Chapter 13 of 32 from Ron Howard

Research

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

Topics include: Use Research to Reinforce Your Vision • Generate Creativity from Meticulous Research • Broaden the Possibilities Using Research

Ron Howard

Ron Howard Teaches Directing

Ron Howard teaches directing, editing, and storytelling in 32 exclusive video lessons.

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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...

Direct your story

Ron Howard made his first film in 22 days with $602,000. Today, his movies have grossed over $1.8 billion. In his first-ever online class, the Oscar-winning director of Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind decodes the craft of directing 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.

Watch, listen, and learn as Ron Howard breaks down directing in his first-ever online class.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps, assignments, and supplemental material.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Ron will also answer select student questions.

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Ron Howard

Ron Howard Teaches Directing