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Arts & Entertainment

Evaluating a Script

Ron Howard

Lesson time 13:12 min

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.

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


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.

Ron Howard did an excellent job of not only showing how to get coverage of a scene, but also showing different approaches to camera placement to energize a scene. Fantastic. Thank you Ron and thank you Masterclass.

Invaluable advise for a director, and for screenwriters. Ron has great enthusiasm and respect for film and film makers.

always friendly and kind. Ron Howard really knows his business and his Masterclass alone is worth many many times the price., Fantastic!

Simply one of the best classes I've ever taken. Thank you, Mr. Howard.


Rae A.

Hello, everyone. This class was very informative. I love his checklist, and how he gives ideas about it. Are we following the logic of the character? I love that question. I do wish he had talked about how to connect with the actor and his/her ideas or what they are putting forward. I also love how he talks about how he analyzes a story and how some people do it differently, and how to build upon it. Thank you Ron Howard for being an inspiration to new directors or even a novel writer.

Rae A.

How about everyone shares what they think Ron Howard could talk about. I think he should talk about how to connect with the actor and what they are putting forth or an idea they have. What about you?

Rae A.

I love the idea of a checklist, and I will definitely use it to my advantage.

Rae A.

I. Loved. It. Ron Howard is a directing genius. He has amazing tips and camera tricks. He talks about the freshness and the traditional and modern conjunction of directing or writing a film. He talks about the emotional properties of a screenplay and the compare and contrast of the emotional capabilities. Thank you Ron Howard for inspiring people and teaching people abou this amazing job, which builds a type of community.

Levi S.

I am just stepping into a bigger world and I have written down the books Ron recommended. Does anyone have other books I should look into?

Ian V.

The idea of checklists is a fantastic, and something that would really help a lot of directors come into their own. Worked with and seen too many directors go on a whim and try and make a film because they are enthralled with the idea of just being able to make their own thing, but they don't take the "30,000 ft view" of the film and see if they could make it better. Definitely something I'm going to be studying and implementing myself as I move forward with my career.

Michelle K.

I loved this lession! Understanding to not only hone in your instinct, but to trust it. So many people don't. Looking forward to diving in.

Dorothy E.

Great lesson, not only for film makers but for novel writers as well. I love the idea of creating a checklist to evaluate the story before launching in to bring it to life on the screen or, in my case for novel writing, onto the page. It will help me to decide which story idea to work on next. Spending a year or more on a project means you have to love it, but as a seat-of-the-pants writer, I often don't know whether of not the whole thing is ultimately going to work. I've tried detailed outlining, but that stifles my creativity. I think a simple checklist will give me direction and leave me room to explore at the same time. Thanks, Ron!

A fellow student

The pedagogical way is fascinating, Ron Howard teaches in a pleasant way. The plot twists, I like it when it's at the end, in the best style of M. Night Shyamalan. In my short films I usually use this narrative style.

A fellow student

I really enjoying this. Ron is a good teacher with a great voice. I really like how he talked about sequences rather than acts. In this way you can really build and hold the energy of a project.