Film & TV

Research

Ron Howard

Lesson time 9:25 min

Seemingly small or trivial details can anchor a scene, reinforce a director’s vision, and forge a stronger connection with the audience.

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In the last, maybe, decade-- six, seven, eight years-- I've begun a process of collecting not just a style book but also a research reel. I'll find everything around a subject that I possibly can, or I'll send a researcher out to do the same thing, and we build a reel. They could be scenes from movies. They could be documentaries. They could be TV interviews. They could be still photographs. I'll ask the various department heads-- wardrobe, production design, props-- to take their best research photos and put them on the walls. Very often, I put them on the walls near where the kitchen is in the production office, or the bathroom, or both, so that nobody can walk to the kitchen or the bathroom without immersing themselves in the possibilities for this story. It's a discussion point. And very often, a production designer will be walking down the hall. I'll criss-cross with him or her, and we'll stop and say, oh, look at this. And it's a scene that somehow might answer a question as to how we might approach a particular scene. And then, very often the next question is, I wonder how they did that? Or I wonder how we could do that? And that starts another level of research, if we don't automatically know through our own experience, of what kind of set we would need to build, what kind of environment we might need, what sort of camera work was going on there. What was the camera speed? What was the stock that was being used if it was film? What was done in the DI if it was digital? You know, how much of that is computer generated or real, in-camera effects? How could we do it? How can we relate that to the problems that we want to solve creatively? And a lot of great conversations come out of it. And it gets back to that idea of everyone, slowly but surely, pulling in the same direction. And as that happens during pre-production, as you have this conversation-- about the script, about the locations, about the casting, about what they might look like, about the schedule-- all of it provides a director an opportunity to say, yes, that works for our story or maybe be convinced by somebody that there's another way of looking at a scene that the director hadn't thought of. And everybody agrees suddenly. Now, everybody's pulling in the same direction. What happens then is the quality of the questions and the suggestions that come a director's way just exponentially improves because there's a cohesiveness about it. There's a shared point of view. There's a sort of a group intellect at work. And it doesn't supersede the director's vision. It only reinforces it and broadens it, and it's very exciting. But a lot of it comes back to problem-solving research, which feels kind of mechanical and ultimately stimulates a creative conversation. [MUSIC PLAYING} When I directed Robert De Niro in Backdraft, which was fiction, but I wanted the en...


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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.



Reviews

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

This was immensely helpful. As I expected, great insights and advice, and the workshopping of staging and blocking was among the most useful and interesting things I've wittnessed. I would love to see even more of that as well as examples of shots, sound, etc,. in films he's speaking of as he's speaking of them. Overall a fantastic class!

The biggest thing for me was learning that I can Direct with confidence. Understanding how a Director fits into the larger scheme of a film, how to position yourself as the storyteller, how to set yourself up for successful collaboration, it's all the NON-technical stuff that Ron really focused on, and its what I found the most valuable.

Some great classes on this site, but have to say this is my favorite so far! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us, it's not something you have or need to do, so really appreciated. Great class, 10/10, thank you, Ron.

Sir Ron. I think of you as one of my Fav Directors. I’m sure you can think of a few other Individuals I should admire; but not many have your humilit!


Comments

Frank T.

By breaking down the practical application of cinematic principles to an existing property, a play, Ron clearly illustrates the roles of the director, the cinematographer, and the set designer in working together to create dynamic tension and a new vision, and a viable economic production

Caroline F.

Fantastic lesson. All of these have been amazing. I am a theatre director but I still find the info practical and applicable.

John W.

I have been doing quite some exstensive research on my own for my 4th great grandfather who had a prominent role in the civil war that more then often exposed him to dying more than a few times. I realized that research is digging up the truth and truth is non negotiable power behind the deepest emotions I feel in filmmaking and watching films. The more I learn about the truth of the times and the enviornment and the culture of the era of the 1800's the much richer my experience of putting this story together because it's based off TRUE REAL life experiences/emotions/thoughts of real life people and valuing those timeless truths that were being wrestled with and now carries itself into the 21st century. Research is the way to identify those truths and not be blind to them as years pass by.

EK T.

I tend to use research as an excuse not to do some phases of the work, so I have to watch it. But I can also be a bit lazy when it comes to some phases of the research.

Alan C.

The way I see it , the more research you do , the more information you have . The more information you have , the stronger and more certain your moment , scene , movie . I've learned from this segment that research can include information from any medium , including but not limited to photos , magazine articles , commercials , letters someone wrote , etc . There are a variety of research sources out there , and they all count as information used to strengthen and to support , what you capture , between the frame lines .

J'nee H.

So far this is my favorite chapter. I loved Ron's articulation of Robert DeNiro's study of the fire investigators and how that experience impacted Apollo 13 (which is an amazing movie.)

Susan T.

Thank you, Ron. Sharing your insights is inspiring and assuring... Research is invaluable in the attention to detail that evokes emotion and engages the audience. Love your films and work!

Carolina P.

Ron Howard: you have no idea how much you are helping me with my first short. Thank you!

Theora

I absolutely love and have to do the research! I love the idea of a research reel. I have notebooks and clips that I have snapped on my smart phone if I suddenly see spot some inspiration... great collaborative ideas as well!

Jennifer

Research is about being prepared with credible ideas and answers towards realism. It is about knowing your story to the point you make it as faultless as you know how. Study the people who have the real life jobs that your actors are trying to emulate, to bring credibility and sense to your film.