Film & TV

Frost/Nixon: Alternate Staging Possibilities

Ron Howard

Lesson time 22:01 min

Now that Ron knows he has all his master shots and additional coverage, he explores other possibilities—often following an actor’s natural instincts.

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OK, so we're going to go through that version of the blocking again. And every once in a while we're going to stop, I'll walk in and explain the reasoning for that staging, and talk through some of the other possibilities that we might have been able to consider. And then we'll carry on from there. And action. What revolution David? You just let Richard Nixon claim the country was in a state of revolution with protesters bombing and assaulting police officers. That's not what I remember. What I remember was people protesting peacefully and legitimately about the Vietnam War. That's what I remember. Music off, please. Music off. By the end? OK, great. So this is a position that the actor's first and foremost and very importantly fell into very, very naturally. It also lent itself to a good wide shot, an establishing shot that we could do to establish the room, particularly the moment when chases out the imaginary actor who would one day be there playing the radio. It also creates some space. And it gives an opportunity for a shot here that we did where you have David in the foreground and you see that he's trying to ignore the pressure that's being put on him by everybody. And it also gives a kind of a space as though he's surrounded by three individuals who have a strong point of view or are upset with him. So spatially I felt it created different lines that we could also work with. Over the shoulder here I remember we did. And an over the shoulder here that we did. So again, it's this idea of David being ganged up on by everyone. So this first stop, again, is where they organically landed when we did the first rehearsal. And maybe I tweaked it a little bit just in order to position for the camera, but this is where you guys naturally felt inclined to go, which is always a good sign. It's a good idea by the way, to let actors begin to stage it on their own. You might have one or two principles that you need. For example, it needs to play near a window, or a light source, or you wanted the sun at their backs, or just some basic idea like that. But having been an actor, I've always found that anytime the actors can establish the staging on their own it's very helpful, because it's organic to them. And sometimes they'll have an instinct about something that is different from the one that you had as the director while you were making out the shot list that works very, very well and might give you an idea. Like I remember at one point you sort of moved. Yeah. Or I could tell you wanted to begin to move. Yeah, that instinct. And then you didn't. And then that gave me the idea that, well, that would be a good spot for a very organic walk away from David. So those are the kind of things. Anyway, this is where this staging landed. And that's sort of our first stop in the scene. OK, carry on. And actio...


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Jason K.

In this era of #MeToo - are directors like Mr. Howard getting releases/consents from all cast/crew to touch them throughout the scenes like this? I am sure something like this might be built into initial sign-on contracts, but how specific would that be?

A fellow student

Writer, director, original cast, replacement (academic) cast, both cameras, sound, entire crew: all men. MasterClass, you’re perpetuating a lazy and outdated stereotype.

Gene H.

I love it. The epiphany I'm having is that I am much too one-sided with my concerns about crossing an axis. But I'm still unsure about the way to do that in order to get more interesting angles and still safeguard my choices for when things get to the edit suite.

Matthijs D.

In the last few lessons about staging we've seen a lot of decisions being made in very quick succession, only some of them being explained on the spot. In this episode we finally get a closer look at why we ended up with the staging the way it is now, but it still left me with a lot of confusion about the decisions made before we got here. Things changed many times over, so some decisions were overwritten by others. But I still want to know what the thinking was behind the decisions that didn't make it into the final version of the staging/blocking. A wrong choice can often be more educational than a right one. But more so, I'm wishing that the structure of the episodes about staging was different. I'd have liked it if the footage was paused at every choice being made in the episodes leading up to this one so that Ron could voice-over why he was choosing that way, right as it comes up. That way you don't end up with a lot of questions hanging around in your head leaving half your brain pre-occupied with remembering them while the lessons continue. There were so many things happening all at once in these episodes that you have more than enough things to keep track of as it is. Unanswered questions just diminish you're ability to process what's happening while you ponder them.

Matthew B.

I saw this Film at theatre on release and remember this scene vividly seen on HBO few times since

Tanesha L.

This is my favorite Master Class! Wow! It's much harder than I thought but Mr. Howard is genius! Seeing this helped me understand directing so much more than before! I'm learning so much! Bravo!

Lucrecia Sarita R.

This lesson showed me how important it is to care for an actor's natural instincts. thank you thank you thank you

Nouzha E.

...Sorry, in order to understand A & B camera angles, I have to pause this lesson & watch Frost Nixon – Netflix, do you have the movie? I need to rent it now!

J'nee H.

There is a lot more freedom to play with shots than with my commercial experience. Timing was always so very important with only :30 to :60 to tell a story. I love'd it when Ron spoke to his class. I need to go rewatch Frost/Nixon...

Chris B.

I love to see all the coverage he gets, I always feel like I want to much, but if the scene calls for it and drives it, get it.