From Ron Howard's MasterClass

Frost/Nixon: Staging for Indie Shoot

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

Topics include: Frost/Nixon: Staging for Indie Shoot


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

Topics include: Frost/Nixon: Staging for Indie Shoot

Ron Howard

Teaches Directing

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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...

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.

I loved the class! My goal is to immediately apply what I have learned in this class to my own in progress film efforts. If I ever get to meet Ron someday, I would feel a lot better being able to personally thank him for taking the time to provide this class. I am truly grateful. My personal story is still in progress and I hope the world is ready for that which is yet to come.

The Frost/Nixon Staging Lessons (#20 -- #27) were highly education, insightful and informative. Far and away the best thing I have seen in all of these MasterClasses.

It was really interesting to see Ron direct a scene in different ways. Also the anecdotes about his films are extremely interesting. The pre-production part is covered well. However, I feel like the chapters about post-production are a bit rushed. Overall I am satisfied with this class and I feel inspired to go out and shoot my own movie. Thank you Ron!

The directing of a scene, the story flow and the ability to manipulate a shot to get various feelings from the story.


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.

Greg S.

Loving all this but as someone else mentioned, there's a lot to absorb and some of the running directions pass quickly. Will definitely need several viewings. Learning to be this visual is new to me.

A fellow student

Most low-budget films are shot like this: "Gorilla Filmmaking." Get the shot and move on. Hopefully everybody has done their homework.

Michael F.

Wonderful lesson and a pleasure to watch Ron work in real time. The only issue I have with this particular lesson/approach is that most indie films (sub $1M range) rarely have the budget for a second unit, at least not full time. I'd like to see some of his solutions for directing coverage while under the gun and with only one camera unit. No doubt that would be an eye-opening class. He's a master!

Sam M.

This lesson is extremely helpful. It's incredible watching just how quickly Ron is able to direct. He's fast on his feet and never seems to lose momentum. I hope this is something I can integrate into my production workflow, though this must take years and years of practice.

John F.

I love how Ron uses every second to cover something. He asks the actor if he’s got the line while simutanously asking about the wide coverage shot while the actor reviews the line. His ability to get to the point and use time wisely is amazing not to mention his calm, collected, polite and professional demeanor through it all. A true pro!