From Ron Howard's MasterClass

Evaluating a Script

Over the years, Ron has developed a personal checklist to evaluate and strengthen a script. Learn the key components of a great screenplay and how to build your own checklist to identify material that’s right for you.

Topics include: Ask Questions of the Script • The Checklist: Rate the Key Components • Build Your Checklist


Over the years, Ron has developed a personal checklist to evaluate and strengthen a script. Learn the key components of a great screenplay and how to build your own checklist to identify material that’s right for you.

Topics include: Ask Questions of the Script • The Checklist: Rate the Key Components • Build Your Checklist

Ron Howard

Teaches Directing

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We all love stories. We all understand stories. We tell stories. We certainly watch, read, listen to stories told in all different ways, whether they're comic books, novels, movies, TV shows, commercials, whatever they might be. And most young directors basically go on that instinct, and they build on it. And because they love the medium, they've actually absorbed much, much more of the language than other people because there's just something about it that they love and that they've connected with. I had all of that, plus the advantage of growing up around the creative problem solving. So I really had a behind the scenes look, at a huge advantage. But I still found when I became a director that there were these mysterious, uncontrollable, unpredictable aspects of the process that I found frustrating. By the way, I still do. But I've evened out some of those over the years by continuing to learn, by continuing to explore, by continuing to ask questions, by continuing to read and make notes. I began organizing those thoughts about, I don't know, 15 years ago or so and adding to it. And I now have a checklist. And I go to this checklist usually a couple of times during the course of a project. Early on when I've fallen in love with it, I'm getting engaged, but I recognize that there are some aspects of the screenplay that might be stronger than others. And at that point, I'll do a quick evaluation just to give myself a sort of a 30,000 foot view of the project. I'll finish reading the script maybe for the second or third time, and I'm very much leaning into saying yes to the project, and just to sort of test it, where this screenplays' strengths lie, and perhaps where there may be some weaknesses that could use some deeper thought or they may be fatal flaws for that screenplay. I'll look at genre and analyze that. I'll try to understand what genre is this story living in, mystery, thriller, fantasy, inspirational, true story. What is it? And I'll rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how well I think it actually fulfills the promise of that genre. Because we've all come to learn that certain kinds of stories are meant to instigate a reaction from us. The best thing in the world of course is when something not only achieves the promise of the genre, but it exceeds it. It surprises you in some other way. That's fantastic when that can happen. So I'll do that. I'll quickly look at the characters. Are the characters interesting? Are they driving the story? Are they re-active characters or proactive characters? Who's in conflict? Do they need to be in conflict or is it forced? Could the antagonist and protagonist simply walk away from one another? Those are sort of fundamentals that I've come to really believe in, and if they're not there, I like to identify it. So I'll rate the key characters, lead characters. Structure. Str...

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.

On shooting good coverage economically. How to decipher and work with the two main types of actors. Most of all to be true to the directors vision and a vigilant keeper of the story. Thank-You Ron

wow, this was so inspiring and transforamtive. Mr. Howard is an excellent teacher and such a warm, friendly spririt. but I wish he had talked about 'Ransom'!! probably one of the best crime drama's ever made! Maybe just one mor extra mini chapter on Ransom and the process of working with Richard Price and Mel Gibson. Thanks Ron!

This was a fantastic class! Maybe the best I've watched, so far. The most valuable part BY FAR was watching Ron direct actors on set and do different versions of the same scene, adjusting for different camera setups and time/budget restraints. I would've liked to see the same practical lessons done with editing and scoring, as well.

This class was very informative and I really loved the on set instructions. Much more than a talking head but real world examples. Excellent teaching and great visuals.


Chris B.

I like that he agrees that at a certain point in a script you don't need to be at page 10 and at page 20 this needs to happen. I don't like that structure. I like his way of thinking and if the components are hit this script could work and even if there's one of those points missing you can maybe fix it or have the script driven by a different components.

Gary B.

Fantastic advice breaking down the basics of intuitive feelings that lead you to your internal check list and help you look at the project from the outside as both a fan of the idea and a director assembling the potential outcome...

Joseph N.

Wow. Great lesson. To look at characters driving the story verses the lessons or themes being heard the most, turned some lights on for me. I often think of lesson or theme FIRST and then all the characters follow. This can and has made the work sound preachy or made characters start to sound alike. Very practical ideas.

Chris H.

I really enjoyed the point Ron made about how the narrative doesn't necessarily have to carry the whole weight of theme in the script. But rather, the character can have the ability to drive the story in pivotal ways. The audiences' primary focus doesn't have to be fixed on the plot but instead on the subplots/sub-themes of the character within the plot. Which also makes me think about how the relevance of the character and/or the story can be super effective in stories. I like the points he made on the significance/power of relevance to the audience. For instance, the story can lack what might be considered to be a fresh, interesting, and unique story; but can make up for that with relevance. The audience likes characters/themes that they can relate to and understand. These are just some thoughts I had.. please let me know if I'm misinterpreting what he said! I appreciate any constructive feedback

Jonathan G.

I love how Ron said that he breaks out the checklist after the 2nd or 3rd read. I'm guessing that may be because that gives you leeway to "feel" the script with your instincts and taste before pulling back and dissecting it. As he said at the end of the lesson, to find what excites you, find out why it excites you, and then build on that.

Javier D.

Fantastic! I saw it twice! I’ve read several screenwriting books (Syd Field, Aaron Sorkin class); but Ron points a way of thinking in the screenplay like a series of 8-10 minute complete scenes -like Spielberg-. That makes you think more cinematically than, may be, standard screenplay structure. Besides, very interesting to develop a checklist! I would add two points; has been told before? What’s the difference with other stories?

Jo Liegh E.

This lesson left my jaw on the keyboard. It's early in the course, but I can already see why Ron's course is rated so, so, so, so highly on Reddit and other forums. Despite being in this business his whole life, his enthusiasm jumped from the screen. It was obvious to me that I was watching someone who was super stoked to be sharing his toolbox with people. I love that he gave a thoughtful explanation for every item on his checklist, but I was most impressed by his rundown of how that information flows together in his mind. It was extremely insightful - I feel like I should watch it again.

Larry D.

A really smart screen writer would ask to pitch their project to you hahaha on this discussion board! I dont as Im a songwriter.

Peter W.

Like what he said about viewing the story as sequences, rather than focusing on a rigid, formulaic structure. Looking at the checklist, I think you could evaluate the characters by looking at who undergoes the greatest transformation or most compelling arc in the story (maybe you could argue that they all change, but which one does the audience most identify with).

Keely K.

This was great thanks! I'm looking forward to reading your book recommendations too.