From Ron Howard's MasterClass

Frost/Nixon: Feature Staging for Masters

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

Topics include: Stage for the Camera • Get the Masters


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

Topics include: Stage for the Camera • Get the Masters

Ron Howard

Teaches Directing

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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 loved Ron's very deliberate and structured style of instruction. It just gave me a more complete understanding of the process and the people involved in a larger budget film, while at the same time encouraging me that I can be successful at the lower level of budget that I am working with. I will continue to revisit this class as I progress through my filmmaking career.

So far I am really enjoying, and leaning a lot. Very excited to get through the course.

This masterclass from Ron Howard was absolutely wonderful. The most enjoyable, informative masterclass I have yet taken. It was passionately presented, clearly structured and full of practical instruction and insight.

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


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!

Elizabeth B.

Blow away with the joy of watching how it's done. So much better than either being told or reading a lesson.

Chris S.

I really LOVE this approach to lessons. It allows for us to learn so much from observation of practical situations. PLEASE develop more of these!

Douglas S.

Favorite lesson so far. Wonderful insight seeing how Ron designs the moving master shot.

Ting K.

This dynamic style of staging and blocking is hard to control. So many things to communicate, to intervene at the right moments etc.

Suzanne B.

Again, great lesson. curious as to why Ron didn't have at least one full walkthrough with camera and then revise positions for actors and camera. perhaps its too much to communicate in one round, or maybe if you allow multiple full takes for the master it takes too much time. Was the goal for the scene to a single, master take?

Sebastian S.

This section is incredible to watch - Masterclass has taken online learning to a new level. Loved seeing Ron at work rather than just him talking about the process. Hands down my favourite part of the Masterclass so far.