Film & TV

Working With The Script

Martin Scorsese

Lesson time 15:19 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.

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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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...

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.

It helped me find different ways of thinking. It helped me strength some knowledge I have but mostly it inspires me. I watched every episode multiple times and took notes and I don't think I am done yet.

I learned from the best! I'll find my way out.

Martin Scorsese One of the Masters in film. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us!

Enjoy his work. Didn't think too much about his teaching style. Basically go figure it out for yourself


Teddy W.

Screenplay is a blueprint. Shooting is rewrite the screenplay, Editing is the rewrite the screenplay. After preview it will rewrite again. So, screenplay is always rewrote. You will find new things on these progress.

Michael S.

Question: once I finnish a script, I am so involved and connected to it thay it is really difficult for me to read and criticize it objectively. So far the only technique that really works is to put it away for at least 5 years and basically forgetting about it until digging it out and reading it as almost a work of somebody else. Any ideas or techniques? Happy for every input!


I can't read my own scripts without rewriting no matter how happy I was with the last draft. I absolutely understand what he means when he says the screenplay is a stepping stone toward the finished film.

Jo E.

A script is not written in stone, for me it's a living thing that keeps developing and changing throughout a project. If an actor really digs deep into their character and feels their character should say or do something they feel strongly about I think they should be able to go with it because it may bring more to a scene IMHO. Great Lesson...I keep learning and absorbing...!

Eric G.

Scorsese is known for his ability to work with actors on set to change or develop a character within the plot according to how the actor feels the character would say or do something. This has led him to direct some pretty amazing projects over the years and, IMO, placed him where he is today in the craft as a master.

Dinar D.

It was more enlightening, that research, plot and character study is so much more important to design a better story that the audience and we as directors can relate to. Based on Mr. Scorsese's techniques as I drafted and reworked on my script, I learned that even the profession of the character, that goes blind, can contribute to the expression of the feeling that he cannot see anymore. This made me rework on the character and the plot through research about the ways a singer who goes blind, would express himself to the fact of going blind.

Gene B.

The script in a film is the core and the main part of what drives the film! As a result, rewriting the script over and over again could make the characters and the structure of the plot more evolved and add more value to the end product and make it a better film.

Stewart M.

i love the fact that you actually have to know who your character is, the trust and encouragement he gives his actors for improvisation .

Robert G.

Great stuff! But how do you not show clips from Deniro's "You talking to me" and/or Pesci's "You think I'm funny, I'm like a clown to you."

Brandon S.

I've found that re-writing is part of the process. I've seen my own scripts evolve so much, but it's usually sort of like trimming off "fat"; those elements that don't add tons of value to the picture as a whole. At the same time though, there have been scenes I've shot that fall away when we're editing, which is like another form of writing.