Martin Scorsese was destined to become a filmmaker. The art and motion of film is engraved into his DNA, as well as the craftsmanship that creates it, and its embedded in his personality as much as his enthusiastic chatter and signature glasses. The wheels were always in forward motion. Or, perhaps more appropriately, the film reel was constantly sputtering inside his mind, and it was only a matter of time before they were transferred onto the screen. After all, growing up, Scorsese was constantly fascinated with ancient pyramids or biblical structures, and he would unknowingly draw storyboards of them on his parents’ fridge. The framework was there; he just needed to find a way to bring his active imagination to its fullest potential, and that’s when he found filmmaking.
This contemplative look back at the director’s early history and formative influences are what informed his intimate conversation with T.J. English in 1990. Now, their previously unheard interview has been unearthed and have now been brought to life through the wonders of modern animation, as PBS’ Blank on Blank has released “Martin Scorsese on Framing,” the latest episode in the public-funded channel’s wonderfully imaginative web series.
The five-minute video delves not only into Scorsese’s thought process at the time — just as he was releasing “Goodfellas” onto the viewing public — but also his family heritage and his Roman Catholic background. After all, were it not for his love of film, he would be known today as Father Scorsese — following in the tradition of priesthood, rather than becoming the Oscar-winning, deeply-influential filmmaker we know him as today. But that only scratches the surface of this wide-ranging conversation — beautifully crafted with fun, massively creative interpretative drawings from Patrick Smith — as it also explores how a preparatory seminary guided his directing path at age 14, how making his first short films in NYU lead to the revolution that he would “fare better,” as the interviewee puts it, in the director’s chair opposed to under the robe and, surprisingly enough, how Westerns played a big part of his transition behind-the-lens.
Though the veteran director hasn’t worked in the genre to date, the thought of horses, open terrain and the hard-wrought decisions made by those in those conditions laid a deep impression in the city boy. It helped transport him into various realms and imagine different possibilities, and that ultimately opened the door for Scorsese to become the expansive, versatile filmmaker we love and revere today. And those are only a few revolutions made in this clip. To hear more about his early childhood and contextual thought-process — which also delves into his love of opening credit sequences and their importance in his eyes — check out the illuminating video below.