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Arts & Entertainment

Martin Scorsese’s Top 3 Tips for Location Scouting

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 2, 2020 • 2 min read

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Martin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking

Location scouting, sometimes called a “tech scout,” is the part of pre-production (the planning phase) for any film, television show, or commercial, where a locations manager finds all the physical settings needed for a film project. Not every production requires—or has access to—a studio lot and sound stages, so finding the right shooting location is key. Finding locations is usually done with your location manager and a few key members of your production team. Find out more about the job of a location manager in our guide here.

Filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who has over 50 years experience directing some of cinema’s most notable films such as Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995), The Departed (2006), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), and The Irishman (2019), shares his tips on finding the perfect locations.

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Martin Scorsese Teaches FilmmakingMartin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking

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Martin Scorsese’s Top 3 Tips for Location Scouting

Locations are a key element in any production, and it can sometimes be difficult to find the right location for your film as there are many logistical and aesthetic factors to consider.

Here are Martin Scorsese’s tips for finding the perfect location:

  1. See the space in person. Pictures and videos aren’t enough to get the feel of a place. While image searches and real estate sites make it easier to look for a new location, digital media can often be visually unreliable. You should always see a potential place with your own eyes, so scouting locations in person is advised. It might take a long time to get to a potential location, and upon arriving you might not be satisfied, but take solace in the fact that this is all part of the process.
  2. View the location at different times of day. Consider the color, texture, and mood of the location in all different lighting conditions to better understand how they will affect the space during filmmaking. Visualize how the effects of this particular setting will function in your production, both physically and emotionally. Shoot a few minutes of test footage. Discuss what the space will need with your production designer, and figure out what is possible with what you have.
  3. Be a creative problem solver. Whether it’s due to the budget or a place’s limitations, sometimes a film location needs more than one location. For The Age of Innocence, Martin needed to replicate the feel of 1870s New York. In order to do this, he had to utilize several filming locations. While the film production primarily shot in Troy, New York, Martin also ventured outside to Boston and Philadelphia, working with his production designer to piece them together to form one coherent world. In Taxi Driver, Martin used one apartment building for several locations. Because the building was going to be torn down, they were able to cut through the ceiling to create a track for the elaborate overhead shot at the end of the film. For Mean Streets, set in New York’s Little Italy neighborhood, Martin had to film most of the movie in Los Angeles due to budgetary constraints.

Want to Become a Better Filmmaker?

Whether you’re a budding director, screenwriter, or filmmaker, navigating the movie business requires plenty of practice and a healthy dose of patience. No one knows this better than legendary director Martin Scorsese, whose films have shaped movie history. In Martin Scorsese’s MasterClass on filmmaking, the Oscar winner deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, from storytelling to editing to working with actors.

Want to become a better filmmaker? The MasterClass Annual Membership provides exclusive video lessons from master filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Jodie Foster, Werner Herzog, Spike Lee, and more.

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