EDITOR’S NOTE: Recently, Professor Harry Ufland took his class to a private event with Martin Scorsese. One of his students, Stephawn Christopher Spears (MFA/Film Production ’19), was kind enough to share his experience of the evening, as Mr. Scorsese is one of his biggest influences.
On January 30, 2017, I, along with forty-five other students, were invited to meet Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts. I cannot speak for the other students, but this was definitely a dream come true for me. I was invited to meet one of my heroes and inspirations in cinema.
When we arrived, they had a small mixer for the guests. It was mainly Citi Bank employees and their family and friends, because Citi Bank helps fund Mr. Scorsese’s The Film Preservation Organization, a non- profit that helps preserve films around the world. This event was to thank them for their support. After mingling at the mixer, everyone went into the auditorium to be seated for the Q&A.
As soon as Mr. Scorsese walked in, the room lit up with applause and cheers. I myself was cheering and had a large smile on my face. To actually be in the same room with someone that inspired me, and only inches away from him, was just breathtaking.
He began by speaking about his favorite three films that he thought had a huge impact in cinema, as well as in his own filmmaking career. Those films were The Red Shoes, The River, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. He explained that these films helped shape his career and interest in filmmaking.
Then we moved right along into him speaking about some of his films: Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and The Wolf of Wall Street. He mentioned that Raging Bull, starring a young Robert De Niro, wasn’t a studio favorite and was actually on the chopping block. With a lot of negation, the movie still went on and actually became a classic.
He talked about working with Robert De Niro for so many years to the point where they were considered brothers. He mentioned that in the late 70s, he was ready to quit the film industry, as he had lost the desire. But, De Niro sparked that flame in him again to keep going, which he did, and continues to do.
He also mentioned why he works with the same cinematographers, and how cinematographer Michael Ballhaus is not only a friend, but was positive impact in his life as a filmmaker.
His latest film, Silence, talks about the Christian crusades in China, and how the Chinese government banned any such religion. Scorsese wanted to share his spiritual side, and he talked about how he would show a little bit of that in his earlier projects such as Goodfellas and Raging Bull, but he didn’t hit a shift in his faith until his youngest daughter, who is now 17 years old, was born. He mentioned how after her birth, he had a spiritual awakening and that’s what made him want to do Silence.
Lastly he talked about doing one last film with Robert De Niro about two 75-year-old Irishmen and their dealings with the underworld of the black market. He talked about how passion of actors he has worked with, like De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, help keep his hope for cinema alive.