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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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 learned more than I expected. Interesting for even those who may not be pursuing a career in movie making. Mr. Howard was engaging, demonstrated an extensive wealth of knowledge and insight and was a real pleasure to watch and listen to.

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

Masterful. I loved him before. Now, even more. Ron Howard is truly helpful, practical, inspirational and a wonderful role model for anyone who wants to be collaborative in the art. Fantastic.

The class gave me insight to running a set more efficient, options to using camera and its locationing. Many variation to enhance my filmmaking skills.


Comments

Nadine L.

I love the natural authentic lesson. He really speaks about individuality and how you see things which is very important lesson in todays society. Be yourself. Search within, inspire from beyond.

Caroline F.

I loved this lesson. I felt like it gave me creative permission. My writers and actors have strong voices but as the "keeper of the story" I feel empowered to re direct.

A fellow student

I liked this lesson very much. It gave me insight on how there are better mediums than others to communicate certain stories with, and it also helped me to understand how look for great collaborators. I'm really glad that Ron (one of the greats in his own right) treats the craft as a passion project more than only being a profession, and that he teaches from that perspective in these lessons. (Thanks, Ron!)

Jorge P.

Hi Everyone!I Agree. I had a lot of colaboration of my AD and Actors and we redifined some dialogues of the script.

EK T.

I have changed dialogue in my scripts after listening to actors have difficulty saying particular lines. Although many software programs like Final Draft allow you to assign voices to the characters in the script so you can hear your words read aloud, it is different when a human being speaks them.

EK T.

I believe a script can be refined, however, the finished script doesn't exist until the film is in the can.

Chris B.

I like how collaborated he is and likes to include everyone in the process. I feel that is my style as well. Films are a group effort and you need that group to make sure your vision comes to life.

bob A.

All these comments seem fake like Madterclass hired a group of interns to post

Angie M.

Ron Howard does a great job of providing context for how a collaborative dynamic factors into the creative process m.

Dale W.

As a writer (or a wannabe writer anyway) I really appreciate the time Mr. Howard is spending on the script. After living and breathing my particular story for a really long time, he is helping me get out of my own way and see the potential film from a whole new POV. His enthusiasm for film making is catching! Even after the old dog seemingly can't hunt anymore, he is convincing me that it can. Thanks!