Chapter 4 of 32 from Ron Howard

Refining a Script

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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.

Topics include: Apply Extreme Scrutiny • Involve Yourself in Rewrites • Enjoy the Excitement

Ron Howard

Ron Howard Teaches Directing

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

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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 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