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Arts & Entertainment

Developing the Film

Ron Howard

Lesson time 17:05 min

Throughout the development process, your choices and beliefs as a director are going to be tested. Learn how Ron finds the best collaborators to navigate through development hell and bring his projects to life.

Ron Howard
Teaches Directing
Ron Howard teaches directing, editing, and storytelling in his exclusive video lessons.


As I've identified an idea, I've felt inspired by it, I've begun thinking about it, dreaming about it, pitching it, telling it to people-- if that continues to go well and I haven't sort of disconnected from it based on that, then it gets into the process of finding those collaborators. I have written screenplays. I don't think of myself first and foremost as a screenwriter. I'm a very good editor. But I'll begin talking to the executives at Imagine, for example. Talk to Brian Grazer about it. If it keeps building excitement, then it's about bringing in a writer. In order to get that writer financed, you'll have to take it to a studio. Those are more conversations. Now the project is having to pass these tests, these barriers. And you are deepening your understanding of its strengths and weaknesses as you have these conversations. And the project, you know, picks up momentum if it's meant to be. And then you begin the collaboration with a screenwriter, who usually has to come in and discuss the project. Because he or she doesn't want to take the screenplay in a direction that the filmmaker doesn't agree with, or the studio doesn't want, or the producers don't believe in. So that's another conversation. So projects go through weeks, months, sometimes years of this kind of analysis and thought before people finally commit the real resources of paying a writer, and a writer given their time to the project. And that begins a little thing called development hell. And that's aptly named, because screenplays are not movies. They're blueprints for movies. And yet, they're harder to write, in many ways, than novels. Many writers have said that. And there's something about the rhythm, the sort of lean, specific nature of a movie narrative that is so demanding that it's very, very difficult to get a screenplay that everyone agrees is worth investing in. But it's an important litmus test, and one where the director's belief is going to be tested. Because people are going to doubt some of the choices in that script. And the director finds that he or she either can defend that script and those choices in an articulate way or not. And if not, that's a good early signal that that's an area of the story that's not fulfilling the possibility of the big idea. The big idea that got everyone excited enough to want to have the conversation, to want to invest the money in the development of a screenplay. Development hell is where most projects go to die. You know, I don't know what the ratio is, but it's probably up worse than 10 to 1 in terms of projects developed to finally made, whether the director is one of the writers or not. And it's always heartbreaking. But sometimes they're just not meant to happen. And you know, heartbreak, what is that? It's just part of the human experience. I have found over the years that you have to underst...

About the Instructor

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.

Such a cool and interesting class, I'll never look at movies the same way

Very good over all very nice to see an expert work

I enjoyed this class having moments of actual directing and filming snapshots from multi-angles. Eye-opener & wider perspectives.

I like what I've seen and read so far...I'm ready for more.


Fernando L.

I agree that disappointment and heartbreaks are a part of life and directing. However, this means that there is passion in what you do, and it is up to you to keep going.

Nancy R.

LOVING this Ron Howard Masterclass. Howard just grabs me... It's his work, his style, his UNDERSTANDING of so much of what it is to tell a story visually. And he is really giving us our money's worth with this class. Five stars, Masterclass. Five stars, Ron Howard.


Here's a question I'd love to ask Ron Howard. He talks so much about development and how to make the story fresh. I've always wondered how he feels about the trailers for his films. Whether they give away too much about the film. Or whether they explain enough. Does he have a say in how they're made?

Jonathan P.

I work in R&D of industrial machinery for a living and have to cope with failure and delays all the time. The heartbreak from projects is the cost of being emotionally invested, but if you don't care nothing good happens.


Ron Howard's class is so easy to learn from and technically the way he explained the development of the story is amazing because he divides his explanation on subchapters that help me a lot to feel like I also can do it.

Noah A.

Very surprising! I definitely agree with Ron that you have to allow other people to bring their thoughts and ideas to a project, and at the same time you have to be decisive about what you as the director want to do. Very great lesson.

Gianni A.

I shot my first feature film last year... and... It's everything like you told in this lessons... in a particular way the last 3 minutes... Great!

Melanie Star S.

It's all such wonderful information but the piece that slapped me hard in the face was Ron saying that every project will break your heart in some way. Wow. I had no idea. I would have never thought this about well financed or studio projects. I thought this was more the result of working in the low budget indie film world. I've written, produced and directed four short films, each about 30 minutes long, and while I am proud of all of them, my heart DID, indeed, get broken in some way on all of them. Hearing Ron Howard say this is a normal and to-be-expected part of the process is certainly an EYE OPENER for me and gives me a whole new perspective! I'm certain this new outlook will help in my Directing journey going forward! Thank you so much!!!!

A fellow student

I was enjoying the Lesson PDFs. Anybody else having trouble finding pages 12-28? For me it jumps from lesson "6." to "20."


Wow, just listening to Ron talk about co-ordinating the logistics makes me realise what a talent it is to be a great Director to co-ordinate this process with so many things to take into consideration and how important it is to choose the right collaborators. This is so interesting.