Issa Rae Creativity Masterclass Review

Published by: Julia

Regardless of what you want to create Issa Rae shows you how in her creativity Masterclass. Find inspiration, tell your stories, reach your audience – break into the mainstream.

If you have a vision for something there is nothing stopping you from doing it but you.

Issa Rae Creativity Masterclass

Who I think this masterclass is for

Having taken this masterclass from beginning to end, I genuinely can recommend it. If you fit into any of the following categories you are going to both enjoy and benefit from taking.

  • Anyone looking for an entryway into content creation for TV, online, the stage, or movies
  • Anyone who has a project or idea they want to take to the next step
  • Fiction writers
  • Fans of Issa Rae and her shows

The pros and cons of Issa Rae´s masterclass

This is a well thought out, balanced course. If there is an issue it is that at just over 2 hours long, it is a bit short. But having said that Issa packs a lot in.

None of the videos are overlong, so it is easy to stay focused and take it all in. The assignments are excellent, and I really enjoyed Issa´s down to earth and sometimes funny presentation style.

OK, that is the short version of my review. Now, for a bit more detail. Read on to find out more about what you will get out of taking this writing and content creation course.

By the way, we recommend purchasing Masterclass for more than just one single course. The value comes when you take several. If you want to read our review of the whole platform, check out this Masterclass review article.

If you want to just find out what some of the best masterclasses are, this is the article for you.

Meet your teacher: Issa Rae

Issa Rae is a Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated writer, actor, and producer.

There is no doubt that she understands the creative process from beginning to end. Which is one of the reasons I think that you will learn so much from her.

Issa started her content creation journey with her YouTube show Awkward Black Girl. Then used that to springboard the rest of her career as a writer, actor, and producer. Her first book sold fast and her HBO show – Insecure has gained her an even bigger following.

Importantly Issa has experience of both sides of the content creation and marketing processes. For example, she has pitched shows, as well as had shows, pitched to her.

As a result, what you get when you take this Masterclass is a wealth of knowledge. Ensuring that what you create is far more likely to get taken up and produced by the networks. Enabling you to reach the audience you are creating for instead of getting passed over.

Finding your voice

One thing you will notice about Issa is how authentic she is. You really feel that you are seeing the real her, which is one reason her fans will enjoy this masterclass, as well as those of you who want to create content.

It is clear that Issa has found her voice and has the confidence to use it. In this section, she explains how she did that so that you can do the same.

Sources of inspiration

Most creators have experienced sitting there in front of a blank piece of paper or a blinking cursor. Sometimes the ideas just won´t come. So, this is an important section of the show in which Issa shows you how to:

  • Critique your favorite shows to understand how they work and get ideas
  • Use what is going on in your life for inspiration
  • Get your ideas down in an orderly way

If you don´t see what you wanna see (on TV etc)…Make what you wanna see.

Issa Rae –

Practice your skills using Issa Rae´s writing assignments

After this class, Issa gives you your first assignment. The fact that she does this is a big plus. As you can see by clicking the link I have taken and reviewed dozens of masterclass courses. For the early courses, most of the tutors took the time to provide assignments.

This encouraged me to put what I was learning into practice, as I was learning it. When I did that I really did develop new skills. When I didn´t I soon forgot that particular course and basically took nothing away from the experience.

Recently, some of the Masterclass instructors have not provided assignments. At least not ones that it was practical to implement. So the fact that Issa Rae does it is a huge plus and part of the reason I highly recommend this particular masterclass.

Developing your story the Issa Rae way

This was one of my favorite sections of Issa Rae´s creativity masterclass. Taking an idea and fleshing it out into a full-blown story is a struggle, so I really needed the tips and methods she shared including:

  • Every story needs tension – even comedy
  • You need to structure your story in a way that encourages viewers and readers to fill in the blanks in their mind
  • Good stories include a strong point of view
  • Start with your unique perspective
  • Tell an authentic story – don´t gloss over things
  • Write for yourself initially
  • Don´t overcomplicate things. Over time, your series will evolve to appeal to more people
  • Know when to stop – you may have a great idea, but get stuck when you try to write it – in that situation, it´s OK to move on to another one

As Issa said, at the start of this video, we all naturally make up scenarios (stories) in our heads when we see something. For example, if you drive past an accident, you automatically start guessing what happened. What caused the accident?

Taking note of those moments will help you to become a better creator. You will get ideas, as well as learn more about how to pique the interest of others. To write scenes that get them filling in the blanks and wanting to watch the next show to find out if they are right.

How to create a pilot that pitches well

Knowing how to create a decent pilot is essential. If you do not know how to do this, breaking through and getting a professional studio to make your show is going to be all but impossible.

The person you are pitching to has to see the value in what you have to offer. This means you have to present it to them in a format that they (and the viewers) can relate to and understand.

Issa shares her pilot blueprint. She covers this subject, by breaking it down into the following 4 subjects/sections:

Be ready to rewrite several times

I was stunned to hear that Issa had to rewrite the pilot for her show – Insecure, 9 times. You clearly need to have a pretty thick skin to be a creator. Fortunately, Issa explains how to successfully navigate this situation and does so in detail.

Setting your characters up and using conflict

In the pilot, you have to set up your characters. Share with the viewer a bit about who they are. What their life circumstances are and what is special and interesting about them. You are basically setting the scene. Getting the audience interested in what happens to these people. To be willing to invest some time in finding out by following your show.

Conflict engages people. It naturally creates interesting story arches and helps you to pull the stories of your various characters together.

Creating characters grounded in reality

For people to be able to engage with your characters they need to be grounded in reality. The best way to do this is to draw on your own experiences. Issa uses two simple questions to come up with ideas and start to sketch out characters that are real enough to resonate with people. It helps to be interested in other people´s lives and being a good listener.

The assignment at the end of this section is an especially good one. If you only do one of Issa´s assignments I would say make it this one.

How to create flawed characters that people love

People love flawed characters. They are interesting. People feel better when watching them and if you do your job well they can end up rooting for them.

When developing flawed characters, you need to make sure that there is something endearing about them. They need to be drawn in a balanced way. This makes them more relatable and real.

Just because you meant to do good, doesn´t mean that you did good.

Issa Rae Teaches Creating Outside the Lines Masterclass

Creating multidimensional relationships – a case study – Insecure

In this part of her masterclass, Issa brings everything together she has taught you about character development. She does this by walking her students through how she developed the three main characters from Insecure. In particular, how she created the relationships that existed between them.

Sadly, I have not yet seen the show, so think I did not get everything I could have out of this section of Rae´s masterclass. But I did enjoy it and felt that Issa bought everything together nicely.

Setting the scene – letting the viewer know why they are there

You need to have a point in time in mind when setting up the pilot. An important event to anchor your main characters to is a good way of doing this. The audience needs to be there to observe something worthwhile, interesting, and important. Ideally, a pivotal point in your main character’s life. It could be something like them having just started university or broken up with their partner. An important point in their life. One that you can use to draw the audience in as well as start to sketch out the characters and relationship dynamics.

Using conflict to create interest

You cannot afford to have your characters simply coast. If you do, people will get bored really quickly. You need to create drama.

This is the case even when you are writing comedy. Creating conflict is a great way to keep your audience engaged. Issa provides several practical examples to help you to do this.

Setting up your series

“You want to give your viewers a sense of what to expect as they’re watching your series. As you end this pilot, what can we expect to see moving forward?”

Issa Rae – Masterclass PDF workbook

In the workbook, there is an excellent section that covers writing your pilot. I highly recommend that you read it as well as watch the videos. In it, Issa shares several tips that she does not in the videos. Including how to make sure that you know what is going to happen to your characters, in the long term.

How you are going to grow and evolve them. At first, you won´t know everything about them. But when you write the pilot you have to have a fair idea. Otherwise, you will not be able to set the scene for your audience and pique their interest so that they feel compelled to watch your series.

Interpreting feedback and using it to evolve your story

Earlier in the review, I mentioned that when writing for TV you need to be ready to rewrite things. You are going to get a lot of feedback and need to know how to respond to it.

It is clear that Issa has learned to listen and respond positively to feedback. Including taking on board criticism.

But she also knows when and how to draw the line. To stick to her original vision and not let her characters be eroded. In particular when networks want to change them for cultural reasons.

Getting your stories out there

Issa got started online and the chances are you will too. At least initially. So it is great that in this section, Issa explains how she approached sharing her content online. Including methods that anyone can easily learn and employ themselves. Her tips include:

  • Write something good
  • Highlight what is unique about your story
  • Consider how you can use each one of the possible platforms
  • Be there consistently for your audience
  • Create a routine, be consistent about when you broadcast to ensure you retain your audience
  • Look at how other shows promote their material and learn from them
  • Include bait points in your episode
  • Consider using stunts when marketing your show

Be resourceful and don´t get hung up on perfection

You are going to have to be resourceful and be able to think outside of the box. Initially, you are not likely to have much money, so will have to learn to do things like editing yourself.

It is going to be difficult for you to get everything 100% right. Initially, you are going to have to embrace imperfection. Just get things done. Taking this approach will help you to avoid procrastination. Issa also shares several more tips to help you to overcome this all too common issue.

The benefits of collaborating with like-minded creatives

When Issa started out, she got hung up on doing everything herself. It was the way she liked it. In time she started to accept help when it was offered. That is when things got a lot easier. With the added advantage that the quality of what she produced became much better.

Being a good collaborator is an essential skill for a content creator. You need to trust and understand what everyone is doing, during the production process. Issa explains how to learn to let go enough to make sure that you can tap into their expertise. The content you produce will be all the better for it.

Collaborating with others who do not share your life experience brings many benefits. Diversity is important when creating content, especially at the writing stage.

How to empower yourself and those around you

In this section, Issa talks about how she has been able to open the door to others. Particularly people of color, who have been underrepresented within the industry for many years.

Importantly, Issa also covers how to get the balance right. How to choose who you help wisely. To make sure that you end up with people who you click with. Including how to handle things when a working relationship is not as good as it should be.

Diversifying and capitalising on your skills

Most people advise people to stick to their lane. For example, to only write if you are a writer. Issa did not do this.

Starting out she had little choice but to direct, act and shoot her own stuff. This was not ideal. But filling those roles enabled her to understand the creative process from beginning to end. Enabling her to write in a way that makes it easier for her work to be correctly interpreted and brought to life.

Listen and always be willing to learn. You have to have the ability to juggle while focusing and enjoy it.

Issa Rae

Issa Rae Masterclass PDF free download

Annoyingly many of the recent Masterclass PDFs have become a bit lightweight. They look beautiful. But now read more like a brochure than a textbook that is designed to complement the course. This is a shame because it makes going back over the course and finding the section of a video that you want to review extremely difficult.

However, there are exceptions. Issa´s workbook is one of those. Not everything she covers in the videos is in the PDF. But the important stuff is in there. In fact, there are things in her Masterclass PDF that are not in the course. So please take the time to download and read it.

A word of warning

I really liked this Masterclass and found Issa to be charming, easy to relate to. She is also a great teacher…but every now and again she did swear…not much. I don´t mind people swearing, it is all part of Issa being herself, which makes the course all the better. But if swearing offends you there is a chance that this particular Masterclass is not for you.

But please don´t let that put you off. Remember that, when you buy this course you get access to nearly a hundred others. The vast majority of which contain no curse words. That is the great thing about the Masterclass learning platform – there really is something for everyone.

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