Film & TV

Choosing a Story

Ron Howard

Lesson time 08:15 min

Ron believes anyone can direct a movie. The key is loving a story, understanding it, and then backing up your instincts with craft. Learn his technique for finding and telling fresh stories that will leave an impact on audiences.

Ron Howard
Teaches Directing
Ron Howard teaches directing, editing, and storytelling in his exclusive video lessons.
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It so personal in terms of deciding what movie or television show you're going to work on if you're lucky enough to have options and have choices. For me it's always trying to identify something in an idea that I'm excited about that. It's not an intellectual thing. It's just an emotional thing. I'm reading it. I'm beginning to dream about it. And in a way beginning to see it, and I don't want to let go of that. And that's that inspiration. There's something about that story that you as a creative person just connect with. You want to apply what you have to offer to that. I have to feel that there's something about it that I connect with on an emotional level or that I feel like I can contribute to it. I have to feel that the story offers something to audiences that's fresh, that's thematically interesting, is going to be worthy of their attention, their time, and their money. I think that freshness is very important when you're evaluating your idea because the execution can be outstanding on a character level, , but if it's not presented in some way that feels fresh either through the cinematic approach or the setting, then it's going to be sort of downgraded in people's minds. They're going to feel like well they've kind of seen it before. This is a good version of something else. But what else? In great improv study groups, they always say and. The great teachers will say to the improv artists once they've completed, they'll say, what else? And? And I think that's a great clue for writers and directors as well. If you look at a movie like the first Star Wars, well Joseph Campbell explained you know very well to all of us who were listening that it was a combination of the familiar myths, but it was retold in this way that we just had never really experienced before. And it was so exciting. It made those old myths, those old ideas land in a powerful way, but we were ready to receive them because it was directed in such a brilliant remarkable fresh way. Sometimes the directors come along and find a way to do something traditional and yet you know make it modern. La la land is an example of a classic movie musical structure. Even the approach to the music is traditional and yet the way it's shot, the setting, the characters, the way they talk to each other, you know it feels entirely modern. Well that's a great combination that makes it feel like a very satisfying experience. Because there are those classic themes, those ideas that we do appreciate, we just don't want them presented to us in that same old way. And so that's where storytelling is almost always a combination of something old and something new. And it's the something new that gives it the contemporary relevance that makes it immediate and meaningful to those of us today living in this moment. That's what's so amazing about Shakespeare's writing is directors find wa...

Direct your story

Ron Howard made his first film in 15 days with $300,000. Today, his movies have grossed over $1.8 billion. In his first-ever online directing class, the Oscar-winning director of Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind decodes his craft like never before. In lessons and on-set workshops, you’ll learn how to evaluate ideas, work with actors, block scenes, and bring your vision to the screen whether it’s a laptop or an IMAX theater.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I love that he walked through the actual process on set with actors and a crew. I would love to see more of that. Also maybe have a director go through the full process (from pre-to-post) with a short film and let us see it all unfold.

Brilliant. This was indeed learning from the master of modern movie making.

I enjoyed hear Ron's process and discovered it is not far off m own. He had a couple of key ideas that I will take with me on future projects but overall it gave me confidence in my process and that is engouraging and motivating. Thanks Ron and thanks MasterClass for access to a master storyteller.

I have been in the business for 30 years and it was still utterly brilliant and educational


Lorraine K.

My take away is that choosing a story is very personal. It is kind of a relief in that at times I have been given the story rather than being able to choose it myself, or have felt selfish in my choice because it is something that I love. But I'm the one who has to steer it and live with it, so it should be something that interests me, intrigues me, stirs me, etc. Something I'm passionate about, and think I can bring fresh vision to, or at least do justice to.

A fellow student

Fascinating, humble man. I’m struck that he speaks mostly about the emotional connection to the material.

A fellow student

Ron's the best. Fresh, unique - yet, why is Hollywood constantly churning out the same stuff over and over again? Just sayin...

A fellow student

Highlights from this lesson for me are that your film needs to feel fresh to a contemporary audience (even if it has a traditional story), that everyone should trust their instincts and that directors need to hone their craft to best translate their instincts to a great film.

Paul C.

A brilliant, generous and modest person. One of the best classes here - even if you are not planning to ever direct a film. Thank you Ron!

Larry Q.

Always been impressed with his career and I love hearing his insights. Can't wait to hear more.

Cheri A.

He is so easy to listen to and learn from - I feel like he is talking to me - I still remember him on the Andy Griffith show as Opie - feel like I have grown up with him. He is so good at what he does. Really learning a lot and appreciate all his experience and knowledge - probably so far one of the next Master classes that I have chosen to take. Thanks Ron!!!!

Sharon H.

Tonight’s the final performance of the first full play I’ve directed for our community theatre. Although these lessons are more tuned toward film, I was able to apply much of Ron’s teaching to the stage, and the community has absolutely loved the play. It’s a great gift to our little town in northwest Wyoming. Thanks so much!

Jean B.

Well, my Mom and I are taking this class together and we completely agree with what Ron Howard says in this lesson. There are so many movies that just take the same story and retell it, but forget to make it fresh. There are only a few directors that take that same "traditional" story, as Ron put it, and give it a fresh take so that audiences feel like they are viewing something new. As for powerful moments, movies like The Post and Steel Magnolias are great examples because they have so many powerful scenes that really stick with you after watching the movie. Loving this class already! He is such a magnificent and amazing person. <3 Gingers gotta stick together ;)

mansfield K.

I don't wish to be one that starts far from my spirit. Brother Ron hits it with his heart and makes the innocent and beautiful truth dazzle all over us. He does it with care. He does it with softness. He does it with concern how it effects us. I'm glad it's important to him. But I truly love how he has made special moments important in his work. It draws me closer to him and I thank him for his way of seeing things. It means I'll have to see more beauty and innocence and somehow get it on screen my way. Alright hombres. Let's saddle up. It's time for us to head into the sunset and settle this wild and untamed imagination growing from the mountains to the oceans of this heare United States of America. Our America. Our beautiful United States of America that we are willing to sacrifice the goodness of our thoughts and ideas and special moments. Mansfield Kauo