From Ron Howard's MasterClass

Story Inspiration: Case Studies

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.

Topics include: Splash • Cinderella Man • Cocoon • Apollo 13 • A Beautiful Mind • Rush


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.

Topics include: Splash • Cinderella Man • Cocoon • Apollo 13 • A Beautiful Mind • Rush

Ron Howard

Teaches Directing

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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.

Ron Howard is a terrific teacher and so gracious to share his knowledge. I am struck by his sincerity and his love for film. He is a Gentlemen. Thank you for the opportunity to take this class from one of the GREATS! Gino D'Cafango, Aerodynamic Films

I've been Directing TV drama for 25 Years and yet this was filled with familiar and new insight. But most of all it reminded me that no matter how much you know there is that much more to learn and that enthusiasm and passion are the corner stone of success in this industry. Ron Howard loves what he does and reminds you that that is what matters above all else.

I have found useful the Frost/Nixon lessons, more practical lessons and less theory can improve Masterclass

Mr. Howard did a great job breaking down the filmmaking process, and I found his tips and insights to be extremely beneficial.


RJane @.

A Beautiful Mind is one of the best inspirational movies. - RJane @RJanesRealm

RJane @.

Love is perfect. Relationships and humans are not perfect. - RJane @RJanesRealm


I know what inspires me. Its the fear that no one will ever see my work that keeps me from moving forward, so I tend to self-destruct at times.

Javier D.

Great! Ron shares with us what motivated him in a series of films! What he made different in those stories. I would call it, the Vision. Or, what can you do to make them special. Not an easy task and a very personal work. Besides, I’m a fan of Apollo 13. I consider it a masterpiece of suspense. And, excuse me Ron if I say that; I’ll pay to see a version of Apollo 13 without the music. I’m sure is a nail bitting thriller near terror genre. At least no music after lift off until reentry.

Iain C.

As a lunatic fan of Cocoon, this was a great section - the never left high school idea was spot on. And they say husbands don't listen to their wives!

Chad E.

Love the class. It is encouraging to see that sometimes what can make a story or a movie great can occur after the work has begun. Inspiration doesn't have to hit out of the blue. Sometimes the act of creating can reveal a truth or an inspiration that we may not have even known was there. I enjoyed the links to additional footage in the lesson book.

Grünenberg R.

As Joshua already pointed out: why don't you give us some eye candy to put us into the emotional and visual context? This is so different from other classes here and it's a real letdown.


I enjoyed the class but would have appreciated if there were some videos of the case study as you explain....e.g. the way you did with Popeye cartoon

Launa B.

I believe the main reason so many people connect to your films, is because we can actually feel the excitement, love and inspiration you had translating every story to film. Your passion shows in what you do, and your audience can feel it too.

Elizabeth B.

I love this course and I am going back and watching his movies again, and am scheming about a way to get my latest screenplay to him. lol. Thank you Master Class for making it possible to be this up close and personal. !