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Learn filmmaking from some guy called Scorsese

Learn filmmaking from some guy called Scorsese

Masterclass is an educational company offering online classes delivered by astonishingly big names in their fields. We are talking bona fide A-list people. Looking at their course list, one can’t help wondering “How on Earth did they get Helen Mirren and Samuel L. Jackson to teach acting? Gordon Ramsay to teach cooking? Annie Liebovitz to teach photography? Steve Martin to teach comedy?”

Well, no doubt a few shekels change hands here and there, but one also gets the feeling that the A-listers on Masterclass do it for the love of teaching and communicating. It’s hardly as if they need the money, so if they didn’t want to do it, they could just say “No thanks.” Unless Masterclass pays its famous tutors multiple-seven-figure fees, which is hard to believe for an online learning company, you have to assume the celebrities are featuring on Masterclass because they have something they want to share with people starting out in their profession, and enjoy the opportunity to reach lots of people, everywhere, directly.

So it was a bit of a disappointment when they released a new class on filmmaking taught by some unknown called Martin Scorsese. He’s obviously just in it for a fast buck, and got in somehow based on a résumé full of sleazy, profanity-ridden gangster movies he claims won Oscars. Pretty shameless really.

One of the most significant and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema, the director of Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Departed sits down in a chair in front of the camera and tells filmmaking as he sees it in the Masterclass Martin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking. Scorsese was himself influenced and inspired by filmmaking greats such as Ingmar Bergman and Frederico Fellini, so this online class is more than just an overview of his own themes and techniques – the learner feels he or she is plugging into cinematic greatness as a whole.

Scorsese scatters his pearls of filmmaking genius over 30 video lessons, there is a downloadable class workbook with lesson recaps and additional materials, and class members are encouraged to upload videos for feedback from the class, with the tantalizing prospect of Scorsese himself commenting on them – the class outline says he will answer ‘select student questions’ as well.

"If you're intrigued by moviemaking as a career, this isn't the class for you," Scorsese says in the class’s trailer. "But if you need to make movies, if you feel like you can't rest until you've told this particular story that you're burning to tell, then I could be speaking to you."

Scorsese’s desire to communicate with future generations of filmmakers, and to teach young people how to watch moving images, comes across in this quote of his, which is not from this class but from a long-ago interview:

“Young people need to understand that not all images are there to be consumed like fast food and then forgotten – we need to educate them to understand the difference between moving images that engage their humanity and their intelligence, and moving images that are just selling them something.”

Amen.