From Ron Howard's MasterClass

Developing the Film

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.

Topics include: Development Hell • The Work Begins • Think in Three Phases


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.

Topics include: Development Hell • The Work Begins • Think in Three Phases

Ron Howard

Teaches Directing

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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...

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.

What an amazing talent that's sharing his insight Thank You Ron Howard

The practical sections were some of the best yet. It's amazing how the learning can be so much more effective when you're witnessing the process as it happens.

Best class I completed to this day but I was expecting that the practical lessons would continue at least through editorial.

I wasn't too terribly impressed with the first two-thirds of the class - far too much talking. I greatly preferred the on-set Frost/Nixon lectures. I think all Masterclasses should convey insight via their respective body of work.


John P.

I agree with some of the others, I would have like to have see some visual demonstrations. I teach acting in several cities and I do not just lecture. We get up work the scene, work on characters and play them out. Lecture is 5 percent, actual demonstration is essential. I would have like to seen the classes more like the trailers. Trailers caught my attention, lectures lost it.

Javier D.

Great! I learned that the Production Design and Location makes half the movie. Thanks to remind that Ron! Also, that all your work in Preprod is good, but when on Production; you have to "start" again more or less, and find advantages in the constrains of shooting. You better be ready!

Iain C.

Good to see Ron is still channeling Richie Cunningham - "Knucklehead". Great word.

Susan T.

Although I find Ron's presentations fascinating and inspiring, I am not a fan of talking heads. Moving forward, I hope there will be some visuals of him in action, or inserts/cutaways to embellish what he is speaking of, for those who are visual learners.

Grünenberg R.

Totally abstract and general, no visuals, not a single anecdote. Like a boring textbook on directing. I have just seen the 'De Palma' documentary from 2016. That's the opposite, totally concrete and brimful with thrilling details and unbelievable stories.

Tisa K.

Hey Guys! Is anyone having problems downloading the PDF for this chapter? I can't download mine, it's say's it doesn't exist and it's expired.

Stephen D.

I've been so busy working on a short film I wrote and will be Directing, I haven't had time to finish these but am glad I wam watching more of these again, 2 weeks until principal photography!

Launa B.

Launa Buettell This process can seem overwhelming, but breaking it down to 3 parts is logical. I will say this about you Mr. Howard, your positive attitude is wonderful, contagious, and refreshing at the same time!! Are you like this all the time?

A fellow student

Ron Howard is a perfect example of a Writer/Director who understands what a producer does on the project. Many don’t.

laura J.

I love his work and how Mr. Howard discusses the way it works, lays it all out like the drawings that surround him. Thank you for this class, priceless