Chapter 15 of 32 from Ron Howard

Scene Deconstruction: Apollo 13

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Ron walks you through the movie’s iconic launch sequence and explains how meticulous research and shot planning energized a familiar historical moment.

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Ron Howard

Ron Howard Teaches Directing

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

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So now I thought we would take a look at the sequence, again, with the sound off. And this one I know something about. This is the launch sequence from Apollo 13. And let's look at it, again, with no sound. And of course, the sound and music played such an important role in it. And I'll talk a little bit about that, as well. But let's just go through the scenes, and I'll give you a little idea about how they were broken down and executed. What was required Here we are in the suit room. I really wanted to make it look like gladiators getting ready for combat. The important idea for me with the launch sequence was to give kind of an importance to it, and to connect the key characters who were going to be involved with the crisis emotionally. I wanted to set them up within the context of a triumphant and successful moment in the space program, the launch. I wanted the audience to feel the respect, the fear that everyone involved had with the launch. And so this the early part of the sequence is all about tension. The music is quiet, it's somber, there's nobility. There's again, this feeling of respect for what these men are willing to face. This is a set with a blue screen behind it and a model. This is before CG We didn't have very much CGI in this one. This is also a big, giant model with matted in little figures of our guys beginning to walk across. We went through hours and hours of archival footage. Everything that we could find. And in cases, I simulated shots. But we actually didn't use archival shots. There are a number of shots like this one, which was done on a sound stage. All we built was just a walkway. We didn't even put a green screen behind it, because I knew it was going to be a long lens and we would just blow that out, and we wouldn't really see the background. And here we are introducing mission control for the first time in the movie. Mission control becomes such an important setting for so much of the drama. I was trying to create, in a fun way, a little bit of suspense. So the camera moves around, we wonder what this is, but I didn't want to reveal Gene Kranz yet, and Ed Harris. I wanted to let people react to him and create a question mark. Here we are, going through the process of strapping in. This is our mock up on a set done at Universal Studios. We've seen the anticipation, we felt it. But it's also more intense. Their feet are pressing down on their shoulders. Everything's growing a little tougher. There we finally met Gene Kranz. Let's stop there. Apollo 13 was often shot with A and B cameras. But it was not shot in a style which I have used in movies, like Rush or Frost Nixon, that has almost an unplanned chaotic feel. Not quite faux documentary, but kind of a spontaneous, unstaged feeling. I didn't choose that for this sequence. And almost every idea ...

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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