Arts & Entertainment

Working With The Script

Martin Scorsese

Lesson time 15:20 min

Martin shows you his process for reading scripts and how he goes about forming ideas. He also teaches you important lessons regarding research and explains how to further develop your script in rehearsal.

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

Topics include: The Script Is Just the Beginning • Use Research to Enrich Your Story • Rehearsals As Writing Sessions • Structure and Improvisation • Plot and Character


One of the key things, no matter how great a screenplay is, or what form it takes, really, one has to remember that it's not the final product. The final product is the film. So the screenplay is a step to get to the film. And a lot of things could happen between those two stages of development, so to speak. A terrific director and filmmaker named Alexander Mackendrick, said that scripts aren't written, they're rewritten. I remember once, I was trying to work with a really great writer. And it was a friend of mine, warned me, listen this guy is great, he said, but you only get one draft out of him. For this writer, one draft and his job was done. But for me, it wasn't done. I mean, working that way, I had to find that, for me, it's somewhat-- it's really just the beginning. I have to go further with it. I mean, I read the draft and I react to it in terms of what I'm seeing in my mind. Or it sparks something new for me. And we build on that, or we alter it. And then the next draft sparks something else, and so on, and so on. And it really is a process of discovery. But primarily, in the case of coming up with an idea, or having a theme that I want to explore, or working on an adaptation of a novel. Or a adaptation, or I should say, of nonfiction material. In a sense, particularly nonfiction material, is just the beginning, in terms of the script. Especially if you don't have a structural concept, and a visual structural concept, and it's not on the page yet. It's almost a matter of taking it down, and in a sense, distilling the non-fictional source material, until you get it to the size of a film, in a way. I think it was the story of Sartre writing Freud for John Huston. Where he came in, the screenplay was 200 pages. And Huston-- and this is paraphrasing --Huston supposedly said, it's really good but it's too long. Could you go back and see if I can't. He said, Well, I think I can make it even clearer. And he said, good. Well go ahead and do that. And he came back with a screenplay of 300 pages. And it was clearer. It's just that it still wasn't a picture that Huston could make at that time under those circumstances. [MUSIC PLAYING] I love the richness of elements that we put into the film, based on research. The rules of the world of the picture revealed themselves as you develop it. So your research into the way of life for the period, or the particular customs and habits of a particular part of the world, are going to be something that you must feel comfortable with, something that you can rely on, something that gives you the bedrock of the picture. But again, it's really important not to let the research lead you away from what sparked you making the film in the first place. When we were researching "The Age of Innocence", "Gangs of New York", and "Silence", the research led us into many fascinating dir...

About the Instructor

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.

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Martin Scorsese

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

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