A long time ago I stumbled across this series, Dinner For 5, hosted by Jon Favreau, which sits 4 people from the hollywood community at dinner where they discuss filmmaking and the business in general. I recently re-dicovered the series and have found it very enlightening in the sense that these people are giving first hand accounts of their experiences. One episode I found particularly interesting is a special featuring Martin Scorsese, not at dinner but in front of an audience.
Here are a few nuggets of wisdom I drew from this interview:
Fevreau highlights a number of elements in Scorsese’s style, in particular, his subjective camera style. Given that Scorsese’s films are so character driven, he generally shoots from there point of view, not always literally, but with an intimacy with the character that grounds his films in reality. This is different to what Scorsese refers as “classical style”, which is much more objective as opposed to subjective.
Another signature of Scorsese’s style is what Favreau refers to as “needle drops.” This means not using a score, but instead, sourced songs to instantly create a mood. Given that sourced songs are generally already known by the audience, they have a pre-association which grounds the film in reality, and are often used in juxtaposition with what is happening onscreen, for comedic purposes or otherwise. The right song creates immediacy and allows the audience to relate to the characters. Often score is overused, it is detrimental when the music undermines tension. Scorsese says that it is almost condescending for a filmmaker to insert music to relieve tension for the sake of the audience. Instead, Scorsese argues that if there is tension then it should remain tense, as that is the reality which should be portrayed. It is more honest. This attitude is reflected in the works of many other film makers I look up to, such as Tarantino.
Fevreau asks Scorsese to discuss the differences between story and plot, in reference to Scorsese claiming that he prefers story of plot. While Scorsese doesn’t make a specific point of the difference, he raises an interesting point. He argues that it is not plot, but character which is most interesting, and characters within the world they inhabit. He says that the movies which have deep character as apposed to a intricate plot are much more re-watchable, if you know the story, you are no longer interested.
A small but interesting point is that Scorsese often skips frames to make action look slightly unreal. He claims that it makes whatever is happen onscreen look hyper-real. This is a stylistic choice, and quite a bold one at that, for someone who champions realistic portrayals. its the energy, he argues, not the reality which he is trying to portray, which plays into his subjective style of filmmaking.
Scorsese is probably the most prolific auteur of our time, so any discussion he is involved in deserves our attention as student’s of film.