Martin Scorsese Praises Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, Coens & More In Open Letter About Future Of Film

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by Kevin Jagernauth
January 8, 2014 10:24 AM
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The future of cinema has been one one of the biggest news stories the past year, with Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas becoming concerned about an industry increasingly focused on blockbusters and franchises, and little else. But some perspective arrives today from a filmmaker who has been in the game for a long time, and pretty much done it all: Martin Scorsese. And he still believes in the future of the film.

"The Wolf Of Wall Street" director recently wrote an open letter to his fifteen year old daughter Francesca about the future of film, and he has a lot of hope. The filmmaker cites the increasingly easy access of good, affordable equipment for aspiring directors, and additionally, the variety of channels available for those needing to find support for their movies. And while there has been changes in what studios are making, Scorsese is heartened by the auteurs who are still getting it done. Here's an excerpt: 

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.

That's just part of a level-headed, inspiring look at the state of the movies today, and is a must-read for anyone starting to feel cynical about film. Full letter below. [via Indiewire]

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

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10 Comments

  • Jeff | February 27, 2014 9:09 AMReply

    I like Tarantino. But he cannot touch Scorsese. His last few films have all been surface.

  • Jay | January 9, 2014 2:19 AMReply

    I don't think Tarantino and Nolan's films are "struggling to get made" like what he was talking about. Django made like 300 million plus and Dark Knight was one of the highest grossing movies. Just saying that is probably the reason they are not on the list (or because he just was not thinking about them at the time). Anyways glad to see Scorsese is as excited as I am about the future of film! Artists can paint or draw with just a pencil and paper, for years filmmakers haven't been able to practice their craft without 30+ million dollars! Now a days you can write, film, edit, and distribute a film right on your phone. Its amazing and I think it should be embraced instead of resisted

  • Cuchillo | January 8, 2014 2:21 PMReply

    Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, New York New York, The King of Comedy, Casino...
    Tarantino has Reservoir Dogs. Django was a piece of crap.
    Youre filmic knowledge starts and ends with Tarantino.

  • Cuchillo | January 9, 2014 3:27 AM

    What do you mean by this. Wes Anderson and P.T. Anderson dont have to struggle either.
    Can´t you guys get, that not everyone has to love Tarantino and Nolan.
    There is no mystery about why he dont mention them. It´s just that, for instance, Wes Anderson has more talent in the tip of his little finger, than Tarantino in his whole fat body.

  • Cuchillo | January 8, 2014 2:07 PMReply

    Get a life Jimmy. Not everyone has to be a Tarantino fanboy.
    Martin Scorsese is a Legend you morons.

  • Zonk friend | January 8, 2014 2:13 PM

    But everybody DOES have to be a Scorsese fanboy? At least Tarantino has his truthful detractors. Scorsese is a legend mostly for Taxi Driver. Hugo was not Taxi Driver. Yet the two are somehow supposed to be equal under his legend. Pick one, Marty. Do you want truthful praise and respect? Or the fawning, fake kind?

  • James Bourne | January 8, 2014 1:27 PMReply

    pretentious old Scorsese must be jealous of Tarantino,nolan.they are still campaigning for 'Film' while he abandoned it.

  • CB | January 8, 2014 10:42 AMReply

    Great write-up, Marty. However, I wish he had name-dropped a few more contemporary filmmakers. For example Chris Nolan and Quentin Tarantino and their fight for shooting on film. Also, filmmakers like Terrence Malick, Todd Field, David O. Russell, Darren Aronofsky, Steve McQueen, Derek Cianfrance, Nicolas Winding Refn, Michaël R. Roskam, Cary Fukunaga, Kathryn Bigelow, Jeff Nichols, Andrew Dominik, Paul Greengrass, John Hillcoat and David Michôd (to name a few!) deserve some acclaim.

  • Daniel | January 8, 2014 11:57 AM

    He just mentioned some of them as an example.

  • tyrannosaurusmax | January 8, 2014 11:24 AM

    While I agree with you, I don't think the point of the letter was to sprinkle further acclaim on certain filmmakers, and Tarantino and Nolan don't need the attention anyway, they are already making the movies they want to make with blockbuster results.

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