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Film & TV

Refining a Script

Ron Howard

Lesson time 09:00 min

Scripts must work on creative and intellectual levels. Ron knows there’s no shortcut to the rewriting process, and he shares how he ensures a script is “camera ready” before embarking on production.

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

When we tell a story to our friends about our recent vacation or a date we went on, we tell the story. Most of us probably recognize that the first time we tell the story as an anecdote, it's a little too long. It's a little awkward. It doesn't quite get the reaction you thought it ought to. You've forgotten something in the middle and you have to remind people later. You don't tell it very well. But people still kind of lean into the story and they're curious. You'll find the next time you tell it, you'll probably tell it a little bit better. Why? Because it's a communication that's meant to express an idea, and let's face it, you're asking people to listen, there's an expectation that in it's own way it's going to-- what? Entertain. It's going to engross. It's going to fascinate. It's going to express something in a meaningful way. By the eighth time you tell the story, maybe you've even embellished it a little bit. Who knows? But it's better. It's tighter. You want to put your screenplay through that process. The director is the keeper of the story and ultimately it's the director's taste that's going to determine the creative choices that are made. And that's sort of the allocation of the resources. I'm talking about a live action production now more than animation. That comes back to the script and the way it's going to be interpreted. And the director needs to intimately understand that screenplay and support it. And if there is a difference of opinion with the writer over the screenplay, this is where collaborators can come in very handy. But a great exercise, which is used in television all the time, is used in theater all the time, is used in movies some of the time, but it's so valuable. And that is to simply do a read through. Get a group of actors, they don't have to be actors who are going to be in the project, and give it a good read through. Maybe videotape it so you can play it back, or record it. Make sure the screenwriter is there. If you want to you can open it up to conversation. I've done read through is where I even give people questionnaires afterwards, so that they're not shy about telling you what bothered them. But go ahead and apply extreme scrutiny to that project and at that point. It's not a finished film, but it's a really important step. And it's going to raise some questions. It's going to give you confidence in some ways because you just have a little greater sense of how that story unfolds as written. And that's a really important step and a fundamental misjudgment in my mind when people don't expose the script to that kind of process and that scrutiny. When it comes to rewrites I'm very involved. Sometimes it's a matter of sitting with the writer and literally pitching ideas. Some writers do better under those circumstances and other writers do better havin...


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.



Reviews

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

I loved the actual behind the scenes classes about staging and blocking. I've only just completed my first masterclass, but I must say if this is the general framework for all of them, there should be more showing and less talking!

Excellent insight into the world behind the camera. Also, very helpful towards how to deal with others, collaborate, and succeed in working towards a common goal. Thank you Ron!

Amazed by Ron Howard's generosity and clarity of ideas. The highlight for me was the staging part.

Great insights into collaboration and being open to the creativity of others. Methods of inspiration and film dissection were very helpful.


Comments

Ken H.

Really enjoying Ron Howard's teaching style. Have also used Linda' Seger's "Making a Good Script Great" (get the updated version) on a screenplay written for a docudrama. I wonder if he will also say that the success of many films comes down to script. Investment in the script and the director's evaluation of it can save in viewer satisfaction as well as boatloads of money spent on scenes that end up on the cutting room floor. But you likely have heard this too. Looking forward to learn more!

Fernando L.

A highlight of this lesson for me would be the openness and communication while developing a story, This way is how a story can become better. Thank you Ron!

Kelly C.

I am someone who listens to the ideas of others and share my enthusiasm with people here that innovative and work well at collaborating with people. So far Ron has been engaging and has provoked thought to how you can develop a story further and provide a new structure to how a story is told. Sorry to keep this short...but I want to keep watching and move onto the next chapter!

Robert H.

My name is Robert Hardin. I enjoy Ron's films and that's what lead me to take his MasterClass. I have written a screenplay and have gone through a couple revisions already. I would love to see my work become a motion picture. I would of course direct it, that's why I'm here. Awesome classes so far.

DeAnn S.

I enjoy watching all of these. I tend to learn best from example though, and I do feel like some examples of scripts might be good. Even some clips from good movies/screenplays that were written would be great! Thanks!

Paul A.

I can see how even a lesson plan for a high school class could have a plotline. The students can be curious as to why are these facts on the table, here will they lead us. What riddle will they help solve? but to do the craft well it has to have a good pace. just like the 10 minutes blocks described here.

Ken G.

So far so good but it would be helpful to say give examples of scripts that had undergone multiple rewrites or refinements and perhaps show the transformation that occurred. Also, how a script gets evaluated in Hollywood from start to final approval. I wrote a script that was submitted to a well known agency in Hollywood in the mid 1990s and it reportedly kept getting escalated up the chain to a 'final reader' and "... one of the best in the business.." and it simply vanished with no word from the agency at all.

Jonathan P.

He's absolutely right about reviewing. Would make sense when trying to have a story that holds under scrutiny under a large target audience I bet. I wonder if someone would ever leave holes in a plot deliberately, give people something to pick at? For the sake of entertaining critics for example. Especially when you don't have the budget for your grand opus.

Gigi G.

I have just started getting gigs directing before this pandemic... and started as a writer and loved the chapter on his checklist!! also I remember Linda Seger i took a class form her years ago as well as Syd... So far I love what Ron does and says

Andy E.

his situational awareness is huge! Also, I read Syd Field's "Screenplay" and it truly changed the way I think about writing, it gave me the tools to write and deliver a powerful story like never before.