Martin Scorsese’s Inspiring Speech and Advice to Filmmakers

Martin-Scorsese's-Inspires-Young-Filmmakers-at-Film-SchoolThe pursuit of the arts, and specifically filmmaking in our case, is never a pain-free journey. There’s often a lot of confusion, doubt, and struggle along the way. By interviewing professionals of the entertainment industry, I often hear two dreaded words: “Burn out.” If you ask around, it’s not uncommon to meet professionals who are sick and tired of working in “the business.” I wish I knew how that change of hearts happens, where that feeling of sometimes regret, sometime resentment, sometime good plain disappointment comes from. But if I were to guess, I’d say it creeps up to you, gradually, and when you least expect, bam! You realize it’s no longer fun. That dream you had, gone! It’s possible that tragic cases from world-renowned celebrities taking their own lives (whether accidental or intentional) like Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Robin Williams fall into this category of burning out as well. But this post is not about celebrities.

In more down-to-earth scenarios of “regular” people, most of whom do work behind the camera or off the set, I occasionally hear from them that they regret not pursuing another aspiration that they had when young; an aspiration not in the arts. The cause, no doubt, varies from case to case, and, as such, I’d rather not speculate on why this happens. (As a part of an upcoming interview-based Career Series that I will be publishing on this blog, you will see many of those accounts first-hand. Stay tuned for more.) For now, I just wanna tell you that working in the film industry is not all glitz. Many a times the glamour wears off rather quickly, and then it becomes work as usual.

But Scorsese is Here to Motivate You

Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, gave a great inspirational speech at the Tisch School of Arts this past spring. Listening to him, I was aware that a lot of the obstacles that exist today, already existed in the 1960’s when he started his career. Such as the time when Scorsese asked Elia Kazan (On the WaterfrontA Streetcar Named Desire) to work as production assistant for him, to which Kazan replied, “We don’t do that.” Of course, approaching a director of that stature is even harder nowadays.

Scorsese’s complete speech, which you can watch below, is full of uplifting takeaways that I hope will encourage you to keep your goals alive. There’s one particular piece of advice that I wanted to emphasize:

“It’s a very strong thing, that desire, that initial impulse — like an obsession. But it’s deliciate too and it needs to be nutured and protected against the incursions of the world which can be merciless.”

By doing the research for the Career Series, I have heard many people refer to that feeling in one way or another. But Scorsese is right, it’s the merciless world that hinders and poisons your initial desire. It is your mission to preserve that flame in you. Let it stoke your passion without burning you out. The industry is merciless, but perseverance will get you though. Stay positive and learn healthy ways to cope with stress and challenges.

Scorsese also quoted Theoter Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


Remember that knowing defeat is necessary to know know victory. Here’s the full address video:

Martin Scorsese – Honored Speaker at Tisch Salute 2014 from Tisch School of the Arts on Vimeo.