Dustin Hoffman, Serena Williams and James Patterson Team for MasterClass Project

The just-launched classes cost $90 and are offered by a San Francisco startup headed by David Rogier and Aaron Rasmussen.

A version of this story first appeared in the May 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Actor Dustin Hoffman, athlete Serena Williams and author James Patterson are adding another title to their résumés: professor. The trio are kicking off a new venture titled MasterClass, which launches online May 12.

The highly produced online video classes will see Hoffman, Williams and Patterson teach a master class in their respective fields at $90 a pop. The classes — co-founded by David Rogier and Aaron Rasmussen through a San Francisco-based startup — have been directed by top filmmakers like Jay Roach and are backed by an impressive roster of bold-faced names including Usher and Robert Downey Jr.'s Downey Ventures, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's venture fund at Bloomberg Beta, Javelin Ventures, Harrison Metal, Advancit Capital and Novel TMT.

Additional "masters" will be announced in the coming months, but THR has learned of two more: Annie Leibovitz and Usher, who will teach photography and performance, respectively.

Roach directed the Hoffman segment while Bill Guttentag directed the Patterson and Williams classes.

Each class includes video lessons from the instructor, interactive exercises, learning materials and Q&A sessions with lifetime access. For example, in Hoffman’s class, students will have access to 24 video lessons, a 40-page class workbook, scripts for Jerry Maguire and Good Will Hunting, and specific objectives for creating character, getting the part and scene work. 

“This is a MasterClass and there are no rules. I don’t know how to teach acting except to share some experiences I’ve had and show you ways of working. And maybe from those experiences you’ll get something out of it, whether you’re an aspiring actor or writer," Hoffman tells THR. "I never like to give advice, but I wanted to teach what I wish someone had taught me.” 

He's already got one person hooked on the experience. "Dustin's class is incredible. It will not only change how you act, but also may change how you watch movies," Roach tells THR. "Getting to direct Dustin Hoffman's class was a dream, and it was unlike anything I've ever done. The project gave me a unique opportunity to create a special environment for a different type of audience — students." 

A typical class contains between 10 and 25 video lessons totaling anywhere from two to five hours of running time. "You can decide how fast you want to go, but we usually recommend taking four to six weeks to get through all the material," says Rasmussen.

For MasterClass, Rogier serves as co-founder and CEO while Rasmussen serves as co-founder, creative director and CTO.

"Each MasterClass truly belongs to the instructor. It is their class," offers Rogier. Adds Rasmussen: "All of our instructors really want to teach. They were looking for a way to share their lessons with more people. It's been amazing to work with people who are not only masters, but are also passionate about teaching."

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