Film & TV

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.

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Ron Howard
Teaches Directing
Ron Howard teaches directing, editing, and storytelling in 32 exclusive video lessons.
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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.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

THe great thing about Mr. Howard's class is that he actually taught! Instead of just sitting and talking like a lecture, he taught his process and how he goes about things and gave us a look into his filming world, rather than just giving a long history lesson of his career.

The sections where he re-did the scene from Frost/Nixon were so exciting and illuminating! To see how he progressed from the read through to staging ideas, to rehearsal, to shooting, to variations, to his interaction with the actors and the camera operators was just amazing, and somehow made me feel like I can do it, too! He is so genuine, such a good guy. Loved it.

So patient, to descriptive. Ron Howard presented an excellent Masterclass.

This was a great course. It would have been cool to see the footage of the Frost Nixon student shoots edited together and hear why Ron Pickeed the shot's he did. Just a thought!


Comments

Kumiko H.

Great! Good to take notes that relate to your script and film along the way. :)

Matthew B.

My Checklist as a Fan of Movies starts with the Casting, then the Genre, then the Themes, then the Budget, then the Geography, where was the Film Shot and of course I have my Favorite Directors too Run Time can be a factor ? I always watch the trailer first before deciding to see. As I have gotten older find I like the Art House Type Films best.

rakel C.

When Ron mention something about Spielberg and the script, that he is probably the best doing sequences, what are sequences? Can somebody please explain me that? Ill be happy to learn more about this! Thanks!

Rich W.

Love his breakdown of his checklist. The discussion on structure and looking at sequences as chapters in a book and his idea of all stories need to have some form of 'page turning' suspense is very thought provoking when looking at any kind of film genre. Plus, I love his shout out to Steven Spielberg and mastery of story.

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.

Yu-Han

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.

StanleydelGozo

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.

EK T.

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.