Chapter 6 of 32 from Ron Howard

Developing the Film

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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

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 22 days with $602,000. Today, his movies have grossed over $1.8 billion. In his first-ever online class, the Oscar-winning director of Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind decodes the craft of directing 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.

Watch, listen, and learn as Ron Howard breaks down directing in his first-ever online class.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps, assignments, and supplemental material.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Ron will also answer select student questions.

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Ron Howard

Ron Howard Teaches Directing