Chapter 11 of 32 from Ron Howard

Production Design

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Learn how Ron finds the right production designers and works to inspire them to create sets that help tell your story, using a mosaic of palettes and colors.

Topics include: Their Job is Both Creative and Logistical • Make a Creative Connection • Come up with Tangible Examples • Make a Cohesive Palette and Color • Help Manage the Collaboration

Ron Howard

Ron Howard Teaches Directing

Ron Howard teaches directing, editing, and storytelling in 32 exclusive video lessons.

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Production designers are very interesting people. They have to understand construction. They're practical people. They have to be. But they also really need to be dreamers. They're a little bit more like architects, and they're artists. Many of them are artists. I mean, they can paint beautifully. They can draw. It's very, very useful to not dictate too specifically early on to a production designer unless it's just so vivid in your mind, or you know you're recreating something and authenticity is what is going to be driving every conversation and defining every expectation. Very creative people. And it's important early on to allow them to dream and dream along with them. And they can be a real secret weapon in terms of helping to elevate the visual possibilities of a story and help define the tone, perhaps in ways that might surprise you as the director, and elevate the visual palette and impact of a movie. And even if you're talking about using all practical locations and not investing in building sets, I think that if you work with the production designer, sometimes along with the cinematographer, that you create a kind of a visual understanding of what the project can be and a creative and emotional investment from that production designer to help not only get great locations and sets, not only come up with new ideas that go even further in terms of details and possibilities, but also just be willing to commit themselves wholeheartedly on the project. Because being a production designer on a project is a huge, huge challenge. And there's a tremendous responsibility. And that person deserves to be a part of the most inner circle. [MUSIC PLAYING] Production designer is the individual who's in charge of making sure that the stage is set for each and every scene. That if it's a practical location, that it looks the way it needs to look, that you can tell the story well there. It's the right feel. It's interesting. It's got the right props in it and the right set decoration. Building upon that, they're the ones who are responsible for not only designing sets built on sound stages, but also making sure that they're there on time, and that they can be efficiently transformed for use in one scene into another, and that all of that can happen on budget and on time. And so their job is both creative and logistical. And there's a tremendous amount of pressure on production designers. And they're also not always in the flow of the conversation because they're working out ahead of the production. They're preparing sets for a week from now, two weeks from now. And they're not around to ask the casual question. And sometimes, there's a sort of a natural disconnect that happens. But a great production designer working in concert with the director, and of course, the cinematographer, can literally move mountains. [MUSIC PLAYING] Production ...

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