From Martin Scorsese's MasterClass

Directing & Technology

Martin connects the atmosphere in which he first started making movies to the current climate of filmmaking, teaching you how technological advances can both help and hinder your creative process as a director.

Topics include: All You Need Is the Spark • Technology Will Not Direct for You • Take the Time to Absorb Your Choices

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Martin connects the atmosphere in which he first started making movies to the current climate of filmmaking, teaching you how technological advances can both help and hinder your creative process as a director.

Topics include: All You Need Is the Spark • Technology Will Not Direct for You • Take the Time to Absorb Your Choices

Martin Scorsese

Teaches Filmmaking

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I was able to get my hands on an 8 millimeter camera at one point. A friend of mine had it. And I shot a little silly film on the rooftops of the Lower East Side back, I think, in 1962 or so. But the very idea of making a film, a narrative film, even though I was aware of all the excitement around me, and maybe because of that too, the excitement of the American underground cinema, the American avant garde, the European avant garde. All these things were developing and were being available now that cinema could be anything. Cinema was anything you make it. All these things fed the desire to make a narrative film. I wanted to make a narrative film. And when I finally saw the film Shadows by John Cassavetes-- I think it was 1959 or 1960-- what it proved to us was that if you had a desire to tell a story as strongly as he had, and you were able to break away or not even be encumbered, should I say, and not be encumbered by a studio system, a way of the industry way of making a film with the very big crew, very, very heavy equipment, that was stopping, the creative impulse, in a way. So what happened was that there was very lightweight equipment. This enabled the filmmakers like Cassavetes, like Shirley Clarke, like many others, to be able to just open up the field and shoot almost as if you have today, for example, an iPhone-- would be a similar thing. And so these became truly, truly independent films. You realize there were no more excuses. If they were able to make a film this way in New York in 16 millimeter, the camera didn't have a tripod, and that's sort of thing, very, very little lighting, maybe none, there's no excuse now. You have to be able to do it. But the only thing you need-- and this is the most important thing-- is the spark, and the desire, and the passion to say something utilizing film. It turns out that where-- and it's difficult to try to encompass all of this. But there are many different aspects, different kinds of films that I was inspired by. Cassavetes' work within the scenes, with the people-- who happen to be actors, but with the people-- gave it a sense of authenticity and life that it felt like it was going to live off the screen. The screen couldn't inhabit it, it just couldn't hold it. But the Cassavetes thing was to explore that life and push it to the edge, and still try to keep-- if you're so inclined-- a particular narrative and storyline, and see if I can combine it all. It wasn't intentional that way, but that's what I felt. Because of the extraordinary technology around us at this point-- I mean people talk about the fact that anyone can make a film. It's true. Anyone can express themselves in visual images. But what's happening, one has to remember, is the technology is a tool. The same principles apply, which is your need to tell that story, your need to go through the process. And you happen to be us...

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.

Reviews

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

Gave me three words which will stick with me forever... do it anyway

I never thought I would have the opportunity to get the advise and guidance from Scorsese. I'm currently still processing and in awe for this artist!

I find Scorsese's master class very insightful and helpful. Without saying much about my first short film, Thank you for the information. This was great! and now ready to get to work.

Martin Scorsese is a grand teacher. He is so inspiring and teaches filmmaking in such a way that moves the students to strive for the impossible when it comes to movie making.

Comments

EK T.

When I was in college, it didn't even cross my mind to major in this area. It didn't occur to me that all this stuff was available. It was, but that was not where my head was at the time. Listening to Mr. Scorsese discuss how he came by the process he used, seems as though it took so much more than desires and sparks but a ton of money and some level of leadership to inspire others to see your vision. I had no idea what my vision was. On the other hand, it at least, makes me feel a little better, at this point to hear Mr. Scorsese say "The technology can't do the work for you", yet aspiring filmmakers have such an advantage; not only the technology, but gifted, successful artists like Mr. Scorsese. Mr. Ron Howard and Ms. Jody Foster to share their experiences to get you started or to keep you going. Take it all in, if you can. I would if I had more time.

Ryan R.

Regarding technology - if you are an iOS user - you may want to check out the following apps for your filmmaking ventures: Videoleap, Videorama, and Videoshop. :)

A fellow student

This is a great lesson for me. “Making choices” takes the place of “Absorbing”. Waiting is an important precess of film making. Thanks a lot.

Eric G.

In my very first film years ago, the director and screenwriter insisted we not use any special effects at all. My complaint initially was it was a sci-fi film and to some extent, this would be expected even in the simplest of scenes. My character was a combination of Dr. Who and Obi Wan Kenobi, and eternal time-traveling entity who could materialize at will anywhere in time. He said "no," with the primary reason being cost and it was definitely a LOW budget film. He accomplished this with camera shot angles instead in how the scenes were made. It worked. In one angle (more distant) I wasn't anywhere to be seen, in the next, I either casually walked into the scene or as panned in. Now, many years later, and watching this lesson, I have come to realize filmmaking has arguably become often too much about the SFx and less about the craft of pure creation. I just watched the new DC Films "Aquaman" and it definitely underwhelmed me with the extreme use of SFx in just their blatant overuse...much like Lucasfilms use of it in SW Ep 1, 2, and 3, with unbelievable CGI characters, and unlike Ep 3,4 and 5, more recently Titanic, Avatar, and Interstellar, or a direct comparative to DC's Black Panther where the SFx were directly integral to the plot actions. Technology should not direct the film, but given "audience conditioning" and profiteering focus as we see with Disney and Lucasfilms, we are unfortunately seeing more and more SFx and CGI greenbox location driven projects watering down the original style of pure dramatically simple filmmaking. For cost sake's alone, greenbox shooting has saved many a budget. I plan to use it in both my next two.

Richard J.

When I got into the film biz, I had to cut and sync (razor blades and scotch tape) just like Scorsese did. When I made the switch to video editing I started on the Sony 3/4 inch Beta machines. They were big, heavy and slow, but they were light years ahead of the old way of doing things. Then came computers and I was in love, it took a little time to adjust to the new tech, but it's just an electronic version of the editing process I had done in the past.

Robert A.

I agree. There are no excuses, because we all the technology we need. But it's not gonna do it for us, we need to direct with the technology. Anybody can make a film today. Spielberg even says that, that you can just take your iPhone and make a whole movie and post it, anyone can do that now. Awesome lesson Martin!!!. Thank you!!!. Onward!!!.

Andrea R.

Agree 100%; tecnology is a tool that you must control and use to your benefit, not the other way around.

Mia S.

"The issue of technology carries over particularly into the post-production, too - the editing itself of a film or visual narrative. In the days when we first started, of course, it was separate track and picture. If one wanted to make a dissolve of any special effect, it had to do a 'temp,' so to speak, it had to go to a lab; very often we didn't see these dissolves until he film was finished. But in this case, what's happening now is that - it's kind of exciting because you can see these different elements, pretty much immediately, with computer editing; many different effects can be seen and experienced right away, so that you could react immediately to it. Yet there is a drawback, and that is the immediate nature of it; very often I've found that once we made the switch to computer, that discussing how to make a change in a scene - what we were used to would take maybe 25, 30 minutes or so - as you're working on that change, splicing film, cutting, syncing up, whatever they're doing, you'd think about it possibly; or at least if you weren't thinking about it, you were in the presence of the change. You were experiencing the travel, from one version to the other. At a certain point I said, 'Why don't we try this, that?' and within two to three minutes it was done. So I had to learn to do without that process, a very valuable process of another way of filmmaking, of waiting - of waiting and absorbing what you're doing. This was something else, it threw me for quite awhile, because it was immediate, and almost at a certain point, there may be too many choices. What I began to understand is that one has to steel yourself against all these choices, somehow, learn to tame them. The only way to do that is keep focused on what you want to say. Cutting away the extraneous - sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn't, but it's a different medium this way, in terms of cutting that quickly and having everything at your fingertips. In such rate of speed, then you really are committed to the essence of what you're doing; there's no excuse to say, 'I've got to wait for this, that' - you really have to know what you're doing, even more so."

Mia S.

"Because of the extraordinary technology around us at this point - people talk about the fact that anyone can make a film, it's true; anyone can express themselves in visual images. But what's happening, one has to remember, is the technology is a tool. The same principles apply, which is your need to tell that story, to go through the process. You happen to be using digital as opposed to film, I have no idea - but the key thing is that the technology does not dictate the art. The art dictates the technology. The art comes first - you use the technology for the art, whatever that may be. I think there's a misconception today that because of the equipment, the equipment does it - easily done, you present a button and you have different sorts of visual effects. I learned this back with the Steadicam, I had designed fight sequences, nine of them, in very specific ways, so much so that they were all drawn images, I had storyboards for everything and designs and diagrams of the choreography of the fights themselves. Myself and the cinematographer worked out the camera moves - that is, the physical, actual use of the equipment at that time with no video assist (none of that sort of thing we have today). So for my director of photography, it did take longer than we thought to create these images that you see in those fight scenes because of the nature of the equipment, which means that - we planned 5 weeks to shoot the fight scenes, it took 10. There was one fight scene I thought we would do with this new instrument called the Steadicam, and we started shooting it. I did not design the shots, I just used the sense of the element that I thought the Steadicam would give me. After shooting for a day I realized, there was no way of getting around the design. The technology of this beautiful instrument was not going to direct the film for me. Something else was happening. So I scrapped it all and re-shot it and of course used the Steadicam for the long takes that are in the film, and then eventually understood the nature of it. But I had relied on this new technology to create a certain aspect of cinema which was still mysterious to me, and I realized at that point that I still had to be there, it wasn't going to do it for me. I wanted to see what the equipment gives me, but I still have to direct the equipment and know what the equipment is capable of, what I use it for. This is a very important point."

Mia S.

"I was able to get my hands on an 8 mm camera at one point - a friend of mine had it; I shot a little silly film on the rooftops of the Lower East Side. But the very idea of making a film, a narrative film - even though I was aware of all the excitement around me, and maybe because of that too; the excitement of the American underground cinema, American avant garde, European avant garde, all these things were developing and were being available now that cinema could be anything; cinema was anything you make it. All these things fed the desire to make a narrative film. When I finally saw 'Shadows' by John Cassavetes, what it proved to us was that if you had a desire to tell a story as strongly as he had - and you were able to break away, or not even be encumbered, should I say; not be encumbered by a studio system, the industry way of making a film, with a very big crew, very very heavy equipment, that was stopping the creative impulse, in a way. So what happened was there was very lightweight equipment - this enabled filmmakers to be able to just open up the field and shoot almost as if you have today an iPhone. These became truly independent films. You realize there were no more excuses; if they were able to make a film this way in New York in 16 mm, the camera didn't have a tripod, and that's sort of the thing - very little lighting, maybe none. There's no excuse now. You have to be able to do it. The only thing you need - and this is the most important thing - is the spark and the desire, the passion to say something utilizing film. It's difficult to try to encompass all of this - there are many different aspects, different kinds of films that I was inspired by. Cassavetes' work within the scenes, with the people (who happen to be actors) gave it a sense of authenticity and life that I felt like it was going to live off the screen - the screen couldn't inhabit it, just couldn't hold it. Cassavetes' thing was to explore that life and push it to the edge, and still try to keep a particular narrative and story line. 'See if I can combine it all.' It wasn't intentional that way, but that's what I felt."