5 Important Tips for Directors from Martin Scorsese
Did you ever dream of sitting down with Martin Scorsese for drinks, and just talking about film and directing for half an hour? Well, your dream has just come true.
We all have been influenced by Martin Scorsese in one way or another. Maybe it’s the way he tells a story, or that he isn’t afraid of being experimental with his camera movements or score.
On an episode of John Favreau’s Dinner for Five, Favreau sits down with Scorsese and talks about everything film from inspiration to some of Scorcese’s strongly held 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 undercut the scene
Plain enough. Give every scene its full moment to carry the weight of what the story is trying to say.
Pull the emotion of the film through a long shot that holds on to a character’s reaction, and don’t undersell the tension of a scene for the sake of the audience’s comfort. The audience doesn’t need to be told that everything will be all right at the end of a scene with a score that is uplifting, because what if everything isn’t all right in the end?
Create the story you want to tell, and tell it fully. The audience will respond to great filmmaking without you having to hold their hand.
Choose story over plot
Scorsese has made it clear that he is a big fan of the story. While revisiting films he watched as a child, he noted that the films he valued have character and a different approach to the story.
Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man has a distinct mood and paranoid style that is created through the camera. The camera style and how it shapes a character’s perspective can create a story that is interesting to watch.
That is why people go back to their favorite films and movies. It’s not so much for the plot, because you know the plot, but it’s for the way the story is being told.
'Raging Bull'Credit: United Artists
Subjective perception is more real than reality
Staying in the character’s mind and perspective is huge.
For Scorsese, this means creating shots that emphasize how the world moves around the character. Typically, Scorcese shoots in 32 to 36 frames per second but will add a few more frames to show a punch and let it make contact with a person's face. He will even choose to skip frames to create a hyper-realistic feeling in a film.
This can be criticized for being stylized and removed from reality, but what it does create is energy. It’s the energy of the main character; it’s their perspective of reality.
Slow-motion, freeze-frame, and skipping frames highlights the character’s world that the audience is seeing.
Sometimes, sacrificing the shot for the performance is the right thing to do
Imagine this: the actors are performing their best performance of a scene, and then the camera gets bumped. What do you do? You can shoot it again, but the acting might not be as good as it was in that last take.
Don’t sweat it, because Scorcese says it's all right. Camera bumps happen. It happened in Casino when Sharon Stone’s character Ginger McKenna is crying on the bed, but Scorsese believed that Stone’s performance was so good that the camera bump didn’t matter. The audience should be so into the moment that any bumps are almost unnoticeable or feel authentic to the action. If they care about a bump, they are being too critical.
'Casino'Credit: Universal Pictures
Let everyday life influence your work
It seems simple, yet a lot of directors don’t follow this idea. For Scorsese, outside influences include music from the radio, voices he hears on the streets, and keeping the film honest.
When it comes to music for a film, Scorsese chooses a needle drop because that is what he hears every day. Like many creative people, Scorsese pictures a world influenced by a song he hears, saying his life is scored by source music.
But beware of how you use a needle drop in your film. If the source music is just placed for a nostalgic feeling, the audience may lose interest in the scene; instead, listen to the atmosphere that the music creates or how the lyrics help juxtapose a scene. Music doesn’t have to manipulate the audience to feel that everything will be all right at the end because again, that may be a straight-up lie.
A needle drop is also great if you need a score for a low-budget film. It adds feeling and production value and immediacy that brings everyone into the exact feeling you need the audience to be without manipulating them.
In Scorsese’s film, The Last Temptation of Christ, he opted for the characters to use the actor’s regular speaking voice instead of the beautiful language of the Bible. This was purposefully done to show the reality of the situation and bring the audience closer to the heart of the story. Scorsese felt that if the language was only being looked at for its beauty and not its substance, then the theme of the film would disappear.
'The Last Temptation of Christ'Credit: Universal Pictures
Everyday influences can work to modernize a piece of work for an audience to relate to or understand more clearly. Again, don’t undercut the audience. They don’t need to be comforted by the story you’re telling.
What are your favorite tips from Scorsese's work? Let us know in the comments below!
Source: Electronic Nostalgia