From Martin Scorsese's MasterClass

Channeling Your Influences

Martin encourages you to take inspiration from the work of other directors and discusses the significance of referencing other films in your own work.

Topics include: Draw Upon the Work of Other Directors • Direct References to Other Films


Martin encourages you to take inspiration from the work of other directors and discusses the significance of referencing other films in your own work.

Topics include: Draw Upon the Work of Other Directors • Direct References to Other Films

Martin Scorsese

Teaches Filmmaking

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I always found that going to see a film and studying it at the moment as you're watching it for the first time doesn't work. You have to let the film work on you or not. Then if you're hit by certain things, if you go there, and you go back, and you try to find very often if you imagine a sequence or a scene or two that's edited a certain way, you find that the camera wasn't that close. But it appeared that close in your memory. That's interesting. Why? Well, it may have been the use of sound effect, may have been use of a cut, you see, or a camera move that was imperceptible at first. So there was almost like a memorization of-- I guess, it was almost like a photographic memory of images, editing, sequences in the film, scenes, shots. And so I would draw upon that. Don't forget there was really no way of seeing these things unless it was shown on television again arbitrarily, or it was playing in a theater somewhere and you to go to find that theater. And so you had to do it from memory, whether it was the Marshal's badge on the dirt ground against the boot of Gary Cooper at the end of High Noon or part of the chariot race in Ben-Hur, you had to go and see the film again. You can make little drawings. I used to try to draw my own versions of these things from memory. And so I remember seeing The Small Back Room, a Paul Pressburger film, on television in an afternoon one day, I think, in the early to mid-'50s. And I remembered the mood of this film. It's a very strange film. I recall very, very clearly the opening title sequence. Particularly, there's a shot of a traffic light changing from red to green. Of course, it's a black-and-white film. But you do get the impression. It's the angle of the traffic light, and it's the rain that's in the frame around it. There's something about that shot that made it very powerful and memorable. And I only saw it once. And also through the windshield as that person is driving. Michael Goff, I think, is driving. in the beginning. And through the windshield, it's the London during the war. Everything is dark. And the windshield is-- the windshield wipers are wiping away this heavy rain. And you're looking through. And those two images became really key images for Taxi Driver. There's another shot in there too in Taxi Driver that he goes to buy guns, this is a specific reference, for example. But he goes to buy guns from Andy in the hotel room. And he picks up one of the guns. He goes to the window. And the gun is pointed at two or three women outside, I think, with an umbrella. But that's placed on a dolly or a track, and it tracks over. And there was always something I loved in this King Vidor's film Northwest Passage. There's an attack by the Native Americans against the Fort. And at one point, he has somebody with a rifle. Camera's shooting over that ...

Study with Scorsese

Martin Scorsese drew his first storyboard when he was eight. Today he’s a legendary director whose films from Mean Streets to The Wolf of Wall Street have shaped movie history. In his first-ever online film class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach, from storytelling to editing to working with actors. He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make and watch movies.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I love Scorcese but he is not a teacher. He is an artist who loves to talk about making movies, but I'm not sure I got much out of it.

Great way to spend time on the filmmaking procedure and film analysis.

One thing to improve is perhaps assignments of some sort

What a FANTASTIC opportunity to learn from one of the greatest American filmmakers! Thank you.



That shot he was talking about must have been an early vfx shot. its a canted angle yet the rain is falling vertical. Doesn't match up


The first time I became intrigued by the camera shots and motions was with the television series ER. I know they use a lot of "steady-cam" shots. They would always take at least one shot of the patient on the table from the patient and the nurse/doctor perspective. Then I began noticing on other shows and films.

Juan Pablo M.

Very interesting. Sometimes I realize of some of my influences when I finished a work. I mean I don´t decide a take or a ressource thinking about a director or a movie in particular, but when I see it on screen I discover the influence. Great lesson.

A fellow student

Any suggestions for where to find The Small Back Room? It's not available streaming anywhere, the Criterion is out of print, and there's no other DVD in this region.

Small note: A few names are misspelled in the English subtitles… Michael Ballhaus (not Michael Ballhouse) Powell-Pressburger (not Paul Pressburger).


This is a lesson that every filmmaker have to learn if they want to initiate in making films.

Jo E.

Excellent lesson...Pearls of amazing director giving great information.

Gene B.

Yes! Everyone, even the great professional filmmakers learn and gain influences from other greats in the past in order to become a great filmmaker! I feel like being heavily influenced and learning from references in various movies of great directors helps you in becoming a better filmmaker, as you watch movies you'll be able to differentiate between the good and bad aspects in the movie, whether it's the screenplay, editing, cinematography, directing, etc. Learning from influences can help you enhance knowledge and skills in creating a good piece :)

Aden K.

I often get caught up with references from others and like to know how to use their influences instead of depending on or needing them.

Dinar D.

There are many influential moments that can be discussed, but to be precise, The Vertigo Effect in Goodfellas, where the two guys discuss in a restaurant and the happening outside the window is also gaining importance. Similarly, the symbolic indications of any character before the character appears in person. This has created a great impact for The Joker in Christopher Nolan's - The Dark Knight. Both these scenes are indicatives and create a great impact.