Film & TV

Working with Actors: Part 1

Ron Howard

Lesson time 16:03 min

Ron urges you to collaborate with, inspire, and protect your actors. Learn how you can prepare yourself to work with them—and when to trust them to deliver the performance you need.

Ron Howard
Teaches Directing
Ron Howard teaches directing, editing, and storytelling in 32 exclusive video lessons.
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There are a lot of very effective, wonderful directors who make great television shows and great movies that feature wonderful performances, and they don't really know how to talk to actors. They don't really do much. And the reality is if you are meticulous in your casting and you then create an environment where those actors are allowed to bring to the character that which they understand of that character, you have a very, very good chance of having wonderful performances. So as much as I love to modulate, experiment, and collaborate with actors, it is not the most important thing that I do on a day of directing. The most important thing I do is that overview of the story and understanding how to stage it, how to capture it, how to get it within the lens, the frames, that we're trying to create, and create an environment where those actors can give it their best. And then protect them and be there so that if they are moving off in a wrong direction, that's when it's imperative that you have the confidence and the relationship to be able to move in and help. But it's not essential that you lead them. It's essential that you protect them. [MUSIC PLAYING] I'm very lucky, because I have a reputation. Most people know that I was an actor, and so there's an inclination on most actor's part to trust me. So that's a huge advantage. That's always been kind of a building block of my process and my career. So I have a lot of confidence. Still, you do have to begin to build a working relationship and a collaboration, and it begins with discussion. And beginning to understand how the actor relates to the character, and how they relate to what you have to say about the character. Because a director is a powerful figure, and so is the actor, and I don't necessarily mean in terms of status. It's that actor has to take command over that character. You don't want somebody who just hits the marks and says the lines. You want somebody who's trying to inhabit it and bring something to it. You need them to be responsive to directions, so that, you know, if you disagree with a choice, they have the flexibility to give you what it is that you think you're looking for that the script demands. So you need to find this kind of equilibrium, this give and take. Different actors approach things in very different ways, and the sooner you can identify that, you know, without starting some kind of emotional wildfire, the better. Sometimes if actors intellectualize too much, they freeze. And you can over-discuss something, and there are some actors who really need very, very little direction, and they benefit from the simplest of directions. Faster, more pace, slower, just giving them a result, you know, louder. And then there are other actors that if that's the way you directed them, they would feel like puppeted robots and they'd be angry, and they'd feel that you're actually, you know, you're being reductive, and they operate from a psychological pla...

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.

This class has made me think more about how to collaborate with others on a project. Up to this point I have been more of a one-man band, but I believe I will need to be more collaborative in future productions.

This gives me a greater appreciation and understanding of the directors role. And how to approach the process to capture something 'in the frame'. How to prep the scene and the people, get the most out the collaborators.

This was great. I especially loved the lessons where he was talking about how he set up certain scenes of his, how he blocked scenes, how he worked with his actors. I also LOVED where he disected the scene from Raiders. Great stuff. I could go on and on about the things I liked.

You're the most modest film director I've come to know. Thanks for words of advice, most importantly the positivity and humbleness of your approach.


Pétainguy M.

Very interesting observation about actors freezing the character ... when they intellectualize too much.

Matthew B.

This might be me Sir but I got more experience walking in doors than most so thats why I know i can do this stuff just need some Luck and direction

Joseph N.

ROn's point about the actor giving you the insight or "word" that unlocks a scene is brilliant. Often as a director I feel like I am the one who needs to enlighten the cast but here its apparent that the actor's discovery if what he/she needs to do is electric and so wise. The results will surely be stronger than if the director takes charge and gives it all to them.


I am a hundred years away from being able to work with the caliber of actors who have the kind of power Ron Howard is talking about. As long as the actor is a pro, I have a tendency to be a bit envious of their ability.

J'nee H.

I like the advice of taking an acting class in order to get into the shoes of an actor, speak the language and build the trust.

Ruben R.

"Remind actors what their characters are going through WHEN their performance is not to par." -R. Howard. Great advice!

Grünenberg R.

I love the story at the end about the actors who can make the needles move unlike the acting laymen.

Elizabeth B.

Dear Mr. Howard, You are amazing to me. I have won a few awards on the three documentaries that I have made, and had in mind that I understood a bit about directing. I yearn to direct a feature now...and yet this class with you has made me understand how very little I actually know or have known...mostly I realize I have good instincts - but I haven't really known much about directing. Wow, listening to you is just a delight! I am also re-watching all of your movies that are available. I love this class. Thank you.


I took this class for insights on how directors think, feel and in order to adjust my writing to a language they can understand. My main interest is script-writing. I must tell you Ron, that each and every one of your classes here have been tremendously enriching, informative and entertaining; every one keeps exceeding my expectations making this course a real joy for me and, am positive, will make me a better writer.

Joseph S.

What a wonderful lesson and an amazing insight on how to work with actors. I recently worked with an actor, as a first time director, and feel I did all the wrong things. Mr. Howard helped me realize how important knowing the acting process really is in getting what you need. Take an acting class is good advice. Try to learn what kind of direction helps an actor, and what can shut them down. Casting is super important, as well as being efficient on set so when an actor has a problem you have the time to work it out. Try to find a word for an actor to grab onto that will make their target clearer. All such great help from Mr. Howard. I feel that he is such a smart and caring director, and so far this has been an excellent Masterclass.