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Martin Scorsese: A Letter to My Daughter

By: Elisa Osegueda on January 6, 2014 at 1:30PM Comments (11)

Martin Scorsese recently wrote a captivating open letter to his daughter Francesca, in which he examines the state of cinema and what's yet to come. The good news is the future looks pretty bright.


Dearest Francesca,

I’m writing this letter to you about the future. I’m looking at it through the lens of my world. Through the lens of cinema, which has been at the center of that world.

For the last few years, I’ve realized that the idea of cinema that I grew up with, that’s there in the movies I’ve been showing you since you were a child, and that was thriving when I started making pictures, is coming to a close. I’m not referring to the films that have already been made. I’m referring to the ones that are to come.

I don’t mean to be despairing. I’m not writing these words in a spirit of defeat. On the contrary, I think the future is bright.

We always knew that the movies were a business, and that the art of cinema was made possible because it aligned with business conditions. None of us who started in the 60s and 70s had any illusions on that front. We knew that we would have to work hard to protect what we loved. We also knew that we might have to go through some rough periods. And I suppose we realized, on some level, that we might face a time when every inconvenient or unpredictable element in the moviemaking process would be minimized, maybe even eliminated. The most unpredictable element of all? Cinema. And the people who make it.

I don’t want to repeat what has been said and written by so many others before me, about all the changes in the business, and I’m heartened by the exceptions to the overall trend in moviemaking – Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers, James Gray and Paul Thomas Anderson are all managing to get pictures made, and Paul not only got The Master made in 70mm, he even got it shown that way in a few cities. Anyone who cares about cinema should be thankful.

And I’m also moved by the artists who are continuing to get their pictures made all over the world, in France, in South Korea, in England, in Japan, in Africa. It’s getting harder all the time, but they’re getting the films done.

But I don’t think I’m being pessimistic when I say that the art of cinema and the movie business are now at a crossroads. Audio-visual entertainment and what we know as cinema – moving pictures conceived by individuals – appear to be headed in different directions. In the future, you’ll probably see less and less of what we recognize as cinema on multiplex screens and more and more of it in smaller theaters, online, and, I suppose, in spaces and circumstances that I can’t predict.

So why is the future so bright? Because for the very first time in the history of the art form, movies really can be made for very little money. This was unheard of when I was growing up, and extremely low budget movies have always been the exception rather than the rule. Now, it’s the reverse. You can get beautiful images with affordable cameras. You can record sound. You can edit and mix and color-correct at home. This has all come to pass.

But with all the attention paid to the machinery of making movies and to the advances in technology that have led to this revolution in moviemaking, there is one important thing to remember: the tools don’t make the movie, you make the movie. It’s freeing to pick up a camera and start shooting and then put it together with Final Cut Pro. Making a movie – the one you need to make - is something else. There are no shortcuts.

If John Cassavetes, my friend and mentor, were alive today, he would certainly be using all the equipment that’s available. But he would be saying the same things he always said – you have to be absolutely dedicated to the work, you have to give everything of yourself, and you have to protect the spark of connection that drove you to make the picture in the first place. You have to protect it with your life. In the past, because making movies was so expensive, we had to protect against exhaustion and compromise. In the future, you’ll have to steel yourself against something else: the temptation to go with the flow, and allow the movie to drift and float away.

This isn’t just a matter of cinema. There are no shortcuts to anything. I’m not saying that everything has to be difficult. I’m saying that the voice that sparks you is your voice – that’s the inner light, as the Quakers put it.

That’s you. That’s the truth.

All my love,

Dad

via L'Espresso

Comments (11)Leave a Comment

  • Jan 10th 2014 9:33AM

    fjc01  said...

    I think we saw this with the current HOBBIT film- perhaps the film was changed from the actual story because Orlando Bloom sells more tickets even though the elf Legolas is not in Tolkien's Hobbit story and to create a romance with a made up female elf in the HOBBIT so they can turn it into some kind of mini action romance film within a film to stretch the Hobbit out to 3 films is an example of business trumps art! But we like to stretch it out we want to see the films but they will not be great art like in the old days or what Scorcese means when he talks of artristic vision like what Wes Anderson's movies do which is to convey his own vision on screen acted out by interesting actors who give his characters their style.

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  • Jan 11th 2014 1:57PM

    fandad1960  said...

    Hugo proves that great art can still be appreciated that's why we have Turner Classic Movies, AMC, HBO, Netflix Instant Watch and Amazon, to show great art from the past and introduce it to a new generation

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  • Jan 6th 2014 7:07PM

    fandad1960  said...

    Sorry I did it twice

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  • Jan 6th 2014 7:07PM

    fandad1960  said...

    I did not get the whole point of this letter but it was very sincere. The day will come soon when classics will be rekindled and new movies will be added to our memory. The only thing we should do is decrease movie prices

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  • Jan 6th 2014 7:07PM

    fandad1960  said...

    I did not get the whole point of this letter but it was very sincere. The day will come soon when classics will be rekindled and new movies will be added to our memory. The only thing we should do is decrease movie prices

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  • Jan 7th 2014 1:56PM

    reelninja  said...

    The letter is saying that there is a change in the way movies are being made. Because it's so inexpensive to make films now scripts get changed more frequently and films that are greenlit one way become something completely different than the director originally intended for one reason or another. I think you can read between the lines here and see that he's troubled by movies being changed from the director's vision and art form into something else because marketing professionals determine it to be "not as appealing" to a specific demographic. He's saying that film making is both a business and an art and its a balancing act, but the business side is winning out.

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  • Jan 7th 2014 2:03PM

    fandad1960  said...

    Whatever happened when people cared about great art than money I care about art and most people care about money

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  • Jan 11th 2014 1:46PM

    jeannepagano  said...

    Amen to that I Movies made with less resources with lower cost technology with special effects and the lowest common denominator in mind by business types. Anybody can pick up a $3000 cinematic camera can make a movie. More opportunity to let your light shine or produce schlock. Good acting is going away. Heavy dialogue is out and blockbuster action heroes are in because the films are shown to global audiences with foreign language dubs and English subtitles Audience intelligence and attention span is waning and they seek escape from reality. I get Mr. Scorsese's point about voice and inner light and feel he could be my Film Dad or Guru.

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  • Jan 11th 2014 1:53PM

    fandad1960  said...

    We will see about all that

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  • Jan 10th 2014 10:03AM

    bdtrooper4  said...

    I still say going to the movies is one of the best deals out there. Sure, prices have gone up, but where else can you spend around $13 (more if you add popcorn & drink) and see something that took years to make and cost as much as $200 million? Pretty good deal I'd say. And especially when you compare to going to a sporting event, where you have to pay $100 or more for a good seat, plus food and drinks, and then your team might lose! Ridiculously high salaries for players have priced average people from going to games, but you can still get a great seat at the movies and pay the same as everybody else.

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  • Jan 10th 2014 10:07AM

    fandad1960  said...

    I agree

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