Film & TV

Music and Scoring

Ron Howard

Lesson time 10:00 min

Ron explains how the most talented composers pick up on details of actors’ performances and build music cues that deepen a story.

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The very best composers are-- they're like another screenwriter. They key in on little things. Camera moves, an actor's, you know, flickering eye. A glance down that suggests an emotional state of mind that may not have anything to do with the dialogue, or the plot. And they often pick up on those things and begin to build cues around that emotion in very surprising ways. But music is such a challenge for me. Oh, I could play the guitar a little bit, but I can't read music. I'm not a musician. And yet, I understand how powerful it is. And I learned early on to talk to composers the way I would talk to an actor or a screenwriter. Just talk about the ideas. Talk about the feelings. Talk about the reason that I shot or staged a scene in a particular way. What I love about a performance. What I hope it conveys. And very often they're able to really reinforce that. Music is written to be, what, listened to, experienced. Now sometimes a piece of music-- always written with themes and ideas that the composer has that, you know, aren't specifically articulated, but you're meant to feel on some primal level. So intuitive level-- sometimes it works great for a movie. But there-- in my opinion-- there's nothing like score. Score is music that is written specifically for a scene, for a movie. Themes that represent something of a character. Sometimes movies have two or three different themes representing two or three different feelings or characters, characters who fall into the category of a certain kind of feeling. Maybe representing oppositional sides in a conflict. Sometimes there are no themes, sometimes there are only feelings. Sort of sound beds, beats, tempo. And sometimes there are both. So, again, in the world of working with composers or making decisions on your own, it's so much about asking yourself the question, what should the music be. And you'll have, probably, an instinctive answer, and that may be right. But it's always worth saying, what else. The development of the musical score for Frost Nixon was one of the most surprising creative experiences that I've ever had, because I was so certain I wanted a rock and roll score. This took place in '77. I wanted to evoke that era. I thought, here, I love those movies that do that. This is a chance to do one of those. And we kept trying songs. I had lengthy meetings with Hans Zimmer who was going to do some score. But I told him, I thought, Hans, it's probably only going to be seven or eight minutes of score, I really want a lot of songs. Peter Morgan, the writer and one of the producers on the movie, he was OK with it. I think he was a little suspicious of that idea, but when we started putting songs in, audiences said they kind of liked it, because they like those songs. But both Peter and Hans said I think you're selling the movie short. ...


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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.



Reviews

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

Great practical lessons on the art of directing!

I will probably never make a movie, but this course has given me a whole new view of the complexity of making one and the artistry that it involves. I have my favorite movies on a home server and will enjoy them even more thinking about how they were made, technically, looking for the barely perceptible things that the director included for my enjoyment. Great experience. Thank you so much.

Ron is a great teacher. The honesty and passion he has for his craft shines through.

I have learned a better understanding for the processing of a project of love into a film.


Comments

Ruben R.

Method #2 is one I like to use to stimulate my creativity before the camera rolls. Great to hear Ron recommend it.

A fellow student

Howard es generous with the things he knows....maybe the sound in Hollywood sometimes is domed...

RJane @.

I understand Peter and Hans. The score is about the characters and the scenes. @RJanesRealm

EK T.

Film composers are, for most movie goers, the symphonies of films. I used to be a huge collector of film soundtracks.

James K.

Consider this, I often hear music in my head while I'm shooting. Perhaps the scene inspires a certain piece and often as the music is playing in my mind it inspires how the camera moves, how long shots are, the framing and how the sequence might come together. This feels like discussing music with your actors but getting key members of the crew in the groove too.

Lorilyn B.

I don't understand the few people who complain about Ron simply talking. He's teaching, and he's brilliant at it. If you want to be entertained, go watch one of his movies. The one basic quality all directors must have is the ability to visualize. If you can't visualize what Ron is talking about, perhaps directing is not for you.

Frank D.

I like to have a song or music in my head while I write the script. Why wait till the end. Good stuff Howard.

Marguerite K.

I am going to use the suggestion for obtaining music to inspire the actors, as it's mainly a two person movie, I think this will be very helpful to motivate them. Thank you! What an amazing idea!

Robert A.

I am a musician. And I use to make the musical score for my films during the filmmaking process. But now I've been letting that be one the things that comes last. Because aside from everything else thats vital to putting the film together, the music score plays a very important part as well, and it has to have a huge impact on the audience aside from the film and story and acting etc. You got to focus on everything such as editing etc first. Awesome stuff Ron!!!. Onward!!!.

Mercile M.

Composers keying in on scenes or dialog in the emotion that they convey. Experience music on a emotional level, great! themes represent feelings or characters wonderful and so very true.