Ron Howard's Directing MasterClass

Throughout the second half of 2019, I went through my second MasterClass, "Ron Howard Teaches Directing." I'm a big fan of MasterClass in general—their classes are well-structured, have high-quality video, and have instructors that are masters of their craft. These aren't just celebrities; they're some of the best writers, filmmakers, etc. working today.

I tried to treat it as much like a real class as possible: I did the lessons on a fairly scheduled basis, and often moved on to the next lesson only after I had done my "homework," assignments that are given at the end of most lessons. I also took notes, and bound them along with the class workbook when I was done for future reference.

By far my favorite part of the class was a set of seven lessons near the end, in which Ron directed a group of actors and camera operators as they staged a scene from Ron's film Frost/Nixon (2008). It's an amazing opportunity to be a fly on the wall, watching an A-list director ply his craft. He takes you through rehearsing with the actors, staging a master shot, shooting coverage and a oner, and shooting for a low-budget or indie film. Along the way he gives the actors adjustments, tries POV shots, and often speaks directly to the "class." He's completely focused on teaching you these concepts, and it's terrific.

I heartily recommend the class. Ron is enthusiastic and inspiring. He seems like he'd be a great director to work for—collaborative, but with a vision; not overly firm, but neither wavering. And he's a great instructor. It's clear that he's passionate about teaching these concepts, and for $90, it's an incredible deal.

When it comes to collaboration, try to keep the kind of mental/emotional equilibrium so that you know you're open and you hear everybody—but ultimately you listen to yourself.
Ron Howard

Further learning: Ron Howard Teaches Directing by MasterClass

Write What You Believe In

…write something you really believe in. And, for heaven's sake, don't hurry. Play with your manuscript, enjoy yourself. Watch you characters grow. Draw characters who live in society, whose actions are forced by necessity, and you will find that you've bettered your chances of selling the play. Don't write for the producers or for the public. Write for yourself.

—Lajos Egri

Further Reading: The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri

On Soapboxes

Don’t be pedantic. Never use your play as a soapbox. Have a message, by all means, but have it naturally and subtly. Don’t let your protagonist break out of character and make a speech. The audience will quiver in embarrassed empathy and take refuge in laughter. … You need not make a speech to make a protest.

—Jeanne Michael, as quoted by Lajos Egri in The Art of Dramatic Writing

Further Reading: The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri

The 2020 Oscar-Nominated Screenplays

One of my favorite times of year is awards season, because we get to read the words that became the moving images that we loved in the prior year. This year’s crop of Oscar-nominated screenplays features a ton of variety, from whodunits, to war films, to intimate dramas. I can’t wait to read Jojo Rabbit, The Two Popes, and Little Women, in particular.

All of the nominated screenplays, except Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, are included below, and I've paired as many as I could with podcast interviews with the writer. The script downloads may not last long, so grab them while you can!

Nominees for Best Original Screenplay

1917 by Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns | The Q&A interview
Knives Out by Rian Johnson | The Director's Cut interview
Marriage Story by Noah Baumbach | Scriptnotes Episode 435, featuring Noah Baumbach
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino (not available) | The Director's Cut interview
Parasite by Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Wan

Nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman by Steven Zaillian
Jojo Rabbit by Taika Waititi | The Director's Cut interview
Joker by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver | The Director's Cut interview
Little Women by Greta Gerwig | Scriptnotes Episode 433, featuring Greta Gerwig | The Q&A interview
The Two Popes by Anthony McCarten | The Q&A interview

As a bonus, Jeff Goldsmith continues his tradition of interviewing the Oscar-nominated writers! Listen to his panel discussion here.

David Condolora is a storyteller in games, film, and beyond.