Chapter 11 of 30 from Martin Scorsese

Directing Actors


Martin teaches you the importance of getting in front of the camera as a director. You'll also learn how to build a trusting relationship with your actors, how to make time for them to experiment, and when to stop talking and start to shooting.

Topics include: Get in Front of the Camera • Give Actors the Freedom to Fail • You and the Actor Must Trust Each Other • Shoot Around Tricky Situations

Martin teaches you the importance of getting in front of the camera as a director. You'll also learn how to build a trusting relationship with your actors, how to make time for them to experiment, and when to stop talking and start to shooting.

Topics include: Get in Front of the Camera • Give Actors the Freedom to Fail • You and the Actor Must Trust Each Other • Shoot Around Tricky Situations

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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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 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.


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

To paraphrase Mr. Scorsese's final lesson, I've learned to "guard the spark" that defines my desire to create films.

Martin's passion for movies is infectious, and his constant encouragement of staying the course despite the often overwhelming odds of completion gives those who have the need to make to go ahead. Thanks Martin...

I've learned many insights that have never come to mind before. This is my first masterclass, but I hope I can go back and review each lesson when I feel the need.

Terrific! This class and that of David Mamet are worth the annual price of admission alone. I already write/produce/direct for the major networks in LA and find great comfort in knowing that even the icons of the art form encounter the same issues, fears and feelings of inadequacy.


Brett B.

This is so true. In the limited time and projects I have directed or produced, it is so important to let the actors explore. It is essential really to let them work things out during rehearsal as well. I, as a teacher, had a student back out of a project because he was behind in his studies, and couldn't afford to spend time on the film anymore. The teacher in me let him do that, because after all, school is school. However, we had already filmed half of his scenes, so we had to recast and start over, squeezing the scenes into our schedule. It wasn't easy, but the new actor was even better. I think it worked out for the best for everyone.

Jo E.

Great Lesson…! I totally agree with Scorsese that it's important for a Director to understand what the actor is going through and put himself or herself in the actor's shoes so to speak, build trust and a relationship over time.

Evan L.

Since I was around ten, I was a member of a youth acting group called Six Stools and a Folding Chair. I was a member of the troupe for five musicals until they disbanded. In my first year, I got cast in the main role of "Oliver!", somehow. Afterwards, I played background roles in "Camelot" and "Bye Bye Birdie" before working as a secondary character in "Curtains". I don't remember much of my coaching for "Oliver!", but during my experience for my final musical, "Godspell," I would gain insight into what makes a good relationship between an actor and a director. "Godspell" retells the story of Jesus for a contemporary world. In it, I served the short but important role of John the Baptist, a character who delivered one long speech for his following before baptizing the Lord and leaving the stage. I was struggling with my monologue (in my defense I was fourteen), so our director, Mrs. Sais-Lee, sent me off to a small room within the church where we developed and rehearsed the production. In that room, she and I discussed that I didn't have much of a presence for my performance, and she made it clear that John was a public speaker, and the people in the back of both audiences needed to believe what I was preaching. In that little room, I practiced my monologue over and over, opening myself up to play the performative spirit I must embody on stage, and my bond with Sais-Lee grew strong over that meeting. Even though my time at the play was quite a few years ago now, because of my experience at 6 Stools, my experience there helped me understand the challenge actors must overcome for their performances. In order to capture the truth onstage, I had to explore my character, and there are no shortcuts to that outcome. I needed room to embarrass myself, and a trust with my director was necessary for me to go where I needed to go. I also understand how difficult that is to achieve, and how tricky it is to inhabit the truth through performance, so I must choose my actors very carefully.

Eric G.

Well said, and spot on. Coming into filmmaking as a well trained and seasoned actor, I truly appreciate this perspective. In business, it is said, "why hire someone to do a job for you who you consider an expert and then proceed to tell him how to do it." Director and actors must share the "vision" of the film and do it together, otherwise, there will be the infamous "artistic differences." As an actor, I wouldn't work with a director who I didn't trust, didn't like, or did share the "vision" of the character I was portraying. As a producer or director, I don't want the same from an actor. Do it for the money? If its a "pay to play," then they better be the best of the best, but ultimately it could limit the end results of the film.

Robert A.

Every lesson just gets better and better whenever you think "it can't get any better than this". And then it does. I love this class!!!. Thanks Martin!!!.

Gene B.

For a director to direct actors, I agree that directors must know how it is to act and the pressure that the actors are carrying while in front of the camera to execute and perform well. Plus, trust is a key component in building a strong relationship that allows the actor and director to understand each other better and synchronize better to work as a. team and make the production process goes smoothly. A great and crucial lesson for aspiring filmmakers like me, and others!

Karmen B.

I haven't responded yet to the lessons because I find myself, after each lesson, in complete awe of Martin as a person - feeling his big warm heart expressing his knowledge richly coupled with years of experience in making films, drawing on all aspects of his own cultural background while expanding and growing. I feel deeply privileged to having this opportunity to follow your guidance and expertise, Mr. Scorsese.


Empathy and trust are the main skills I think a director needs. Also you need to vibrate high. this means to be able to understand their needs, listen to them but never let them to take the power. The point is to be in a higher vibration than their vibration. For that I´m learning mentoring with the best liders we have in Spain. I hope this helps me.

Santiago M.

So powerful . I wish all directors gave us a chances to explore. I think that’s be where the magic / substance can be found.

Sydne H.

Feeling like I am on the right path and I feel further encouraged by watching these lessons. As an aspiring director, I've recently started Improv classes and working in friend's projects so it's very refreshing and reassuring to hear Scorsese emphasize the importance of putting yourself in the actor's shoes as well.