Film & TV

Frost/Nixon: Feature Staging for Masters

Ron Howard

Lesson time 12:27 min

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

Ron Howard
Teaches Directing
Ron Howard teaches directing, editing, and storytelling in 32 exclusive video lessons.
Get All-Access


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...

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.

I have studied the cinema, and worked in motion pictures my entire adult life, and am certain that I have learned a great deal from this course.

Ron really opened my eyes to his style of directing that I feel like be useful to me even in the type of projects I work on.

Always loved Ron's movies. I hope to work with him someday. I will be directing my story soon and his process has already give me ideas for my shot approach.

Very informative, Looking at developing a script for a Idea I've had since film school in 2003.


Marc C.

There is just so much positive comment, I'll try to balance it with negative one ;) I found these lesson entertaining, and partially educative, but I feel by the comments here a lot of people might might get a wrong interpretation of what directing might be actually doing. He is doing way more than he should be doing. I found very few shot displayed from A and B cam to be usable. And when I say usable, I say it in a way that would look cinematic. And by that, I mostly mean by framing alone. Often, the camera operator just felt too short as well which didn't help. But that said, the focus of this was mostly staging, so I'll slack a little bit on it... But because of the rush around everything else, it does make it confusing at time on what was important. Having metal T marker that could have been moved around quickly could have been useful during this video. I was impressed at how good the focus puller managed to do their focus far away until I realized there were ultrasound sensor on the camera. I personally think a Masterclass sponsored movie should be created, and have every important role does a masterclass with that creation. This would allow to see an overview of everything that was going on from beginning to the end PLUS individual perspective for every task. So even if I'm being a bit negative, like you learn from watching a movie with or without sound, in this way, this was really informative and entertaining. But I think the format used could have been better.

Judah H.

More of the good stuff. It's fun to watch and very interesting to see it come together organically vs. a rigid approach from a storyboard.


O.k. You guys reworked this session so much that any one of the takes would have worked. I kind of think you lost some of the power/spontaneity of the first takes

A fellow student

It is honestly too much hard to understand what the cameras are exactly doing and what is the original idea behind it. So, as a rule of thumb, can somebody explain what is the most beneficial way to work with multicamera in a walking scene like this? What camera A and B are supposed to do in order to get the best result from a scene like this?


What an honor it would be as an actor, even to be a part of this demonstration.

Chad E.

This is really great! What Ron is teaching here will be really useful for actors and camera crew as well as directors. Has anyone ever paid so little for so many awesome classes? Fantastic!

Ruben R.

Amazing how he controls crew/shot composition/ & actors with ease - and explains Composition guidelines. Genius at work! "Don't shoot to wall on coverage - use depth... unless making a point." -R. Howard.


Loved see how Ron was building the scene/performance towards it's final stages.

Richard Paul W.

This was what masterclass is all about. You can see the wealth of experience exuding from Ron as he prepares his canvass. I was fascinated by his multi tasking in blocking the actors as he prepped for the master shots. What looked really loose staging fell nicely into place when he directed where he wanted the A and B cam. I learned a hell of a lot watching him work this scene.

Deborah S.

Observing Mr. Howard is beyond enjoyable. The masterful way he gets the actors to become more and to feel great about the end result. Really cool!