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5 Essential Tips for Martin Scorsese Directors

Have you ever dreamed of having a drink with Martin Scorsese and talking about the film and directing for just half an hour? Well your dream just came true.

We have all been influenced in one way or another by Martin Scorsese. Maybe it’s the way he tells a story, or that he’s not afraid to experiment with his camera moves or his score.

On an episode by John Favreau Dinner for five Favreau sits down with Scorsese and talks about everything film related, from inspiration to some of Scorsese’s strong opinions about the world of filmmaking. Check out the video below for the full interview.

Here are five big highlights from the interview!

Don’t go below the scene

Easy enough. Give each scene the full moment to carry the weight of what the story is trying to tell.

Drag the movie’s emotions through a long shot that captures a character’s reaction, and don’t undercut the tension of a scene to comfort the audience. The audience doesn’t need to be told that at the end of a scene with an uplifting score, everything will be fine, because what if everything doesn’t end well?

Create the story you want to tell and tell it fully. Audiences will respond to great filmmaking without you having to hold hands.

Choose story over plot

Scorsese has made it clear that he’s a huge fan of the story. In reviewing films he watched as a kid, he found that the films he cherished had character and a different approach to the story.

Alfred Hitchcocks The wrong man has a distinct mood and a paranoid style created by the camera. The style of camera and the way it shapes a character’s perspective can make for an interesting story.

That is why people return to their favorite movies and films. It’s not so much for the plot because you know the plot, but it’s for the way the story is told.


‘Wild Bull’Recognition: United artists

Subjective perception is more real than reality

It’s huge to stay in the character’s mind and perspective.

For Scorsese, this means creating footage that emphasizes how the world moves around the character. Typically, Scorcese shoots at 32 to 36 frames per second, but adds a few more frames to show a punch and make contact with a person’s face. It’ll even skip frames to create a hyper-realistic feel in a movie.

This can be criticized for being stylized and removed from reality, but what it creates is energy. It’s the main character’s energy; it is their perspective of reality.

Slow motion, still and jump images highlight the character’s world that the audience sees.

Sometimes it is right to sacrifice the shot for the performance

Imagine this: the actors are doing the best performance on a scene, and then the camera is bumped. How are you? You can shoot it again, but the acting may not be as good as the last take.

Don’t sweat because Scorcese says everything is fine. Camera bumps happen. It happened in casino when Sharon Stone’s character Ginger McKenna cries on the bed, but Scorsese believed Stone’s performance was so good that the camera bump didn’t matter. The audience should be so immersed in the moment that bumps go almost unnoticed or feel authentic to the action. If they are taking care of a bump, they are too critical.


‘Casino’Recognition: Universal images

Let everyday life influence your work

It seems easy, but a lot of directors don’t follow this idea. For Scorsese, outside influences include music on the radio, voices he hears on the street, and the honesty of the film.

When it comes to music for a movie, Scorsese chooses a pin drop because he hears it every day. Like many creative people, Scorsese portrays a world influenced by a song he hears and says his life is determined by the source music.

However, be careful how you use a needle drop in your film. If the source music is placed just for a nostalgic feel, the audience can lose interest in the scene. Instead, listen to the atmosphere the music creates or how the lyrics help juxtapose a scene. Music doesn’t have to manipulate the audience to feel like everything will be fine in the end, because that too can be a direct lie.

A pinprick is also great when you need a score for a low budget movie. It adds feel and production value and immediacy that get everyone into the exact feel the audience needs to have without manipulating them.

In Scorsese’s film The last temptation of ChristHe chose to have the characters use the actor’s regular voice instead of the beautiful language of the Bible. This was done purposefully to show the reality of the situation and bring the audience closer to the core of the story. Scorsese felt that the subject of the film would go away if the language was looked at only for its beauty rather than its substance.


“The Last Temptation of Christ” Recognition: Universal images

Everyday influences can help modernize a work so that audiences can relate to it or understand it better. Again, you shouldn’t undercut the audience. You don’t need to be comforted by the story you tell.

What are your favorite tips from Scorsese’s work? Let us know in the comments below!

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