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.

The art of seeing from a new perspective. I'm involved with creating online learning, but want to go in a far more creative direction. This gave me some great ideas and inspiration, even though it was film making in a totally different realm

He's not only an amazing director, he's an amazing teacher. Very articulate. This was worth the price of a year subscription to MasterClass all in itself. So glad you were able to get him as an artist. He's one of my favorites, along with Baz Luhrmann and Christopher Nolan. Here's hoping you can interview one of them one day! Thanks so much for this class!!

I have learned important things from Ron. Best thing for me was seeing how is the approach of a great Director to actor management. And seeing that still young Ricky Cunningham face make me feel young too and capable of following his directions. Thank you Ron, thank you Masterclass.

I loved the class. I really like Mr Howard style of teaching. That he was so honest and humble. I've learned few new things and definitely I want to study more and develop.


Matthew G.

I will say that as a child trying to venture into directing learning all of these things, consuming all this knowledge at such a good pace has only helped me go down into the rabbit hole of directing all the more fun and easier.


This is amazing! Ron Howard is not only a great director but also a great teacher. He presents his masterclass in a well thought out manner. It’s refined, methodical, yet simple. So easy to understand and remember. This is that kind of class makes you want to climb up on top of the Alps and cry out with happiness— I LOVE LEARNING!

Irma B.

I loved this lesson, and appreciate that Ron Howard came up with a checklist comprised of invaluable books he has read and his experience. We can all benefit from this shared knowledge.


Again...WOW...Ron is creating a Master Class Film...just by sitting in my living room...I am excited to "get on with the next lesson" and continue to follow my excitement and "to find what excites you, find out why it excites you, and then build on that." Thanks Ron, for another five star segment/master class Namaste StanleydelGozo

David F.

Lovely information. Little confused (usual) around the themes/character/thematic section and how one can make up for the other. Was this similar to tv (series) vs film... where tv series structure relies on solid character verses developing character of film. Need to re watch. edit: I get it now. relevance of contemporary (minded) character in an eternal say, moral battle... can assist (augment) overall theme.


When looking over scripts to evaluate, I found it amazing how different the final draft is from the finished film. I guess that is why the assignment calls for finding a script for a film you have not seen.

A fellow student

First class I've taken in this program. What a way to start with Ron Howard leading the way for me. As a an advanced placement teacher myself, it is wonderful to know how to analyze a narrative and break it down to synthesize it by having it come full circle. He started and ended with you being the story teller of characters and themes that motivate you into creating the story you want to tell. I'm truly blessed. Thank you Mr. Howard.

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.