Film & TV

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.

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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.



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

Seeing theory put to practice, amazing! Ron's humility and passion was so helpful and he is a great teacher.

Being a Unit Stills photographer, I can here to see Ron's process to better understand how I can support telling his story, with his vision in mind. Just listening to him talk to his actors gave me a great deal of information to use if I were going to shoot this scene as a photographer

Of all the filmmaking classes I’ve watched from Dov Simen’s 2-Day Film School to anything available on YouTube and all the other MasterClasses available here, this has been the most poignant and practical and inspiring yet. Thank you Ron Howard.

I thoroughly enjoyed Ron's insights into directing -- especially how he offered an indie version of the practical directing workshop.


Comments

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.

EK T.

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.

Graeme R.

Fantastic! We learned so much in this process. It was interesting to watch the cast come back, probably a day or weekend after the last sequence. One actor had trouble with his lines, and it seemed to infect the others. The movements of the camera operators and actors were like poetry in motion. I have vast respect for all of these people, and particularly for Ron Howard, the ultimate but always affable professional.

Deborah S.

I believe the best takeaways for me, besides the great directing tips we acquired, were the better approaches I will have with a few characters I am currently developing. Great class! I will definitely tell others to take this class! TY.

Elizabeth B.

Yes! That's the kind of indie shooting I know and love but it's all simply glorious if the story is exciting!

Shane P.

I assume you can take an ad from any shot and angle throughout the whole process

Momotimi P.

For an indie filmmaker like me.. This is definitely my best lesson so far.. Although I would have loved to see the entire scene shot with one camera, because second unit means more money..

Ting K.

Takeaways: To intervene and improve positions of actors for the camera, to pick up reaction shots etc.

Charles B.

Something for everyone to keep in mind, I mentioned this in my cinematography class a few years ago when Inception came out. We as a society, humans, really enjoy letting ourselves get into the world the cameras create, the actors create, the directors and support create, we have a very high interest in the story and being told the story. We are people that enjoy a good story. I believe you could record this with webcams, cell phones, spy type glasses with cameras built into them. As long as the continuity is good, facts are kept, story flows well and editing is appropriate, we will watch. If it drags, we won't, if audio quality isn't good we won't, if the camera moves too much when it shouldn't we won't.