Revisit Martin Scorsese’s Hand-Drawn Storyboards for Taxi Driver

Any­one who’s watched Mar­tin Scors­ese’s Taxi Dri­ver sure­ly remem­bers, or has remained haunt­ed by, many images from the film, most of which — if not all— began as hum­ble pen­cil draw­ings. Like many major motion pic­tures, Taxi Dri­ver began not just as a script but also as a sto­ry­board, the piece of com­ic book-like sequen­tial art film­mak­ers use to plan shots, cam­era move­ments, and char­ac­ter place­ments. Some direc­tors, like Rid­ley Scott, spend time craft­ing detailed sto­ry­boards, while oth­ers, like the thor­ough­ly impro­vi­sa­tion­al Wern­er Her­zog, don’t use them at all. Scors­ese falls some­where in between, sketch­ing out sto­ry­board pan­els that feel more like brief notes to him­self and his clos­est col­lab­o­ra­tors. You can see them along­side the Taxi Dri­ver scenes they pro­duced in the video above.

td storyboard

“Sto­ry­boards express what I want to com­mu­ni­cate,” Scors­ese told Phaidon in 2011 for an arti­cle on the exhi­bi­tion “Between Film and Art: Sto­ry­boards from Hitch­cock to Spiel­berg.” “They show how I would imag­ine a scene and how it should move to the next.” And the effect on his process of using as seem­ing­ly flim­sy a tool as a pen­cil? “The pen­cil line leaves lit­tle impres­sion on the paper, so if the sto­ry­board is pho­to­copied it los­es some­thing. I refer back to my orig­i­nal draw­ings in order for me to con­jure up the idea I had when I saw the pen­cil line made.” Every film­mak­er has their own way of doing things, and as you can see when the video lines up these pen­cil draw­ings with (mil­lions of dol­lars lat­er) the fin­ished sequences, Scors­ese’s method gets results. “These sto­ry­boards are not the only means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion for what I imag­ine,” the direc­tor adds at the arti­cle’s end, “but they are the point where I begin.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

Mar­tin Scorsese’s Very First Films: Three Imag­i­na­tive Short Works

Mar­tin Scors­ese Presents The Blues: A Film Trib­ute to America’s Great Musi­cal Tra­di­tion

Mar­tin Scors­ese Brings “Lost” Hitch­cock Film to Screen in Short Faux Doc­u­men­tary

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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