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Arts & Entertainment

Story Inspiration: Case Studies

Ron Howard

Lesson time 13:15 min

Ron works on an idea when he feels a flush of inspiration, which can come from the theme, his personal relationship with the idea, or its freshness. Learn how this approach has helped him create some of his most enduring and beloved films.

Ron Howard
Teaches Directing
Ron Howard teaches directing, editing, and storytelling in his exclusive video lessons.


You've got to feel that flush of inspiration around an idea. And sometimes, it's the themes. Sometimes, it's the freshness of the presentation combined with some traditional, familiar themes. Splash is an example of basically a '30s romantic comedy. It makes all the boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, you know, all the obstacles. You know, they're right out of the screwball comedies, which I always adored. But you know, even there in the '80s, when we made Splash, it was already too tired to do it in a literal way. Yet adding the fantasy element of her being a mermaid, it made all of that OK. So it was sort of the traditional idea, the sort of quaint idea, was suddenly fresh, visual, funnier, and more interesting. Along the way, I also came up with this other theme that love is not perfect. And I think I actually got, you know, the John Candy character to say that line. And that became really important to me, that it was the idea that you're going to have that initial rush of romance and excitement, and then, you may discover there's some complications, there's some problems, there's some, you know, and yet, what are you going to do with that love? Is that going to be the thing that chases you away? Or are you going to accept it? And so that became a secondary theme that I became very passionate about. [MUSIC PLAYING] With Cinderella Man, there were a number of things that I liked about it. It wasn't really the boxing, even though I loved sports and my dad had memories of the Cinderella Man, James Braddock, and what he meant during the depression, you know, as a kind of a hero. But I was most interested in finding a way to convey to modern audiences what the abject poverty of the depression meant on the population. I thought it was particularly interesting that this story was about that kind of poverty, poverty that you now mostly see in urban areas, generally people of color. And that here is a story about an Irish, you know, Caucasian, All-American family that was going through that kind of suffering, winding up in a kind of a ghetto and struggling to get out of it. So I had always wanted to do something about the depression, an era that shaped my parents' lives. I had always been fascinated by it. In high school, I made a documentary about the depression. Instead of doing a written school project, I got to make a movie, and got an A, too. You know, that's why I was involved in it. And yet, the real center of it was this amazing, true story of James Braddock. And it carried a narrative that you couldn't ignore. But I was always the littlest bit concerned that it was sort of a familiar narrative. You know, was it too familiar? Well, I did my research. I put together reels of boxing scenes, going back to Wallace Beery as the champ in like 1930, '31. Of course, Raging Bull, but also Jim Braddock's footage and ...

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.

Thank you! After taking your masterclass I'm feeling a little more confident and informed about directing!

Love his POSITIVITY and his enthusiasm for wanting to share his experience. Found very useful when he actually worked with the actors.

This was a great class, specially the Frost/Nixon Staging lessons. Ron Howard really stepped up in those lessons.

This class alone makes the cost of a whole year worth it. Ron Howard's ability to teach his craft are as good as his films themselves. Thank you.


Kara R.

This is absolute heaven for me to be able to spend so much time (virtually) with Ron Howard! So many invaluable questions answered to questions that have been rolling around in my mind. What a gift to learn in this depressing time of Covid-19. I feel like I'm in College again but with no distractions - I'm just going to keep replaying so this brilliance sinks in!

Michael T.

Cocoon is such a good film that unfortunately a lot of people don't think of when they think of Ron Howard.

Jonathan P.

I absolutely love the candid anecdote on the making of Cinderella Man and him seeing the Popeye Cartoon that paralleled the movie plot and was of the period. Guy literally fights to feed his family during the Great Depression. Hard not to empathize with that storyline. Soon to be very relevant.

A fellow student

I want to know how we can have you Mr. Howard on a film project we know you will be in love with?

Eric R.

Clearly he loves the scripts he directs, but he's also is in love with what's around it - the research, the time period, the sense of in what context the story happens - so that the production can give a more full experience of what the characters are going through. Enlightening.

A fellow student

I'm a theatre director who works with tried and proven plays. I'm bound by license to not stray too much from the playwright's work. Ron gives directors like me permission to use "craft" in compensating for weakness in the writing. By teaching a structure and process, Ron emphasizes how directors can collaborate with other artists to tell the story. Good stuff.

Wendy N.

Excellent and so thought provoking pertaining to what I need to work on in my screenplay to make it work for my director. His delivery is as great as his movies.


i've been a Masterclasss member from a year on, this has been the very best of it i've seen. really personal, honest and powerful. thank you.


This was, of course, an extremely interesting, in fact, riveting set of expositions on Ron's excruciatingly devastating works. It demands real attention from myself because as recently as...yesterday (as of today's notice here) I put up another music video on IMDB (and IMDB PRO) Called "Her Eyes". [This is Monday, August 12 2019.] I won't spoil the plot here, you can go see it on IMDB along with a current total of fourteen videos if you look for Henry J Raymond and look for "videos". My point here is that in each video, I attempt a story with several pov ways of interpretation, and similarly to longer works, I attempt through musical, poetic, and visual media to do the complexity of a message that may ordinarily be elongated in a movie format (i.e. 90 minutes, etc.). When I try to do this, it is a real rush after all that internal tug of war with comparative use of footage, combining the visual in specifically the way Ron expresses unexpected manner with a sort of "punch line" or unexpected outcome. My next video will certainly be affected by this class, and so to will any other work I am fortunate enough to be involved with.


Hi. Ron is good ,but if I wanted script writing tips I wuld have taken a different class. I wish he starts soon on the directing aspect of film making . the way he works with the tallent and the rest of the group as a director.