To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact

Arts & Entertainment


Ron Howard

Lesson time 13:50 min

Ron encourages you to look beyond an actor’s tangible skills. Learn how to trust your gut and recognize the intangible qualities that a performer will bring to a role.

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


The great movie director-- one of the most awarded of all time, if not the most-- William Wyler had a simple formula. He thought 90% of directing films was script and casting, and then he said the other 10% was knowing how to get out of the way when you've done the first two things correctly. There's a lot to be said for that. Casting is vitally important. And it's a process not to be trifled with, to be taken very seriously. A director can guide a performance in some instances. Maybe if you're working with a child, or a very specific actor with a set of tremendous strengths but another set of weaknesses, it might be possible to really mold a performance. But it's rare when that succeeds. The director really, really needs the actors to be strong. And, especially in film, there has to be some kind of connection between the actor-- the performer-- and that character that you can just readily accept. Now there's some great, great character people who can surprise you, and they can create that connection in ways that you never would have expected. But that connection is still there. Meryl Streep leaps to mind. Dustin Hoffman-- some amazing characterizations, and they don't seem very much like Dustin Hoffman at all. And yet, you know. Believe me, Tom Hanks is nothing like Forrest Gump. But there's an innate connection there that I think if a director sat and talked to any of those actors before they were going to tackle a role where they were going to transform themselves, they were still building on something that they understood and felt. So you have to be very meticulous about the casting process. [MUSIC PLAYING] All of directing boils down to taste. We're talking a lot about techniques and options and possibilities. And at the end of the day, it always comes back to that sense of what's good, what's right. And you have to keep trusting that feeling. These things are not academic issues. They're creative. They're aesthetic. When you're looking at an actor's work-- whether you're watching other movies or television shows or plays that they're in-- and you're trying to make the decision about the casting, you do have to follow your gut. Conversations with them will matter a lot. Sometimes other factors will come into play-- that, by the way, that actor has very little control of. For example, if you're casting a family-- if you put everybody's picture up on a wall, do you feel like they're a cohesive unit? Can they look like a family? And the answer may be no with an actor or an actress that you're really considering. As an actor myself-- often disappointed by going in, auditioning, and not getting a role-- I was shocked when I began casting because I realized that as a director most of the people that you're looking at in a casting session can do the role. In other words, they're talented enough, they're experienced enough, the...

About the Instructor

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.


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

Incredible class! RH explains in great depth and precise detail the many facets of directing. I so appreciate his skills, talent and creativity.

Ron is very talented and knowledgable and he makes a great teacher! Thank you for sharing your insight, Ron!

Fantastic and insightful. I lost track of time while watching! I especially loved getting to watch him direct the frost/nixon scene!

I am a children's book author and illustrator, who sometimes develops my stories as movies in my head. Ron Howards explanations of staging using examples with actors on a set was very compelling and helpful.



Thank you Ron, you have really shared some amazing insights, invaluable techniques and words of wisdom. Directing is such a all round career, one can never know enough.


My favorite cast were the actors in Sorkin's Newsroom. Although it was ripped by some in the news media, the actor's performances were crazy awesome. The Andy Grifith Show with Don Knotts was perfect. The show still works today.

J'nee H.

I am envious that he can have a casting call and all the candidates can do the role. I have been in casting sessions where there might be a few who rise to the top. I would love to know more if he has given an unknown actor or actress a big break. That is much more risky business.

Grünenberg R.

I missed one very important point here: what does the camera see in the casting candidate? The camera has its own point of view that no human eye can emulate. And in the end, it doesn't matter what I/the director visually perceives when the candidate does her or his act. It's all about what the camera sees. As a photographer I always needed to be aware of this.

Jessica J.

Wow. So much emotion when it comes to casting. I'm a writer, have done a few short films that I've produced and I get what he says. The actor must feel what I want the character to feel, or knows how I want to feel. In any case. how WE want to feel. Yes, we know the originals, and so, trust them, I trust them to show us the feels. Thats the biggest objective. and M r.Howard knows how to do it.

Boo T.

I'd love to know how he deals with problem actors like russel crowe - I've heard horror stories about that guy during cinderella man. The guy was a loose cannon, but he was the lead character and you're stuck with him. Maybe they got along because they did multiple movies together, but I'd love to know how Ron would go about laying the smack down and getting someone like that to fall in line.


Devin, I agree with you, and I think nr 2 and 3 is very important in why we the same actors in movies. I do not like the idea that you should cast the most famous actor you can get, but If you want your movie to get a jump start, that is probably the best idea. It is sad but probably true?? (And that does not meen he or she could ’nt be great in the part.) To not mention that in the segment about casting is not to be competely honest.


But how come -it is always the same actors who do so many different parts. ( in big Hollywood movies) If he would follow his one advise, I beleve it should be different actors in basically every movie, right?

Brett B.

Auditions for my first film are on Nov 3. Three weeks from now. I will definitely be using Ron's advice here. I like the idea of giving the "nod" to the person who can embody the character or get to the soul of who the character is. That is a wonderful tidbit that I hope I get to see. I am excited for this step. There are only 5 speaking characters in my story, so the acting is so very important to make this work.

R.G. R.

It's worth taking a little more time than one wants when casting, especially with low budget shorts or features. Low budget doesn't mean a director is stuck with bad or mediocre actors. There are good actors looking for work, and I have found that taking more time to look for the right actors for what one is shooting is worth it.