Film & TV

Editing: Part 2

Ron Howard

Lesson time 9:40 min

Early cuts can break your heart, but Ron knows that editing also offers a thrilling chance to uncover your story again and see your film in a new and improved way.

Ron Howard
Teaches Directing
Ron Howard teaches directing, editing, and storytelling in 32 exclusive video lessons.
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I can't emphasize enough how valuable it is to show your project to audiences who don't know anything about it. They don't all have to be test audiences in a multiplex with preview cards to fill out and questionnaires, although I believe in that process. But just as valuable is that screening with 10 friends, if they're willing to really talk to you, who have not seen the project before. And you run it start to finish. You don't stop. And afterwards, you make yourself vulnerable. Tell me about my movie. What did you get out of it? Sometimes you have to read between the lines because of course they're going to be polite and kind to you. So don't be too fooled by that. Anything other than a rave means that they have a little hint of criticism under there. But what you need to begin to understand is what is this story communicating? Really, how are people feeling about it? I know how they were supposed to feel. Well, where is that consistent? Where is that being achieved? Where is it different? If it's different, is it better or not as good as I'd hoped it would be? Or is it some other idea altogether? Audiences receive these images and sounds in ways that are often very surprising. Sometimes somebody will say something, some piece of exposition pretty much flat out. And it's clear. It's there. But for some reason, the audience isn't even hearing it. So that creates a moment of confusion. If that's happening, you have to understand it and find another way to say it again and/or clear out the sound and make sure people get it. And you want to get to a very-- you want to go kind of macro and micro on your analysis of your project during the post-production period and be creative about the solutions, because sometimes the concerns that an audience has really provokes you to look at the scene once and for all in a very original way. And it sometimes suggests that you edit it and approach it in a way that is better than you ever would have dreamed of, and more interesting, and a more surprising approach, less conventional. And often, the most unconventional ideas come out of a need to try to eliminate some problem, get it out of the movie, or reinforce some idea or some feeling that isn't quite being conveyed. [MUSIC PLAYING] Editing is a very personal thing on the one hand, but it's also a period where some objectivity from outsiders can really benefit you. So there's kind of an intersection here between feedback that you're getting, not only from the editors but the people who are watching what it is you've put together and giving you some information, some reaction. It's vitally important that you continue to understand the themes, the ideas, the story that you're trying to tell, the thing that you believed in from the beginning, and yet not cling to it. What you want to begin to discover is, well, what else it either succee...

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.


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

Very Good. Had theory and a lot of practical lessons. Unlike Scorsese, who never stood up from his chair.

I'll be back, I'm just going through several to see if I want to return with more depth later. Great class Ron!

The process and difficulty of making a film is fascinating. Ron Howard did a great job of conveying what is entailed in being the keeper of a cinematic story.

Favorite thing was watching Ron get hands on and direct. Even having more video case studies was helpful. It's one thing to hear someone describe what they did on a certain movie, but it's so much better when you can also watch the scene they're talking about.


Audrey O.

Very interesting but I agree with the comments that some concrete examples from the movies would help a lot.

Mal D.

As interesting as the talk is it is sorely missing examples to back up what RH is talking about. Select scenes that he deconstructs and why he decided to change one cut to the next. That, I feel would be more beneficial. Right now its all surface.

Andy G.

I would say listen to a movie without watching it as well - gives you a sense of dialogue timing as well as sound elements that tell the story audibly. I find myself pacing the visual edit to the pacing of dialogue and sound design more often than not. I also agree that showing examples of what he is talking about would really help these Masterclasses. I think these lessons are good, and doing that would make them great.

Steve A.

I love the dialog, but I also wish that there was more than just talking in these videos. "Show, don't tell" as they say. A few examples would add a lot to this, bringing us through some actual editing projects on the computer and cutting together video sequences that portray very different meanings.

Graeme R.

It's so good to have a highly accomplished director tell you how the process really works, and calibrate your expectations.


My nephew went to South Africa to shoot a film. He thought the filming was the hard part until he started editing.

Matthew H.

Editing is definitely a key part to making a movie. It's where you turn your dreams into magic.

Ellak E.

Great. Though you cannot test the world by testing it with a small amount of people. I was in acting school and circus and the audience gave great applause in the show but when the teachers used to watch the performances they always gave poor feedback. I saw myself recorded and I think that my performance was astonishing. So everyone looks as beautiful as each one is and as suitable the informations are given for each type of personality. Opinions, by the way, are swept by the wind, sometimes materials remain in the showing business and are more successful with time as the world gets ready for their content. I just must say that if one becomes a great quality being our arts become too. EK

Mia S.

"It can be very very discouraging, even heartbreaking, when you look at that first cut of the film or TV show. It's usually very long, because the editors - whether you're editing yourself, or somebody has come in to edit with you or be the editor - it's probably included, everything that was interesting at all in what you've shot. And 99.9 times out of 100, that's not going to be ready to put into the theaters or put on air yet, you're going to have to make some decisions about it. And often it's far, far too long. That's OK, although it's very difficult to watch something that's overly long, so on a gut level, all any director really wants is just to put it together and have everybody say, 'Oh my god, it's genius!' It's never happened to me, I don't know anyone yet who has had that happen. Maybe you're the one. Editing is the place where you have to be brutally honest, to yourself, about what your film is and what it says. Now you're never going to make that film that everybody 100% agrees works in every way, so again, you're going to have to weigh options and make some choices. But when you discern that there's a weakness, and that weakness is not fundamentally wired into, baked into,the thematics of the story - it just has to be do with something that you could address editorially - it's important to go ahead, toss and turn, talk to your editor, talk to your producers, talk to your friends, and drill down on that, see if there's a way to drill down on that, rethink it and perhaps solve the problem. That is very unsettling work something - it undermines your confidence in certain ways. But I've come to not despair but instead know that this is part of the process and that there is a great reason to overcome that despair and pursue these solutions, because you can sometimes wind up with the moments that you're absolutely the proudest of. It's unexpected, it's not the way you planned it, but the discovery is thrilling and you're very happy to have it in your film in this new, improved way."

Mia S.

"Editing is a very personal thing, on the one hand, but it's also a period where some objectivity from outsiders can really benefit you. So there's kind of an intersection here between feedback that you're getting - not only from the editors but the people who are watching what it is you've put together and giving you some information, some reaction. It's vitally important that you continue to understand the themes, the ideas, story that you're trying to tell -the thing that you believed in from the beginning; and yet not cling to it. What you want to begin to discover is what else it either succeeds in saying, or doesn't and possibly could say. Editing is a process of whittling down, the Michelangelo quote that the sculpture is always inside the marble, you just have to find it. The movie or the TV show is there, you have one added advantage, and that is that if you can identify big new ideas or little tiny ideas that you never thought of before. You have a chance of going back and re-shooting or re-editing and adding voices, dialogue, and things like that to help support or even reinvent the nature of a scene, the impact that it has on the audience and the story. The editing process is another period where going to movies and television shows that you like and watching them with the sound off is very inspiring sometimes and really helps you begin to understand where your scene or sequence or entire story may be selling itself short, letting itself down, and where somebody else has done a thing that is very powerful and compelling. It may be pace, it may be rhythm, it may be the length of the cuts, holding for a long time or going for a lot of very short cuts. These two ideas are very different, and they both speak to the audience in unique ways. These are all things, choices that we've all experienced as viewers and we've all had a reaction to. And the question is, again, 'What's going to work best for this story, this story that I love, want to tell. And it's not that daunting if you are willing to ask the question, and if the answer is not clear to you, seek an answer."