Arts & Entertainment

Frost/Nixon: Feature Staging for Masters

Ron Howard

Lesson time 12:26 min

This approach most closely replicates the staging approach of the original movie. Watch Ron as he collects masters for each setup.

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Topics include: Stage for the Camera • Get the Masters


I want to simulate, basically, not performance, although keep performing it, keep playing it as actors, because I want to lay out the shots. So I want to stage for the camera. Now, if I was shooting, this would be on the shooting day, and I would have had a careful shot list and things like that. Which I haven't really done, because I want to experiment with several different versions of the scene. But for now, we've kind of gotten the character movement working, and we're going to start working with various shots. So Frost/Nixon was sort of done in a loose, kind of naturalistic, sometimes hand-held way. And my feeling about this scene then and now is that there's a kind of an energy to doing this scene handheld. So for my movie version then, and what I would sort of say is our most ambitious version now, I would go for handheld with a couple of other specific shots mixed in. I'm going to do quite a bit of coverage for this scene, and we'll experiment with all of those ideas. So why don't we start with A camera back here wide. Because we're going to sort of start with our masters. What's your zoom? 28 to 70. Let's go with a 28, which will give you a good full figure here, right? But because we do want movement, why don't we think about, as they settle in, why don't you just sort of drift in and over. Maybe go with David from-- where's your first stop? Here. So you kind of hold that as wide as you can. And then just drift over with him when he comes over here to this desk. So why don't you go because there's-- why don't you be wide, but kind of hide over here, stay out of the A camera. And just pan them in through the doorway. So that way, you're not violating his space. You're not in his shot, but you can get this. And then, when David Frost comes through, why don't you pull with him and then fall in over here as the others come. And then when he turns back you've got a kind of a medium wideish over the shoulder. OK. So you'll be the second master. Would you like me to stay camera left of him? Yeah. Let's go this way-- like that-- because that helps with the coverage and a reverse shot later. And the other thing is that you never want, in this kind of coverage, to be having to shoot straight into a wall, because it's very boring. So it's one of the cheapest things you can do to give any kind of staging some scope, is to create depth in the staging. So you want to use light, you want to use space. And unless you're making a point of somebody trapped or something like that, you never want to get into a situation where a person's coverage has to be jammed straight back into a wall. It just looks terrible. So when you go back over there, make sure you don't get too close to that wall. But also the coverage would be good, because we'll be raking along down this way. OK? So let's just try it. So you...

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.

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Ron Howard

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