Watch Martin Scorsese’s Brand New Short Film, Made Entirely in His Office Under Quarantine

Most who saw the last fea­ture by Mar­tin Scors­ese, 2019’s The Irish­man, saw it at home. That had to do with the fact that the bud­get came from Net­flix, which sure­ly aimed to get its not incon­sid­er­able mon­ey’s worth by offer­ing the film on its own stream­ing ser­vice as soon as pos­si­ble. If The Irish­man’s financ­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion was a sign of the times, Scors­ese’s new short is even more so: shot on a smart­phone by the famed direc­tor him­self, it recent­ly pre­miered on Mary Beard’s BBC spe­cial about “lock­down cul­ture.” See­ing as the coro­n­avirus isn’t known to spare famous auteurs — and indeed does seem dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly to harm indi­vid­u­als over age 70 — Scors­ese has spent a great deal of time at home over the past few months. But like all true cre­ators, he has­n’t stopped doing what he does.

“Been quite a while, now, that I’ve been quar­an­tined,” says Scors­ese, turn­ing his cam­era away from a screen­ing of Alfred Hitch­cock­’s The Wrong Man on his office wall. “We had been work­ing so hard on so many dif­fer­ent projects, and things were spin­ning and spin­ning and spin­ning, and sud­den­ly there was a crash. And a stop.” At first, “there was a day or so of a kind of relief. I did­n’t have to go any­where or do any­thing. I mean, I had to do every­thing, but I did­n’t have to do it then.” Then, “the anx­i­ety set in.” But as time passed, and as he tru­ly felt that time pass­ing, “a sense of relief set­tled in. And a real sense of free­dom, because you can’t do any­thing else. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be in this room. I don’t know when we’re going to be able to actu­al­ly start pro­duc­tion in this film.”

By “this film” Scors­ese means Killers of the Flower Moon, a $200 mil­lion true-crime West­ern set in 1920s Okla­homa that will bring Leonar­do DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, the direc­tor’s lead­ing men of choice, togeth­er in a Scors­ese fea­ture for the first time. As a joint pro­duc­tion between Apple and Para­mount, notes the Observ­er’s Bran­don Katz, the pic­ture “will receive all the nec­es­sary fund­ing it needs while still receiv­ing a world­wide the­atri­cal roll­out,” but the ques­tion of when its shoot can start — and indeed, when movie­go­ers will return to the­aters — remains open. “I do know that, giv­en the grace of time and life, we will be in pro­duc­tion some­how,” says Scors­ese in his lock­down short, after a few shots of the mem­o­ra­bil­ia on his shelves.

Toward the end of this per­son­al dis­patch, Scors­ese remem­bers his final con­ver­sa­tion with the Iran­ian film­mak­er Abbas Kiarosta­mi. “We were at a din­ner in Lyon a few years ago and he looked at me and said, ‘Don’t do any­thing you don’t want to do.’ He knew. He under­stood. One can’t depend on time. One does­n’t know. Ulti­mate­ly that time has to be worth it, even if it’s just exist­ing. Even if it’s just being alive, breath­ing — if you can, under these cir­cum­stances.” But as we’ve all learned, cir­cum­stances can change, and sud­den­ly; it falls to us only to make best use of the sit­u­a­tion in which we find our­selves. To under­score that last truth, Scors­ese char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly cites a clas­sic Amer­i­can movie. Though our lives may be restrict­ed, as we see in Robert Siod­mak’s Hem­ing­way adap­ta­tion The Killers, noth­ing’s stop­ping us from keep­ing our eyes on the stars.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Film­mak­ing of Mar­tin Scors­ese Demys­ti­fied in 6 Video Essays

How Mar­tin Scors­ese Directs a Movie: The Tech­niques Behind Taxi Dri­ver, Rag­ing Bull, and More

What Makes Taxi Dri­ver So Pow­er­ful? An In-Depth Study of Mar­tin Scorsese’s Exis­ten­tial Film on the Human Con­di­tion

Mar­tin Scors­ese Explains the Dif­fer­ence Between Cin­e­ma and Movies

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

11-Year-Old Mar­tin Scors­ese Draws Sto­ry­boards for His Imag­ined Roman Epic Film, The Eter­nal City

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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