Welcome to my Martin Scorsese MasterClass Review!
In this post, I’m going to review Martin Scorsese’s MasterClass, summarize the content, share the highlights, give you key tips to get even more out of the experience, and offer my (very few) criticisms.
Martin Scorsese MasterClass Review in Brief
There are three reasons why you should take Martin Scorsese’s MasterClass:
- You will gain unprecedented access and insight into Scorsese’s methodology for making films.
- Scorsese touches on different aspects of filmmaking ranging from color, costumes and editing to more esoteric topics like style and influence.
- Scorsese’s experience as one of the greatest directors of his generation as well as his comprehensive understanding of the history of cinema allow him to communicate directorial principles at a deeper level.
If you’re considering taking Martin Scorsese’s MasterClass, click here to check it out.
What is MasterClass?
MasterClass is an online tutorial series where top writers, actors, athletes, and musicians offer specialized courses in their craft.
For a reasonable fee, MasterClass gives students unprecedented access to the wisdom and insights of an impressive array of teachers.
Who is Martin Scorsese?
Martin Scorsese is an award winning director, producer, and screenwriter who is widely regarded as being one of the most influential directors in the history of cinema. His influence can be felt in directors ranging from Spike Lee to Quentin Tarantino.
To date, Scorsese has won more than 130 different awards including an Academy Award, Palme d’Or, a Grammy, and a Directors Guild Award in addition to being nominated for 210 others.
Scorsese is perhaps best known for his films Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990) and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).
Who Should Take this Course?
This MasterClass is targeted towards writers, directors, and writer-directors of all levels.
However, editors, actors, producers, and anyone else who wants to work in the film industry will also benefit from taking Scorsese’s class.
Though Scorsese delves deeply into the technical minutiae of filmmaking, he also talks about turning obstacles into tools, and the various methodologies and philosophies that he uses to be successful – and which apply beyond directing.
Scorsese’s class would be especially helpful for screenwriters who plan on directing their own work.
Students who take the class will walk away with an understanding of how to nurture their own creativity, gain insight into the directorial process, understand how a film is made from start to finish, and become adept in film analysis.
Scorsese’s goal is to inspire you to do your own film research, become acquainted with the various aspects that go into a production, and to develop your own personal filmmaking style.
Martin Scorsese MasterClass Content
Scorsese’s MasterClass is divided into 30 lessons with over four and a half hours of content and comes with a wealth of written materials.
The lessons cover the fundamentals of directing including: developing your style, finding the story, casting and directing actors, location, production design, cinematography, costume design, working with a crew, editing, color, sound design, music, promotion, and film analysis.
Scorsese’s MasterClass comes with a 76-page detailed companion workbook in the form of a printable PDF. The companion workbook is enormously helpful and comes with course recaps and assignments that help further your understanding of his lessons.
Additionally, students in the US receive access to a 30 day trial to FilmStruck – an online repository for classic movies such as A Farewell to Arms, Traffic, Ludwig, as well as the Criterion Collection.
Scorsese’s MasterClass also features:
- Clips from 8½, Vertigo, Jules and Jim and other classic movies with Scorsese’s commentary over it
- Office Hours in which students can record any questions they may have in video format and send them to Scorsese
- Clips from Scorsese films
- A Student Hub where students can ask each other and discuss film related questions
Scorsese’s Teaching Style
Although Scorsese’s teaching style comes across as very intellectual, the way he approaches his subject matter makes it feel very accessible as well. Scorsese delivers his lecture from a comfortable armchair, and the tone feels less like a lecture than a fascinating conversation with one of the greatest living directors in cinema today.
It’s worth noting that Scorsese briefly served as a professor at NYU after getting his MFA (teaching students such as Oliver Stone), and this professorial style of teaching is reflected in the way Scorsese conducts his class.
One of the things that comes through almost immediately is the sheer depth of Scorsese’s cinematic knowledge. Scorsese is extraordinarily well versed in the history of cinema and casually namedrops directors like Truffaut, Pressburger, and Ophüls as well as other directors who have influenced him.
While watching films from these directors is not strictly necessary to understanding the course, doing so gave me a greater understanding of Scorsese’s style and the impact these directors have had on his work.
How Scorsese Starts The Course
Scorsese begins his class by walking onto the stage of the Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Theater and explaining its importance to his film journey.
The Tully Theater was where Scorsese witnessed film screenings from directors such as Truffaut, Godard, and Oshima as part of the New York Film Festival and served as a huge source of inspiration early on in Scorsese’s career.
“So if you’re drawn to movie making as a career, this isn’t the class for you. But if you need to make movies – a movie – if you feel like you can’t rest until you’ve told this burning story that you’ve been burning to tell in moving image and sounds, then I could be speaking to you.”
Although there are certainly people who are obsessed with making films, I don’t believe Scorsese’s knowledge should be restricted to this group only.
Filmmaking is a very tough endeavor in which people learn by experience. I don’t believe that if someone doesn’t have a burning passion to do something the first time around, they should walk away from it. After all, how do you know you like something if you’ve never tried it? Passion can come just as easily from mastery as it can from desire.
So if you’re just exploring filmmaking, I wouldn’t be deterred by Scorsese’s warning. Take the class. Apply his teachings.
“I’m not going to give you a blueprint. There are no shortcuts. I’m going to give you some practical advice along the way, but the most important thing I can convey to you is that you have to find your own way. ”
Get the Most Out of the Course
Take the course with a notebook and pen in hand.
This course is designed to get you to think more deeply about the directorial process and to analyze film more critically. Though Scorsese goes at an easy digestible speed, there will be moments where you will want to pause the video to take notes.
I also highly recommend doing the exercises listed in the workbook because they’re very hands on and help you gain a deeper understanding of the material.
“There’s no excuse now. The only thing you need— and this is the most important thing—is the spark and the desire and the passion to say something utilizing film.”
To get the most out of the course, I would recommend familiarizing yourself with Scorsese’s work.
Though Scorsese’s body of work is huge and spans more than 55 years, I would recommend focusing on watching films from the beginning and middle of Scorsese’s career as well as his more recent films to get a better sense of his evolution as a filmmaker.
At a minimum, I would recommend Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and his more recent work Silence (2016).
For bonus points, I would recommend watching some films from the directors who influenced Scorsese such as Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s Red Shoes (1948), Francois Truffaut’s Jules and Jim (1962), and John Ford’s The Searchers (1956).
Behind the Scenes
One of the highlights of this course was Scorsese talking about his thought process for creating films such as The Last Temptation of Christ and Casino.
In one lesson, Scorsese talked about the duress he experienced while shooting The Last Temptation of Christ, and how working with Michael Ballhaus made him stop wishing for an easier film shoot and to start seeing the various struggles they encountered as an opportunity.
Scorsese also screens clips of his films, and dissects why he made certain thematic choices in real time.
While it’s true that Scorsese also uses behind the scenes stories to entertain audiences in the Director’s Commentary edition of his movies, in his MasterClass Scorsese uses these stories as part of a lesson to drive certain points home.
“[You are] constantly being surprised …by the actual location itself and the limitations. Then, you have to figure out how the limitations could become advantages.”
Seeing Scorsese’s Storyboards
Another great thing that I enjoyed about Scorsese’s class was that Scorsese showed some of the actual storyboards that he made as a child as well as some of the storyboards that he used later for movies such as Raging Bull.
It’s interesting to see how carefully Scorsese choreographs and maps out shots on paper first before even turning to the camera, saving on valuable shooting time and cutting down on production costs.
“There was a desire and a need to really not rest until I was able to express these thoughts and these stories on film.”
– Martin Scorsese
Towards the end of the series, Scorsese screens several clips from films such as Barry Lyndon (1975) and Vertigo (1958), and analyzes the films in real time to dissect elements such as mood, lighting, and camera angles. This practice is helpful in that we learn not just how Scorsese creates films; but how he sees them as well.
“As the director, you can’t score points for false modesty. You have to assume the responsibility of being the one who makes those guiding decisions.”
– Martin Scorsese
A Better Workbook
One of the pleasant surprises about this MasterClass experience was seeing the MasterClass workbook.
Whereas for previous classes, the MasterClass workbook used to consist of a quick recap, some suggested further readings, and some lines to take notes; this workbook comes with detailed summaries, well thought out assignments designed to enhance your understanding of the subject as well as quotes, pictures, and other supporting material.
Criticisms of the Course
As much as I loved this course, I had a couple areas of concern.
Too Much Tell, Not Enough Show
Directing is a very complicated task that involves lots of moving parts. While I loved hearing Scorsese talk about his experience directing and recounting old show business stories, I would have loved to get a firsthand look at how Scorsese directs as well as how he interacts with actors, editors, and other members of the crew rather than just hearing about it.
Student Forum is Still Clunky
Although MasterClass has improved the user interface of their community forum (also known as “The Hub”), the forum itself is still a little confusing to navigate.
Rather than there being an individual forum for each site, there now exists separate forums for categories such as “Film & TV” and “Design, Photography, and Fashion” and so on. However, engagement with The Hub is sporadic, and I haven’t derived too much meaningful interaction from other students on it.
One place where I’ve seen more helpful student interaction is through the comments that students leave on the lesson videos directly.
To be fair, MasterClass has taken steps to improve the user experience of The Hub and continues to tweak it after every MasterClass. While I think this change is a step in the right direction, I don’t believe they’ve cracked the code just yet when it comes to making the forum work.
Questions About Martin Scorsese’s MasterClass
Will I Become A Better Director/Writer After This Course?
Yes and no. If you just watch this course, you’ll walk away with many practical tips about writing, directing, and discovering your own voice.
However, while writing is a solitary activity; directing is not. To get the full amount of value from this course, you’ll need to take Scorsese’s lessons and actually put them into practice by creating some films.
Will Martin Scorsese Watch My Films?
Probably not. But the great thing about filmmaking is that you don’t need to get your film in front of a famous director to gain attention. Upload your film to YouTube, submit it to some film festivals, or hold your own screening at a local theater.
Am I Being Paid To Recommend This Course?
Yes. If you use this link to purchase the Martin Scorsese MasterClass, at no additional cost to you, I will be paid a small commission. I did not receive free access to the course, but paid for it myself. I would not have signed up to become an affiliate or written this Martin Scorsese MasterClass review if I didn’t personally believe in the value of this course.
Is There a Money-Back Guarantee?
Yes. MasterClass provides a 30-day money back guarantee.
Is the Course Worth it?
- If you are planning on directing your own scripts, yes – get it.
- I also recommend Werner Herzog’s MasterClass In Directing.
- If you are interested in learning more about the production process; I would also say yes.
However, if you are more interested in diving into the nitty gritty of screenwriting, I would recommend:
- Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass in Screenwriting
- James Patterson’s MasterClass In Writing
- Shonda Rhimes MasterClass in Television Writing