From Ron Howard's MasterClass

Scene Deconstruction: A Beautiful Mind

Ron shares how he flipped the movie’s point of view at a key juncture in the film in order to underscore the realization of a powerful truth.

Topics include: Scene Deconstruction: A Beautiful Mind


Ron shares how he flipped the movie’s point of view at a key juncture in the film in order to underscore the realization of a powerful truth.

Topics include: Scene Deconstruction: A Beautiful Mind

Ron Howard

Teaches Directing

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A Beautiful Mind, screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, is remarkable in that it has one uber overriding objective, and that is to make you understand what it feels like to be mentally ill, and then by extension, what does it feel like to love someone who's living within those delusions? And what's so remarkable about it is that it uses a convention of cinema. It basically creates a ghost story. It's playing closed-handed versus open-handed. You don't know the truth about the characters that you're seeing. And then the audience gets the rug pulled out from under them. It's something that we had to build to very carefully. And stylistically, I tried to work with three different looks within the framework of the movie. The first period, young John Nash is a rising genius, eccentric but ultimately brilliant. I shot that along with Roger Deakins, cinematographer, in a very straightforward, kind of a Life magazine way with a sense of nostalgia, almost, kind of an organized warmth and congeniality. The only difference was that I played a lot of it from John Nash's point of view. In fact, I had actors looking right into the lens sometimes, and played an unusual amount of it in his literal point of view. And that was a way of, I hoped, drawing audiences into a kind of a mystery and what would eventually prove to be his paranoia. But at this point, it was just sort of meant to make the audience feel his discomfort that he doesn't fit in, and they must be looking at me. But later in the movie you would that, of course, that was the beginning of a paranoid schizophrenic misperceiving the world around him. Then the middle section was shot in a very noir kind of way, like a Cold War thriller, an espionage movie. You know, lots of shadows, lots of light and dark, the color palette narrowed down, Ed Harris as this powerful but mysterious figure. But I really wanted the audience to understand it. So of course it never goes to the point of being broad or extreme, although the script actually takes you to a place where they're inserting things, you know, chips into his arm, which I think we're all pretty aware that in the 50s, that technology didn't exist. Yet we were able to make that slide by for the audience. And there a moment where the rug is pulled out from under the audience, and we dispense with the noir, and we go into something else which is much more personal and much more simple. And I kept calling it the cold, clear light of day, that the truth was harsh, it was uninviting, it wasn't a warm place, the truth of John Nash's life and his love story with his wife Lisa. So those are the three different styles. There's a sequence that's a turning point. And I build sequences usually in sort of 10-minute kinds of increments or chapters. I try to identify that rhythm within the script and I try to make sure that in addition to the overarching structure of the movie, th...

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.

What a gift. Thank you Mr Howard for opening up your treasure chest of experience and sharing it with us...your master class students. You are an exceptional teacher and inspiration. I look forward to sharing my film with you one day. Sandy A.

Wonderful insight and behind the scenes look!

The art of seeing from a new perspective. I'm involved with creating online learning, but want to go in a far more creative direction. This gave me some great ideas and inspiration, even though it was film making in a totally different realm

This is by far the best Masterclass. I can't even begin to list what I've learned. The most important part was Ron Howard showing us how he directs a scene, how he works with the actors, how he orchestrates the staging and camera motion. This was everything that I hoped it would be and more.


Ruben R.

Incredible way to explain 3-different styles of narrative breakdown - STILL playing out the larger plot all the time. Brilliant lesson on Scene - Deconstruction.

A fellow student

Howard, Thank you for these sections as you explain scene deconstruction. I have always wanted to know 'how' they were done. I wished you posted references for readings you recommend on the art of directing using camera moves to show emotions. I understand that they can be limitless. But, at least know the basics. Wide shot to close up to emphasize tension, for example. You did hint to many in the deconstruction sessions. But wanted to learn more... Thank you.

Deborah S.

I remember the first time I saw A Beautiful Mind. I had ended my relationship and had divorced my husband whom I had found was a sociopath with Multi-personality disorder. I had found the best doctors to treat him. I gathered additional incite not just from the Mr. Howards direction, but by the relationship sequencing and how each grew apart to maintain an existence and to hold onto their individual sanity. Just as Alisha came to recognize how she had misjudged his internal voice and totally ignored hers -simply because it was easier at the onset to not accept that you were wrong. I don't often have the opportunity to thank a filmmaker for opening my eyes, but you did. You also helped me have the courage to rediscover myself. I found this was paramount for the well being of my three elementary aged children. I will always be grateful for great filmmakers as many can make you realize moments you forgot to take a better look at in your life.

Adham E.

I really liked the scene that he used two cameras above the shoulders of Jennifer Connelly and Russel Crow in the hospital. This just amazed me!!!!

Rowan S.

Loved this lesson. Thrilled to hear him speak of sequences. "The Mini Movie Method" is taught at USC Film School, and probably at many other film schools. It's incredibly useful in that it employs the idea of breaking a film into self-contained, yet intimately connected sequences. Another brilliant paradigm is Eric Edson's "Hero Goal Sequences" which really makes sense of creating an exciting, emotionally fulfilling film. The best movies utilize sequences , one upon another, to build the experience and propel us to an incredible denouement which we ache for as we near the end of the film.


Having a clear point of view is paramount in any movie and even when the point of view is shifted to another character, it is so important that it stays true to the story being told by enhancing the story and not create confusion and making the viewer feel like they are watching a whole new film. This was executed beautifully in a beautiful mind.

Magda Magdalena T.

Brilliant explanation. I believe to be a good director you must be good in finding the right words - pass your enthusiasm... be a good teacher! I need to watch Beautiful Mind once more know to look at each detail! :P

Karl R.

I like how he revisits the idea of weaving together a series of mini narratives, key scenes, into the greater narrative structure; and how this process ensures that there are sub-climaxes with brief moments for emotional release, just like starting a new chapter in a book.

Maria Elena S.

This was wonderful. I was able to visualize what he was describing especially in the scene in the hospital visitor's room with the two cameras - that's a wonderful way to capture a full moment of interaction without interruption.

Boo T.

I think it's safe to say Ron Howard is a very good teacher and has a gift to be able to explain articulately his though process in a way others can understand. That's another way of saying he's a kick ass director. Really enjoyed this one.