Ron Howard and Russell Crowe
Ron Howard directs Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind (2001). Photo: Adger W. Cowans/Universal

Learn to Trust; Earn Your Trust

I know from being on the other side of the lens how important it is for the director to be able to communicate and earn everyone’s trust. The first few times I directed, I only thought about recording the actors’ performances. Every once and a while I would get an idea about how framing a shot could have an impact, but I didn’t really understand that part of filmmaking in the beginning. I’m always prodding myself and whatever cinematographer I’m working with to try to encourage me to think of ways to assist the actor with the composition and cinematic choices.

There’s a tendency to overlook the value of collaboration. But without the inspiration and the hard work of so many people in front of and behind the camera, it just never ever would be the same.

I take so much personal joy and emotional and psychological nourishment from being involved and at the center of this creative swirl, this project, with everybody pulling together. I always say it’s a lot like an expedition. Everybody has to pull together to get across the river, over the mountain or through the gorge.

Never Stop Learning; Keep Challenging Yourself

Film is a medium that can’t be mastered, and that’s the good news. I’m still learning all the time.

There aren’t hard, fast rules for deciding on a project. But first of all I have to feel that I intuitively understand something about the subject and that I’m going to be able to express it. I have to believe that once I’m sharing the result of everybody’s effort with audiences that they aren’t going to feel like they wasted their time watching the movie.

I do use these movies as life experiences. I’m not naturally a very adventurous person. But if I have a choice between a film that’s going to challenge me in ways or take me to places that I haven’t been before, and another film that I might understand thematically but it’s kind of familiar territory in some way, I am going to take the one that’s going to provide the adventure and force me to stretch and learn something.

I think craft is important. It’s great to learn about craft; it’s valuable. But never mistake it as a replacement for inspiration. Creativity is always going to drive this. So the craft is not the enemy of creativity, it’s the support system.

<< Return to Q & A