynch MasterClass cost?

To take any MasterClass, you need a subscription. Even the cheapest tier unlocks every course, workbook, and dedicated online community.

MasterClass offers three subscriptions:

  • Standard Plan ($15 per month): Every MasterClass, 1 device logged in at a time
  • Plus Plan ($20 per month): 2 devices logged in at a time (split with a friend to save money)
  • Premium Plan ($23 per month): 6 devices logged in at a time (great for a family or small business)

These prices may seem expensive, but with the same subscription, you can also learn the filmmaking secrets of Spike Lee, Jodi Foster, and Ron Howard, to name a few.

Level up your filmmaking with a MasterClass membership.

What is included in the David Lynch MasterClass?

Runtime: 2 hr 52 min

Course Value: 3.5/5

Lessons: 13

Supplementary materials: “Selected Stories” workbook and community

Supplementary workbook

Unlike most MasterClass workbooks, David Lynch’s workbook doesn’t follow the curriculum lesson by lesson.

Instead, it’s full of anecdotes from his film career. Some of the most memorable stories include:

  • David meeting Federico Fellini
  • Finding the perfect dog for a shot in The Elephant Man
  • An explanation of Lynch’s metaphor of “fishing for ideas”

a page from the david lynch masterclass workbook
David Lynch MasterClass workbook

The MasterClass Hub

Each MasterClass comes with a forum known as a Hub, which gives students a chance to exchange ideas and ask questions.

The David Lynch Hub is a nice bonus, with active class challenges and a creative community you can learn more from.

the david lynch masterclass hub
David Lynch MasterClass hub

A complete breakdown of the David Lynch MasterClass curriculum

Like David Lynch’s films, his MasterClass has multiple layers. On the surface, it’s a set of guidelines for amateur filmmakers looking to do their best work. But it’s also a meditation on creativity; it tackles questions like where ideas come from, what they’re for, and what to do when you’ve got one.

Curriculum

  • Introduction: The Art Life
  • Catching Ideas
  • Creativity and the Writing Process
  • Educating Yourself
  • Casting for Character
  • Working With Actors
  • On Set: Creating a Happy Family
  • Production Design: Building Unique Worlds
  • Cinematography: Manifesting David’s Vision
  • Sound Design and Scoring
  • Breaking the Rules
  • Make It True to the Ideas
  • Bonus Chapter: Transcendental Meditation

Course summary

The first few videos in the course are all about creativity as it applies to every art form. Lynch begins by explaining the value of writing down your ideas in enough detail that they’ll be legible later.

He mentions that he’s forgotten three great ideas throughout his life — we can only wonder what those might have turned into.

david lynch teaching his masterclass
David Lynch teaching his MasterClass

Lynch uses fishing as a metaphor for discovering ideas. The desire for an idea is like bait on a hook. When the bait is in the water, you can’t see the fish. Only once you reel one in can you see it clearly and understand its unique traits. Then you lower it back in and catch more fish, slowly developing your idea.

You also have to go where the fish are. Just like you can’t catch fish from your apartment window, you can’t find inspiration from your sofa.

For Lynch, that means opening yourself up to places where ideas come from: the world around you and your memories. He shares the story of how, as a child, he saw a naked woman stumble out of the bushes on a suburban street. The image never left him, and he eventually used it in Blue Velvet.

The creative process

Lynch spends the next several minutes going over the process of turning an idea into a film. Once you’ve written down enough ideas and seen characters emerge that you can work with, you need to organize it all into a screenplay.

The filmmaker should take the screenplay (even if they also wrote it) and note the ideas and visions that come to them while they read. The rest of the process comes from taking that vision out of the filmmaker’s head and actualizing it. That means taking all the moving parts and experimenting until you can combine them into a congruent story.

Ideas can come from anywhere, even borrowed from other works of art. In the screenshot below, a scene from Wild at Heart shows how Lynch incorporated an idea from The Wizard of Oz into his own work.

screenshot from wild at heart
Screenshot from Wild at Heart

A key ingredient to realizing your vision is your “setup” — a place to work and the tools to do that work. Whatever your chosen art form is, you need a setup that suits your personality and preferences.

Working on a film set

The know-how of how to work on a film set comes from experience. Lynch advocates the “learn by doing” process. Technical knowledge is important, but there’s only so much you can pick up without actually doing the work.

He describes how his film education started almost by accident. While trying to launch a painting career, he got the idea to create a moving painting, which required him to learn how to use a 16mm movie camera. That one seemingly insignificant decision transformed his entire career path.

Studying the work of other artists is a crucial part of any creative education. Throughout the MasterClass, Lynch regularly references other movies he admires, including Sunset Boulevard, Chinatown, 8 1/2, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

screenshot from chinatown
Screenshot from Chinatown

For example, the ending of Chinatown (pictured above) concludes the movie but leaves the audience with “room to dream.”

Working with a cast

When assembling a cast, Lynch takes his time listening to actors talk. Like many filmmakers, he often has actors read for more than one part — sometimes through the entire script.

The goal is to get to know the actor on a deep enough level that you understand what they’re capable of. In some cases, like with the casting of Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, the perfect casting decision will completely change the film’s direction.

Creating a happy family on set

Directing actors is a matter of finding the right things to say at the right time. Lynch teaches how to think about a direction before giving it and how you can know if you’ve given the correct instructions.

It doesn’t matter if the initial rehearsals are far from the performance you want because you’ll collaborate with the cast to get the characters to fit your vision.

Behind the camera

Lynch places a high value on maintaining complete creative control and being involved in every aspect of production. For example, if the director pays attention to the locations they film, they set the stage for a new source of inspiration.

Cinematography is similar. The filmmaker should always be looking for opportunities to tell the story through the camera’s eye. Lynch works through a scene from The Elephant Man as a case study, demonstrating how the protagonist’s perspective alters the viewer’s perception of the scene.

What I learned

As a creative person myself, but not a professional filmmaker, I still found a lot of valuable advice in this MasterClass.

5 takeaways from this MasterClass

1. Negative emotions can scare ideas away

It’s much harder to be receptive to great ideas when you’re angry, anxious, frustrated, sad, or exhausted. You’re at your most receptive when your emotions are positive or even-keeled (that’s one reason Lynch has taken up meditation).

2. Good writing shouldn’t follow a formula

To create a feature-length film, all you need is 70 scenes written on notecards. If you’ve got that, they can be anything — don’t worry about three-act structures or film-school formulas; they can get in the way of your ideas.

3. Make the mood true to the idea

Whether you’ve written a script for someone else to work from, or someone else has handed you a script, the writing conveys moods, visions, and feelings — just like everyday life and memory do. The final film should mirror those feelings as much as possible, even the location and soundtrack.

4. Learn from the work of great masters

One of Lynch’s film teachers would send his students to watch a movie and assign each one to study a different aspect: the performances, writing, score, costumes, lighting, etc. This process helped Lynch discover all the different ways a film could realize a vision.

5. The director isn’t a tyrant

A director should collaborate with his cast and crew. If you treat them well, they’ll work hard for you in return. If you don’t think of them as partners, you’ll miss out on opportunities they might have revealed to you otherwise.

Grow as a director with the David Lynch MasterClass.

Memorable quotes from this MasterClass

“Find your own voice. Be true to that voice. Never give up final cut.”

Lesson 1: The Art Life

“If you have a yellow pad on your lap and a ballpoint pen, pretty soon that pen will start moving, and words will come out.”

Lesson 3: Creativity and the Writing Process

“An artist needs four hours of uninterrupted working time to get one painting done.”

Lesson 3: Creativity and the Writing Process

David Lynch MasterClass pros and cons

While a fascinating ride into the creative process of filmmaking, this MasterClass won’t appeal to everyone. To help you make up your mind, I’ve compiled my top pros and cons of David Lynch’s course.

Pros

This course lets you peer into the mind of an acclaimed, iconoclastic artist.

  • Lynch shares stories about how aspects of his movies came to life, often shedding light on surprising origins.
  • His approach to filmmaking is impressively comprehensive, starting with the screenplay and ending with post-production.
  • You can apply the lessons he teaches about creativity other media than film.
  • The online community adds an extra level of interaction to the course.
  • The class includes a bonus lesson on transcendental meditation.

Cons

There are some gaps in Lynch’s teaching style.

  • Lynch talks very slowly. I recommend viewing the whole course at 1.5x speed.
  • He tends to go off-topic quite often (but his tangents are all interesting enough that you may not mind).
  • The workbook doesn’t mirror the class, instead sharing anecdotes that illustrate Lynch’s points and worldview. It’s a great read but might be a problem if you don’t want to take your own notes.

Do I recommend this MasterClass?

Yes, I recommend it but with a few reservations. Lynch is one of the most influential filmmakers of the last 50 years, but he’s not a natural teacher. Like many geniuses, he has trouble seeing the world through the eyes of a regular person.

If you come to this MasterClass hoping to learn how to make movies, you might be disappointed that Lynch hand-waves parts of the process you find difficult: affording a workspace, for example, or casting actors for your roles.

But if you’re a dedicated fan of Lynch’s work, you’ll be thrilled to get this inside look at how he thinks. Watching this MasterClass makes it easy to see where Twin Peaks, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive came from.

Take the David Lynch MasterClass today.