The Clyde Fitch Report Invites You to a MasterClass

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“Can you imagine taking tennis lessons from Serena Williams?” We think many people have had such a dream, either after winning some phenomenal sets — or maybe after losing some sets phenomenally.

Or you’re an actor. Now there’s a profession with no lack of people eager to learn from those at the peak of their profession. Imagine acting lessons — not just tips — from two-time Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman.

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Or you’re not an actor. Your creative drive is fingers to keyboard: you’re a writer. And you know that writers, while still dreaming of inking that Great American Novel, thrill to the thriller — the one already plotted in your mind, with that Alex Cross-type character stewing inside your psyche. If only you could get insight from the acclaimed James Patterson, you could break through.

Well, you can get tennis lessons from Serena Williams, you can study acting with Dustin Hoffman and you can gain insight from James Patterson. At MasterClass.com.

And The Clyde Fitch Report is pleased to announce an affiliate relationship with MasterClass:

…an immersive online experience, which gives everyone the opportunity to learn from the world’s best practitioners. Every class was created by the instructor and includes extensive video content, class workbook, interactive assignments and community activities. There is a suggested workflow in the class workbook, but you can move at your own pace. Students also have the opportunity to ask their classmates (and, sometimes, even the instructor) questions.

This is top-tier online learning and we endorse it. Just consider this: the class with Dustin Hoffman features 24 lessons and includes feedback from your fellow actors. The two-hour Serena Williams class offers 10 lessons on both the physical and psychological aspects of tennis. And the James Patterson class contains 22 lessons, including not just the how of fiction writing but the how of selling and marketing books as well.

Each class, including all lessons, is just $90.

So what does all this mean?

First, The Clyde Fitch Report agreed to affiliate with MasterClass because their work and their product aligns with our core content and values. And second, we think the cost of this type of class is fair and affordable.

Third, the value for the CFR is terrific: each class you buy via the MasterClass ads on The Clyde Fitch Report (look to the right on our homepage), delivers a substantial portion of the fee directly to the CFR.

Study writing with James Patterson.

So if you like the idea of online learning with folks like this, if you want to support the CFR, take a class. If you have questions, email us at publisher@clydefitch.com. We will personally facilitate your inquiry.

To kick off the CFR’s relationship with MasterClass, we initiated a dialogue with Aaron Rasmussen, its co-founder, creative director and chief technical officer. We created the questions, they provided the replies, and what you’ll read below isn’t canned boilerplate.

We also think the bio provided for Rasmussen is unusually cheeky:

You know when a friend tells you the first part of a story and then refuses to tell you the rest? That’s how almost all problems sound to Aaron Rasmussen. He has to know how everything works. He has to know how the story ends, and his parents have the ruined electronics to prove it. And when he finds out how something works, he loves to share that knowledge with everyone the same way he’d want to share a new flavor of ice cream he’d just discovered.

By age 7, Aaron had taught himself to code so he could make his first video game. By age 11, he was editing local documentaries and shooting video from helicopters while starting to take college classes. Senior year in college, Aaron created the world’s first sentry gun (capable of automatically recognizing, warning, and firing pellets at unwelcome intruders). Shortly after videos of it became popular online, the U.S. Army’s Special Weapons research department informed him that they would be visiting his dorm room and tried to hire him. The job offer was politely declined and the sentry gun’s software ended up in an art project…

And now, 5 questions Aaron Rasmussen has never been asked:

Aaron Rasmussen
Aaron Rasmussen.

What’s the most perceptive question anyone has asked you about your work?
I like when people ask what patterns we see between all of the instructors.

What’s the most idiotic question anyone has asked you about your work?
It’d be pretty rough for me to slap somebody down for asking a question since I co-founded an education company. Now some questions, like how tall our instructors are, I’d prefer if they asked Google…

What’s the weirdest question anyone has asked you about your work?
If a random person could teach a MasterClass on twerking.

What kind of camera set-up is used — how many cameras, how long stuff takes to shoot, what kind of prep work is involved?
The classes vary significantly in how we shoot them, because we adapt to the subject material as well as our renowned directors’ preferences (Jay Roach directed Dustin’s class, Bill Guttentag directed Serena’s and James’s class). Most classes involve at least a few sections that are shot with two cameras, where one camera has a unique device called an EyeDirect that allows the instructor and director to make eye contact while it appears that the instructor is looking in to the camera lens. It works a lot like a submarine periscope.

For Serena’s class we used a Phantom camera to film her shots at nearly 1,000 frames a second to slow them down so students can analyze them. Then we shot the rest of her court-side footage with Arri Amiras that can sustain about 192 frames per second. Dustin’s scene work section was shot with four Sony F55’s simultaneously.

We spend the most amount of time in prep work. What surprises some people is that the actual production itself takes the least amount of time. Before filming, we spend months working with the instructor to develop the curriculum and then figure out how best to communicate their knowledge. Once we’re locked on a curriculum, we film the classes, and then spend between one month and several months editing it together.

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In the swing with Serena.
In the swing with Serena Williams.

Explain the difference between being physically in a room with a teacher and watching video of one in action. And then there’s the Passover question: How do MasterClass classes differ from other online-learning ventures?
We love online education and what the current platforms have done to prove that you can master a skill through online learning. What we wanted to do a little differently is provide a channel that gives students easy access to learn from the best in the world, and provide a quality of production and instruction commensurate with our instructors’ status. We want to make online education that will last for a very long time.

Some parts of in-person instruction are very easily replicated over video, like the information conveyed. But other parts, like interaction with your fellow students or the instructor, is more difficult. That’s where our interactive assignments come in. We try to get students to work together to critique each other’s work and get useful feedback, and foster some of those interactions that are possible through our platform. Certainly, there are parts of classes that very hard to teach online, and that’s why MasterClass is an excellent complement to many of our students’ existing in-person learning. In fact, Dustin gives recommendations on choosing an in-person acting class in one of his chapters in his MasterClass.

Our students have rated the classes highly and one of the things we hear most from students is how useful it is to have unlimited access to the videos to watch at their leisure — on a flight or on the court during a break in between sets. A lot of students will binge-watch the classes Netflix-style and then re-watch to dive in on the material. For example, if you’re a writer and you’re stuck working on a first line of your novel, it’s great to be able to watch or re-watch the “First Lines” chapter of James’s class for some inspiration.

Book a class through The Clyde Fitch Report.
Click on this ad on The Clyde Fitch Report.

Take three random people: someone who’s never written fiction, someone who’s never played tennis and someone who’s never acted. All want to give those efforts a real shot. And let’s say, respectfully, that none of the three will ever be great writers, tennis players or actors. What’s your core value? How are expectations set for the results?
Some of my favorite feedback so far is from students who have never considered becoming an actor, writer or tennis player, but they took the class to learn and be inspired from some of the greatest people in the world. Some students take Serena’s class just to learn what it takes to master a craft, and they’ve applied her methods to dedicate themselves to their craft. We’ve heard from students in Dustin’s class that use his methods and approach to better improve their public speaking abilities. MasterClass students vary from all ages and backgrounds, and I think that’s one of the most inspiring things about creating these classes.

We’ve also seen these classes give people the motivation to finally try out doing something they’ve dreamed of but never attempted. They will hopefully take away learnings from these classes that will help them improve in their craft, even if they are just a casual tennis player, occasional actor, or hobbyist writer. They don’t want to have to be the best in the world to learn useful things from the best in the world.

Do the “teachers” care that their “students” may or may not become top-performing professionals? If so, or if not, what do they want their “students” to take away from their experience?
We work really hard to make sure we’re working with instructors who genuinely care about teaching their craft. And they want everyone to enjoy it, even if the student isn’t dead set on being the best in the world. I think if you were to watch all of our classes, the biggest takeaway from all of these masters is that it takes an incredible amount of dedication and work to truly master a craft. And our instructors have in turn given an incredible amount of access to students willing to dedicate themselves to that work. Dustin ran office hours where he critiqued numerous student monologues, and he ended up Skype-ing with a few of the students and giving them real-time feedback.