Martin Scorsese Masterclass: Learn Directing from the Master
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 class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach to filmmaking, from storytelling to editing to working with actors. He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make—and watch—movies.
Click below to watch the trailer and pre-enroll in his class:
Martin Scorsese Masterclass: Learn Directing from the Master
- Martin Scorsese teaches you directing, filmmaking, and storytelling across 20+ video lessons.
- Interactive exercises
- A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.
- Lifetime access, with classes that never expires
- Learning materials and workbooks
- Accessible from any device
- Watch, listen, and learn as Martin Scorsese Masterclass teaches his most comprehensive film directing class ever.
- Office Hours: Upload work to get feedback from the class. Martin Scorsese will also critique select student work.
If this class is anything like past masterclass’ you are in for a treat.
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Martin Scorsese Teaches Us All
Known for movies depicting the harsh realities of American life and careful filmmaking style, renowned director and producer Martin Charles Scorsese was born on the 1st of November 1942, in Flushing New York.
He was raised by his Italian-American parents in the Little Italy district of Manhattan which is fondly remembered by him as a village in Sicily. Both of his parents Charles and Catherine worked part-time as actors and had a hand in setting the stage for their son at an early age.
Scorsese’s childhood activities were quite limited due to his severe case of asthma, and rather than playing sports his older brother, would take him to a movie theater or he would spend most of his time in front of the television.
This was the age when his love for cinema developed and gradually turned into his passion. He loved stories about Italian experiences and was especially besotted with the work of Michael Powell. At the age of eight years, he was already drawing his own storyboards and got seriously interested in filmmaking.
Although he was raised in a catholic environment and for a while also weighed the idea of entering priesthood before he decided to pursue filmmaking.
Scorsese knew that he was headed down the right path when he earned $500 scholarship to New York University with his 10-min comedy short.
Martin Scorsese attended the Tisch School of the Arts of New York University doing his B.A in English 1964 and M.F.A films in 1966. He made short films like What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1963) and It’s Not Just You, Murray! (1964).
After completion of MFA, Scorsese worked as a film instructor briefly. In the year 1968, Scorsese made his first feature length film a black and white I Call First later retitled Who’s That Knocking at My Door? a close portrayal of life in the streets of Little Italy,with his fellow student actor Harvey Keitel and an editor Thelma Schoonmaker both of whom were to become part of his team for 40 years.
Another short film of note is The Big Shave. Watch below:
Mean Streets which was directed by Scorsese in 1973 was first of his films to be acknowledged and praised worldwide as a masterpiece.
Featuring the same characters from Who’s That Knocking at My Door?, the film depicted the elements which had become the signature style of Scorsese’s films like unsympathetic lead characters, dark themes, the Mafia, religion and uncommon camera techniques combined with contemporary music.
Brian De Palma, who had introduced Scorsese to Robert De Niro, Mean Girls sparked the most dynamic filmmaking partnerships to have blossomed in Hollywood history.
Hard hitting films which aided in the redefinition of the generation of cinema were made by Scorsese in the 1970s and 1980s. Taxi Driver which is a realistic masterpiece of 1976 earned Scorsese the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival which fixed the status of De Niro as a living movie legend permanent.
Soon after Scorsese had made the documentary about this parents, Italianamerican (1974), he started on his first studio picture Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974).
An effective drama about a widow Alice (Ellen Burstyn) who sets off to California from Mexico, after the demise of her abusive husband and her teenaged son (Alfred Lutter). Ellen Burstyn won the Oscar for Best Actress which made a point about Scorsese disciplining his one of a kind talent.
After proving that a conventional film could come from him, Scorsese shocked the film viewers with Taxi Driver (1976) which was a cringing tour of a disturbed Vietnam veteran’s odd madness. Written by Paul Schrader and scored by Bernanrd Herrmann, it is a fascinating and horrifying watch.
De Niro gave a remarkable performance as Travis Bickle and Keitel did justice to his small but key role of the threatening and seductive pimp Sport, keeping the 12-year-old Iris (Jodie Foster) in slavery. Scorsese cast himself in a small cameo of a jealous husband.
It is known as the most disturbing and most controversial Oscar nominee for best picture till now. Taxi Driver won Oscar nominations for De Niro, Foster and Herrman. It was awarded the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival and is considered to be the best work of Scorsese.
New York, New York (1977) was a rethought of the 1950s musical of Hollywood which was marked by its elaborate sets and unnatural lighting. It was made to look that way specially to arouse the triumphs of the past by George Cuker and Vincente Minnelli.
Featuring De Niro as the cocky character of Jimmy Doyle who is a saxophone player working in a big band with lead singer is Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli). Their love affair could not survive and this the self-destructive Jimmy drifts away from the domestic life and pregnant Francine.
De Niro performed very convincingly while Minelli was able to evoke her mother (Judy Garland) with staggering authority. Though critical reviews were mixed, it was a commercial flop which later developed a cult following because of the obvious affection for Hollywood it depicted.
The 80s brought some really great films by Scorsese. In 1980, he made the brutal but brilliant Raging Bull which was a loose adaptation of Schrader and Mardik Martin about a former middleweight boxing champion Jake La Motta.
Scorsese made this violent biopic which he called a Kamikaze method filmmaking. It was voted the greatest movies of the 1980s receiving eight Oscar nominations which included Best Actor (for De Niro), Best Picture and Best Director.
De Niro won and Thelma Schoonmaker for editing. Raging Bull was filmed in high contrast black and white and this is where Scorsese’s style reached its peak.
Scorsese’s fifth collaboration with Robert De Niro was his next project, The King of Comedy (1983). Again De-Niro gave a very original performance as a stand-up comedian Rupert Pupkin. It is a mockery of the media world and celebrities and how a loner character becomes famous through a criminal act.
Rupert practices a lot but has no talent that is why he fails and ends up kidnapping a late-night TV star Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) in exchange for a 10 minutes time on his show. Failing at the box office, it has become increasingly well acclaimed and regarded by the critics in the years since the release.
The German director Wim Wenders counts it amongst his 15 favorite films.
After Hours (1985) happened to be a small but an amusing diversion of its kind which was made by Scorsese in an underground filmmaking style. Featuring Griffin Dunne as a mild New York word processor who is in endangered because of some lunatics he comes across on a long strange night.
Michael Ballhaus was the cinematographer of this low budgeted film which was shot on location in SoHo neighborhood. It is a rather unusual depiction of what Scorsese could do if he only wanted his viewers to have fun.
Along with the music video for Michael Jackson’s Bad in 1986, Scorsese made The Color of Money which was a sequel to a much appreciated and loved The Hustler (1961) of Robert Rossen. The movie starred Paul Newman with Tom Cruise co-starring. It was Scorsese’s first official attempt in to mainstream filmmaking.
Fast Eddie (Newman) now retired, smells new talent in the pool shark Vincent Lauria (Cruise) and taking him under his wing, shares all of this knowledge. But they part ways and face each other at an Atlantic City tournament.
The Color of Money earned Paul Newman his Oscar and also offered Scorsese the power to finally secure his backing for a project which had been a goal for him for a long time: The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).
The Last Temptation of Christ was based on Schrader’s adaptation of an epic 1960 novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. The novel narrated the self-doubts of Jesus as he carried out his mission and told about Christ more in human terms rather than divine.
Willem Dafoe was well-casted in the role of Jesus but few critics were not too thrilled with the rest of the unusual cast of Hershey as Mary, Harry Stanton as Paul and Keitel as Judas. Scorsese made a major comeback to personal filmmaking with this movie.
Prior to its release, it was a low budget independent movie but the uproar it caused with worldwide protests, it became a media sensation. The variation on the Gospels in the form of this movie earned Scorsese his second Oscar nomination.
New York story which had fashioned Scorsese’s reputation, was the basis of the fame of GoodFellas (1990). Adapted from non-fiction Wiseguy of Nicholas Pileggi, the story is about a small-time Brooklyn mobster Henry Hill. Scorsese displayed his incredible mastery of the medium in unexpected ways innovatively.
Roger Ebert named it the best mob movie ever. It is considered as Scorsese’s best achievement and was nominated for six Academy Awards. Joe Pesci won an Academy for Best Supporting Actor. Scorsese was nominated for Best Director.
Film won many awards which included a Silver Lion, five BAFTA Awards and more. GoodFellas was put on No.2 on American Film Institute’s list of top 10 gangster films after The Godfather.
Cape Fear (1991) the remake of a cult 1962 film of the same name, was a commercial success. It was Scorsese’s 7th collaboration with De Niro.
A stylized thriller, Nolte starred as a southern lawyer Sam Bowden whose family is being terrorized by ex-con Max Cady (De Niro) whom Sam had gotten jailed and now he was seeking revenge.
It received mixed reviews but grossed $80 million domestically and as Scorcese’s most commercially successful film until The Aviator (2004) and The Departed (2006).
The success of Cape Fear enabled Scorsese to get the big budget he desired for his version of Edith Wharton’s novel The Age of Innocence (1993). It was lovingly completed and subtly portrayed the upper crust of New York City in the late 19th century.
The plot is about an unconsummated love affair between a sensitive lawyer Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Countess Ellen (Michelle Pfeiffer). Highly applauded by critics upon the original release it did not do well on box office.
Casino (1995) was set in a 1970s tale of Las Vegas that marked the comeback of the GoodFellas talent team. It centered on a male whose peaceful and well-ordered life was upset by the arrival of unpredictable forces. De Niro and Pesci pairing had great chemistry, as seen in GoodFellas.
Having received mixed views from critics, Casino was quite a box office success. It’s excessive violence bought it the reputation of the most violent American gangster film to date. Film had incredible supporting performances. Best Actress Academy Award nomination was earned by Sharon Stone for her work in this film.
Return to a familiar territory, the director Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader manifested a pitch-black comic intake quite similar to Tax Driver in Bringing Out the Dead (1999).
Starring Nicholas Cage as a New York paramedic who is about to crack under his stressful job, similar to earlier Scorsese-Schrader teamwork, the final scenes of spiritual restoration clearly were reminiscent of Robert Bresson films.
Among other cast were Ving Rhames, Tom Sizemore, John Goodman and Patricia Arquette. Receiving positive reviews generally, it did not gain much critical acclaim like former Scorsese films.
Gangs of New York was a project which Scorsese had been meaning to do since the late 1970s. With a production budget in excess of $100 million, it was the biggest and most conventional film to date.
It was set in the 19th century New York like The Age of Innocence but it centered on the other end of the social scale. Marking the first collaboration between Leonardo DiCaprio and Scorsese who later on became a must in Scorsese films. Starring as an Amsterdam Vallon he was seeking revenge for the murder of his father by Bill the Butcher (Day-Lewis who was like a godfather figure to the rowdy Five Points mob.
Gangs of New York got nominations for 10 Oscar awards which included nominations for Best Actor, Best Picture, and Best Director it also earned Scorsese his first Golden Globe for Best Director.
The Aviator (2004) was a lavish and large-scale biopic of a film mogul and eccentric aviation pioneer, Howard Hughes which again reunited DiCaprio and Scorsese. It was a lavish re-creation of the Hollywood of 1930s and 1940s.
DiCaprio gave the appropriately intense explanation of a man who was driven by his own passion, intellect as well as acute case of his obsessive-compulsive disorder. Receiving high appraise, The Aviator garnered 11 Oscar nominations as well as massive success at the box office with Academy Award recognition.
It was also nominated for six Golden Globe Awards which included Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay. It won Best Motion Picture-Drama, Best Actor. The film ended with five Oscars for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography.
The Departed (2006) was Scorsese’s return to the crime genre which was a Boston-set thriller and based on a Hong Kong police drama Infernal Affairs, 2002.
This film earned Scorsese his second Golden Globe for Critic’s Choice Award and for Best Director, first DGA Award and Academy Awards both for Best Motion Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Director.
It again starred DiCaprio along with Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg. Matt Damon and DiCaprio starred as doubles living on opposite ends of the law. Colin (Damon) played the role of a Boson detective who was raised by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), a crime lord since childhood so he could become his mole.
And Billy (DiCaprio) was an undercover cop who was assigned with the dangerous task of getting into the organization of Frank Costello whose character was found on the psychopathic mastermind Boston mobster, Whitey Bulger. Being Scorsese’s biggest box-office hit after Shutter Island, Scorsese finally earned his Best Director Oscar for this.
Scorsese also directed a couple of musical documentaries. The concert film Shine a Light (2008) starring The Rolling Stones and No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005) was a wide survey of the iconic singer/songwriter.
It does not cover his entire career but focuses more of his impact on American pop industry, his beginnings, and his transformations. Scorsese earned an Emmy nomination and won a Peabody Award as well as a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video.
2010 brought Shutter Island starring Leonardo DiCaprio the fourth time in a Scorsese film. The cast included Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow and Ben Kingsley which were first-timers with Scorsese.
Based on a novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane it starred DiCaprio as a U.S marshal who travels to search for a missing patient in a psychiatric facility deserted in the Boston Harbor. And soon the detective story becomes closer to a horror film. Film was a box office smash and became Scorsese’s highest grossing film.
The year 2011 brought Hugo which was based a novel The Invention of Hugo Carbet by Brian Selznick. Hugo was a 3D adventure drama film and the most expensive production of Scorsese. It started Chloe Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfied, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law, Ray Winstone and Christopher Lee.
The story is about a once celebrated filmmaker who runs a toy store Georges Melies (Kingsley) who has become bitter about the destruction of so much of his world and his niece and 12-year old orphan Hugo (Asa Butterfield) manages to bring him back to the world.
Meeting critical acclaim, Hugo was nominated for 11 Oscars and Scorsese won his third Golden Globe Award for Best Director. Nominated for 11 and winning five Academy Awards, Hugo also won two BAFTA awards.
Another of his musical documentaries, George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011) won Scorsese an Emmy Award. The three and half hour documentary explored the life of former Beatle.
Branching out further into television, Scorsese executively produced the Boardwalk Empire (2010-14) which was an HBO drama series about gangsters in Atlantic City at Prohibition period. He also received an Emmy Award (2011) for directing the show’s first episode.
The too-real and somewhat harsh portrayal of New York City was Scorsese’s claim to fame initially. Returning to his familiar haunts of the Big Apple, Scorsese brought The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) which was a deterrent tale based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir making it into a biographic black comedy.
Marking the fifth collaboration with DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street starred DiCaprio as the stock trader Belfort who engages himself in a huge securities fraud case which involved corruption on Wall Street, manipulation of stock and the practice commonly called as “pump and dump” and the corporate banking world.
The screenplay was written by Terence Winter. Among the other cast included Jonah Hill and Mathew McConaughey. Belfort fell afoul of the rules and of course the law but not before training himself and his associates in immense wealth.
Leonardo DiCaprio won an award at the 2014 Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor- Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film also earned a nomination for the Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.
The Wolf of Wall Street was nominated for five Academy Awards which included Best Picture, Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Director (Martin Scorsese), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill) and Best Adapted Screenplay for the work of Terence Winter.
Martin Scorsese received his 8th Oscar nomination for Best Director and the film also was nominated for Best Picture. Scorsese is to direct The Irishman which shall star Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. He has also informed that his long-planned biopic about Frank Sinatra shall be coming soon.
Scorsese’s next documentary will be about former president Bill Clinton for HBO. According to an announcement Scorsese will be directing a biopic on Mike Tyson which shall star Oscar-winning Jamie Foxx as Tyson.
The Scorsese List
The story I’m about to tell is any film students dream. Back in 2006, a young film student by the name of Colin Levy met with Martin Scorsese after winning an NYC-based short film festival.
When Levy met with Scorsese the young film student had not yet had the privilege of watching some of Scorsese’s most celebrated masterpieces (including Taxi Driver and Goodfellas). Ever the film teacher Martin Scorsese gifted the young Levy with a magical list of foreign films he should watch. The list in itself is a film school.
“I labored over a thank-you card, in which I expressed the overwhelming impression I had gotten that I don’t know enough about anything. I especially don’t know enough about film history and foreign cinema. I asked if he had any suggestions for where to start.”
He received the following note from Martin Scorsese in response:
If you are a film student or cinema buff this is a remarkable list of films to watch. So what are you waiting for…get to watching. Professor Scorsese’s orders!
Martin Scorsese’s Favorite Films
Here is Martin Scorsese’s Top Ten list of greatest films of all time:
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Ashes and Diamonds
- Citizen Kane
- The Leopard
- The Red Shoes
- The River
- Salvatore Giuliano
- The Searchers
- Ugetsu Monogatari
Martin Scorsese Film School – A Personal Journey Through American Movies Pt1
Martin Scorsese is a master craftsman in the art of cinema with an encyclopedic knowledge of Movies. It is a pleasure to hear his views on early American cinema where his love of the silver screen was awakened and “colored his dreams”. I am sure he could talk about cinema from any country in the world just as intelligently and passionately.
Martin Scorsese Film School – Director’s Dilemma – A Personal Journey Through American Movies Pt2
Martin Scorsese Film School – Storyteller – A Personal Journey Through American Movies Pt3
“The American film maker has always been more interested in making fiction than revealing reality.” Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese Film School – The Western – A Personal Journey Through American Movies Pt4
For the rest of videos in A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies click here.
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