Chapter 14 of 30 from Martin Scorsese

Costume Design

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Learn how to let character dictate costume and how to collaborate with actors to find the perfect clothing for roles.

Topics include: Allow for a Touch of Artistry in Your Costumes • Costumes Should Come From Character • Collaborate With Actors on Costume • Research to Find the Right Costume

Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking

In 30 lessons, learn the art of film from the director of Goodfellas, The Departed, and Taxi Driver.

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When you talk about costume design-- all right, let's say the block of classical cinema from Hollywood or from England from Italy, whatever. That's custom design. You're talking about about Piero Tosi, you're talking about The House of Tirelli in Rome, Visconti's films, and extraordinary things. But they're of a time and place. In other words, they are depicting period, and there's an aspect of accuracy, to say the least, and some-- what's the word-- a flourish to that accuracy. A touch of the artist, so to speak, beyond that. In the case of Minnelli directing Madame Bovary. They changed the period costuming, I believe to be around the 1870s or so in Paris, because they felt it was more interesting than the actual period the book was written about. I believe could be the 1840s. And so these things are-- once you make that kind of decision, you do have drawings from the 1840s, you do have drawings from the 1870s, you do have pictures from the 1920s. One of the key things I found, like in the Age of Innocence, for example costumes-- where it was an upper strata of society-- was I always wanted the costumes to feel lived in. That they shouldn't look like costumes. That was the idea, particularly the people in the street. The extras, or what they call now the atmosphere. In the case of Gangs of New York it's different. In the Gangs of New York we had license to go as far as we wanted with costumes. We got the Daybreak boys and the Swamp Angels. They work the River Luton ships. The Frog Haulers shanghai sailors down the bloody angle. The Shorttails was rough for a while, but they become a bunch of jack-rolling dandies, lolling around Murderer's Alley looking like Chinaman. The gangs did dress differently. Gangs dress differently today. Each one, so they know each other. They could see that person's wearing that. They could see it a block away. All right, be careful. There's this group coming and this person wears suspenders a certain way. They call them gallusus. The Bowery Boys behaved a certain way. They all had their own uniforms. There's the Plug Uglies. They're from somewhere deep in the old country. Got their own language. No one understands what they're saying. They love to fight the cops. And the Nightwalkers and Ratpickers were on. They work on their backs and kill with their hands. They're so scurvy only the Plug Uglies will talk to them, but who knows what they're saying? We could take license with that. In the case of the very few characters in the film of the upper classes, were more conventional. But everything else, you could let your mind go. [MUSIC PLAYING] Of course, films like Mean Streets or Taxi Driver or going up to After Hours, things like that, it's a different kind of costume design. In other words, it shouldn't be confused, I think, with the costume designers o...

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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 class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach to filmmaking, from storytelling to editing to working with actors. He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make—and watch—movies.

Watch, listen, and learn as Martin teaches his first-ever online class.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Martin will also answer select student questions.

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Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking