Chapter 3 of 32 from Ron Howard

Evaluating a Script

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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

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 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