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Arts & Entertainment

Frost/Nixon: Staging for Indie Shoot

Ron Howard

Lesson time 27:31 min

If you need to compromise on set, Ron encourages you to keep the staging simple. This indie approach maximizes coverage with limited resources.

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


So now, I'm going to re-stage and redirect this scene, which is, of course, pivotal in the Frost/Nixon story. But I'm going to apply a logistical pressure. Let's assume that this is an indie movie. There's not a lot of money. The day has gotten away from us. This is the last scene we have to shoot. It's an important scene, but we only have, like, a half hour to do it-- 45 minutes. Very little time to rehearse. Very little time to get it, and yet, it's got to be good. You know, there's no money to get back here to this location for another day, and this is one of those moments where everybody just has to dig down deep and make it happen. Perhaps I had a plan-- a shot list that involved Steadicams or involved handheld following them all around and plenty of coverage. But that plan is no longer going to work. So guys, come on in, here's what we've got to go for. A couple of things. I'm now going to dictate the staging, because I don't have time to do what I did last time, which is to hear your ideas out. So basically, we'll only do one rehearsal. But essentially, you come in. We're going to use this desk because this is-- so instead of having two places to go, we're just one. So you're going to come here. It's still a good spot for us because it's lit. We're going to shoot our masters and our coverage that way, back toward the garage door, because that way, we naturally have some back light. It doesn't take much time, but it gives a little kick. It looks a little bit better. If we had to shoot back this way, the director of photography would have to try to find ways to create some sort of contrast, some kick, some highlights, and things like that. He'd have to manufacture it. That's a much quicker, more interesting way to go, right away. So, if you come in here and if you guys start and gather around, we're going to play it through. So, you can be here for a while, then you can sort of turn, and then the place when we used to leave to go outside, you just start to go a step or two, and then come back and say, wait a minute. Are you saying, talk show hosts? So, it all happens in here, which, interestingly, is the way, when we first rehearsed it this morning-- that's actually what happened. But instead of going all the way out there, he's just going to turn, and you guys will turn and face him. Cool. Right? And then he'll exit out that way. OK. OK? OK. So, we're going to do one quick rehearsal, and while we do that, we're going to use the wide shot as a way to kind of rehearse it. So, instead of doing interesting camera moves and trying to press in and be very specific about it, we're going to set up a very wide camera and we're going to set up a medium camera. These are our group shots, right? And you get to watch one rehearsal and see how it plays. Let's start off camera right, off her ca...

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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.

He is a genius on how he puts things together.

I`ve learned different approaches of film making. with steadicam shots and ad hoc shots arranged to capture moments as the Sunlight is falling. It also helps to sit back and look at the scenes without sound and figure the editing of the scenes as well as the storyboarding that went into producing these shots into the final sequence.

I have watched parts of teaching Directing mulitple times. Brillant.!!

MasterClasses teaches you way more about filmmaking than film school. Thank you


Mr. Howard is covering a great deal of ground.. with this camera/staging exercise. I have experienced directors that get it done in one take or two and others who use up the day take after takr after etc etc. The lesson I think made its point. Nice job Ron.


I don't think I could handle the acting on this one. It's hard to envision what Ron has in mind, because he is constantly altering the vision. As a director, this kind of pressure could certainly create some energy or inspire some improvisation in the actors.

Nasser A.

it was helpful that we can imaging which shots are suitable with scene , isn't?

Jemma T.

Very useful video, although I dunno how many truely indie filmmakers have that level of tech

Beth G.

It was a great lesson but the camera person kept cutting everyone's heads off so it was distracting

Iddo G.

What a rigorous lesson! So many lessons with the same scene. First of all, you're teaching us patience. Its great to see the so many different options and decisions. Helps to analyse my own directing.


I believe that Ron is additionally deliberately showing how much the actors must adjust to different Directors, in addition to the nuts and bolts of the whole scene, rather flawless delivery of an inside out pov. Sort of God point of view from many perspectives. He takes us through what rehearsal can do, allowing the real actors to moderately improvise...and much else. Flawless. When you watch this, please remember that Stanly Kubrick often did 75 takes in this manner.

Pétainguy M.

Very interesting - for me as actor - to understand film maker state of mind and expectations ... I really would like to have such a director. That course is really a great idea ! Very enthusiastic !

Dara P.

These guys are super fun. I really enjoyed watching all the different takes they made. Good job people.


Thanks so much for this sequence. Directing a film had never crossed my mind, until I saw this. I always thought I was too disorganized in a situation like this, which is why I had always found other roles in film-making.