Chapter 18 of 32 from Ron Howard

Working with Actors: Part 1

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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.

Topics include: Protect Your Actors • Understand How They Approach Their Role • Take Acting Classes • Prepare for Every Moment • Trust Experienced Actors to Get There

Ron Howard

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 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