“I don’t give a shit about whether you get emotional at the end; I give a shit whether I get emotional at the end.” Kevin Spacey pokes himself in the chest to emphasize the point.
This is a class with the Academy Award-winning actor and star of House of Cards, and he is the mildly sociopathic, relentlessly acerbic mentor you’d imagine.
Anyone can be a student—but you can’t raise your hand and ask a question, because it’s a virtual classroom, brought to you by Master Class. The company offers courses by celebrities—Serena Williams teaches tennis; James Patterson teaches writing; Usher teaches “the art of performance”—for a $90 enrollment fee.
Spacey’s 28-lesson course launched today (Feb. 23), and if you’re enrolled, you can actually get f-bomb-laden feedback on your monologue, just not in real time. The site lets students upload videos of their assignments, and the actor picks exemplary clips to critique.
It’s not clear why Spacey or any other celebrity should take time out of a presumably hectic schedule—as late as December last year, the fourth season of House of Cards was still in production—to teach master classes.
It’s certainly not for the money, cofounders Aaron Rasmussen and David Rogier tell Quartz.
The pair wouldn’t disclose how much they pay their teachers, but the stars do commit significant time. Filming takes three days, with an additional four to six months of preparation and feedback, say Rogier and Rasmussen. They recall sitting with Usher in his kitchen, editing his class videos for seven hours as he gave detailed input down to the frame.
“There’s a real genuine interest in passing on knowledge,” Rasmussen says of his teachers. “They love doing what they do.”
Master Class clearly has the ear of investors; the company just raised $15 million in Series B funding. Its cofounders believe their courses’ slick production and the performative nature of the topics will draw students, but whether people will pay a premium when they can already access Khan Academy and an ocean of YouTube videos for free, is yet to be seen.