Film & TV

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 32 exclusive video lessons.
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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.

Great classes and understandable, especially the independent filmmaking class

complete and detailed material. Ron Howard is more than brilliant. Genius !

I found the staging lessons especially helpful. It's really nice to see a director put into practice what he has been talking about for the duration of the class.

Really was incredible learning from one of todays great filmmakers. Take notes, pay attention and get out and get creative!


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.

Cheri A.

Again great segment - I love when you talk about life struggles in the industry such as heartbreak. You are a great teacher - would love to take a class from you in person. I am just taking in all of your discussions and hoping it will help me with my work - the character development comments have been very helpful and your easy to learn from. Thanks so much for being part of the Master class series.

Susan T.

Best of the storytelling classes. Thank you Mr. Howard for the priceless intel. Namaste.

Katie M.

Thank you so much! All the lessons are absolutely excellent so far! I feel like I am already a few steps closer to making my movie. These classes are really helpful.

Pétainguy M.

Nothing breaks like the heart ... but thanks God, we are not AI. What I observed is when you are on. line with your heart, it is easier to meet public one. But sometimes that not happens.

Irma B.

I love that Ron Howard mentions that in the edit room it is where the final re-write of a film occurs. I have personally witnessed this when my husband (an editor) has taken on a project, usually a documentary, and the director/writer has executed a vague idea. My husband can find the story and bring it to life in the edit room. Make certain you find a talented editor for your projects. They can save you!

John H.

OMG. You have no idea how profound your words are that there will be some disappointments in even the best project. I feel validated.

David F.

I loved the scope/clarity/cadence of this lesson. Made me feel like I could do it. Thank you Ron

Michelle A.

I'm the author of 11 books and late last year had a friend suggested I write a pilot episode (spec) for my series. I was excited about the idea however, it truly is more difficult to write a script. Fortunately, I'm watching and reading a lot of amazing material to learn how to break it down. It feels more structured than writing a book. I feel like the hippie child who just got a 9-5 job in an office ☺️ However, I definitely want to take on the challenge.