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Scorsese & Coppola: Old-school Directors Embrace Digital Filmmaking

They are two of the greatest directors in film history, each the maker of acknowledged movie masterpieces. Both Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese came to prominence during the 1970s, one of cinema’s greatest and most productive decades.


Hugo is director Martin Scorsese’s first film to use 3D.

But both directors are closely identified with the films they made thirty to forty years ago and that presents a small problem. Now each director has to compete with his own legend, and each must prove that he can make new films that are accessible to younger audiences. To that end, each director has a new project that takes advantages of new techniques in digital filmmaking.

Coppola: The Godfather of Cinema                       
Before he was known as a master filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola was a respected stage director and had directed a couple of films. But that was before 1972 and the release of the movie that would secure his reputation as a giant in cinema. The Godfather created a sensation and became one of the best-loved films of all time, and Coppola hasn’t been out of the public eye since. Along the way he’s made other masterpieces, including the Vietnam war drama,  Apocalypse Now.


From young lion to grand old man of the cinema: Francis Ford Coppola talks about his passion for film at the Toronto Film Festival.

For his latest project, Twixt, Coppola returned to one of his favorite film genres — horror. In the movie, a horror writer (played by Val Kilmer) visits a bizarre town which may or may not be inhabited by vampires. In one amazing scene, director Coppola has star Kilmer engage in a one-on-one conversation with the father of all modern horror, Edgar Allan Poe.

Coppola not only experimented with story elements but the director was also using an iPad for film editing. For example, when Coppola appeared at Comic-Con 2011 to showcase Twixt, he talked about his desire to take the film on the road and present it along with an orchestra — basically directing the film’s performance as a fresh audience experience each time out, even shuffling the order of shots as the mood of the performance struck him.

He told the Comic-Con faithful, “What I’d love to do is go on tour, like a month before the film opened…and go to all the cities myself, with my collaborators, with live music and actually perform the film for each audience uniquely for them — a different version for each audience.” The maestro also put his own unique stamp on using 3D. In Coppola’s case, that meant utilizing the effect selectively and only in certain scenes.

Coppola had seen a recent blockbuster and liked its use of 3D, but didn’t care for keeping on the special glasses throughout. “I enjoyed very much Avatar,” he said, “But I confess that I took the glasses off during much of the movie. And whenever I saw the images start to show that it was going to be 3D, I put them on and saw a wonderful sequence, and then I took them off again.”


Coppola not only paid tribute to early horror writer Edgar Allan Poe in Twixt; the 3D lenses Coppola handed out at Comic-Con 2011 were inset into Poe face masks. 

And although Coppola enjoys 3D, he doesn’t want to use it as a one-trick pony. “How dare anyone think that all movies have up their sleeve is more 3D. Cinema has many more surprises that you and your children will invent, because it’s at the beginning of this expression of image and sound.” While other art forms are thousands of years old, Coppola noted that film is still in its infancy as an art form. “Music and theater are thousands of years old. Cinema’s a baby.”

Scorsese: Genius Moves to the Third Dimension
Among major directors, few are as passionate about the craft of filmmaking as Martin Scorsese. Through landmark films like 1976’s Taxi Driver and 1980’s Raging Bull, Scorsese tackled tough subjects and did it all with a virtuoso’s artistry. His uncompromising vision has led him to a Best Director Oscar (for 2006’s The Departed), as well as other prestigious awards, such as the Cannes Film Festival’s highly prized Palme D’Or for Taxi Driver.

In 2006, Scorsese was presented the Oscar for Best Director for The Departed by Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola…the other major American directors who came to prominence during the 1970s. Scorsese’s natural sense of humor was on full display when he asked the presenters to “Check the envelope, please.” (Scorsese had been nominated five previous times before winning.)


Few directors have made more great films than Martin Scorsese, and even fewer have studied film in depth as Scorsese has done.

Now Scorsese is back and with a different type of movie than he’s ever made. Hugo (which opens November 23rd) is an adventure/puzzle of a movie, and it follows the title character, a resourceful boy trying to unlock a secret left to him by his deceased father. A dazzling visual experience, Hugo is Scorsese’s first foray into making a 3D movie, and he recently talked about embracing the popular technology.

“Most people have stereoscopic vision so why belittle that element of our existence? Why not use it? We’re basically headed for holograms. You have to think that way.” He’s convinced of the screen power of 3D, although combining the technique with Scorsese’s patented perfectionism didn’t lead to quick results. “It really was an enjoyable headache,” the famous director said. “It demands respect. We just kept pushing it to see how far we could go. We would look at a shot and say, ‘What could we do to use the depth?’”

A Fresh Approach to Filmmaking
When Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese were learning film production, the only real source of training (besides on-the-job experience) was offered by film schools. Today, anyone interested in filmmaking can pull out their smartphone and post a video up to their YouTube channel. Still, the professional world of filmmaking demands that you master new technologies; after all, it’s a digital filmmaking world.

Aspiring filmmakers can now study film production and learn how to make a movie at film camp without waiting to be accepted to a full-time film school. Digital Media Academy is a state-of-the-art, critically acclaimed digital media education company that offers personalized instruction from seasoned industry professionals. You’ll also get exposure to the latest film-production techniques and hands-on training in film production and how to use editing software (like Final Cut Pro). Interested in becoming the next Coppola or Scorsese? Learn how from DMA.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

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