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On Saturday, Martin ScorseseThe last film, the highly anticipated The flower moon killerswill have its world premiere out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival, but he is not the only Scorsese to present a new film at the festival.
Frances Scorsesethe 23-year-old daughter of the legendary director and his wife Elena Morriswill screen his directorial debut Fish out of water – a 25-minute drama about a young woman struggling to raise her child while harboring resentment of her previously abusive father and fear for her failing mother – at 10.30am on Wednesday as part of the festival’s Cannes short film market. It will then have its official world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 11.
The Hollywood Reporter on Friday he met with the young Scorsese – a recent graduate of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, the same film school his father attended – to discuss the project, the pros and cons of growing up with the last name Scorsese and his dreams for his future .
I suspect this isn’t your first time in Cannes, is it?
No. The first time I really remember, where I was actually able to experience it to its fullest extent, was when I was about 10 years old. I don’t remember much. I only remember the carpet and a little about the hotel I was staying at.
Having a film screened in Cannes must be both exciting and intimidating for a filmmaker of any age. You’re doing it at just 23 years old. How are you feeling right now?
I feel like it’s not real. It’s a total honour. And it’s really crazy that so many people will see my film. It’s also absolutely terrifying. And super exciting.
What prompted you to make this film and tell this particular story?
It was actually a thesis for NYU – I had to write it for my class – and it was the only story line I had thought of. I’m really bad at coming up with story ideas. I struggle with it. I was like, “OK, I can work with this.” I worked on it for about a year. It started out completely different. There were characters that were dead that aren’t there now, and then I added people and changed things. I think I really got to the core of what I was trying to tell. The main thing I wanted to express was the family: the complications of different family relationships; take care of loved ones; and family illness, which is also a big part of my life.
If it’s not too personal to ask, how much of this story is yours?
The father-daughter relationship is poles apart for my father and me. Nothing has anything to do with me and my father. I mean, we’re best friends, and they obviously aren’t. But the mother thing is definitely influenced by my life. My mother has Parkinson’s. She’s had it since she was 30. She is now almost 70 years old. Yesterday was her birthday. So, she’s been sick basically all her life. And it’s a progressive degenerative disease, so it gets worse over time. So, something my dad and I have been dealing with is experiencing her kind of memory loss of her, almost like dementia, but just bouts of that, and then she comes back, and she’s completely there. And my way of dealing with that is by putting it in my art and trying to express those feelings through my work.
Do you find it cathartic to do this?
Oh yeah, definitely. I was so nervous about showing it to her. I’ve already made a short film, almost like a documentary, about her, which was a little scarier for her to watch because it was real footage of her and a lot more literally about her. But when she saw it, she said, “No, I was prepared for this and I loved it.” He loves to see that I am able to deal with my feelings about these things. My dad also used to tell me that it’s really cool that I can put my feelings – even my trauma – into my art and express it that way and deal with it that way, rather than other ways, you know?
Do you think he did it in his work too?
I guess growing up you were surrounded by many films and many directors, not just him. Remember when it first occurred to you that you might want to make movies too?
honestly not. I mean, I practically grew up on movie sets. It was literally my life. And I thought life was really like pretending all the time. There were these incredible actors in front of me doing an amazing job, so I mean, it was very believable. I have so many memories — I mean my dad put me on the prop plane from The aviator, and I thought I was in a real plane, and then the turbulence started, and now I’m terrified of airplanes: I can’t fly! That was me when I was 3 years old. When I grew up, I was like, “I want to do this.”
You also acted a little…
Acting became more appealing as she got older. When I was a teenager, I was starting to deal with a lot of mental health stuff and trying to discover myself. I was really immersing myself in watching a lot more movies and TV series. And I started admiring some characters and really relating to them – mostly young female characters, that I was very intrigued by. I would watch, and subtitle, and rewind, and tell their line in a similar or different way. I recorded myself doing monologues. And it was nice to step out of my shoes and step into someone else’s world for a minute and forget everything that was going on and then go back. So, it’s become really cathartic for me to do that. And then I get up Behind the scenesand Luca Guadagnino Found Me (for his HBO series We are who we are). It was online. I created a profile. I made a couple of short films. And then Carmen Cuba, the casting director, found me on my Instagram actually, through a family friend.
You finally went to NYU Tisch. Is that where you started focusing more on directing than acting?
I wasn’t really there to act at all. I’ve always wanted to direct. Acting was a little side thing that I was doing. But I mean, I’ve been making my own little videos and home videos and stuff since the age of 8. My father would be one of the characters in it. He would help me, teaching me how to make my own films. And my friends were playing different parts, or I was playing different parts and dressing differently and stuff like that. So when I went to NYU, I definitely thought about directing. I was like, “I want to get hands-on with a camera my freshman year,” which didn’t really happen because that’s not how it works.
Your father had attended NYU Tisch years before. Did he give you any advice before you started?
He told me to really get out there and make as many connections as possible. It was like, “You really have to just be yourself and find interesting people and connect with them and just see where it goes.” Because it’s always good to make connections.
What’s the best and hardest part about having the last name Scorsese while going into the same profession as your father?
There are so many pros and cons. The best part about going into the same profession is that I have him. I mean, he’s the best teacher, guide, just overall mentor — and he’s also, he’s literally my best friend. I tell him everything. He basically tells me everything. And he comes so naturally—he’s like my only person that I go to. But the worst thing? I feel like I’m always connected to him which I love, but also, sometimes when I’m trying to make a name for myself, it’s super hard because I literally have the name after him.
Will you be going to each other’s movies while you’re here in Cannes?
Have you already seen the film or will it be the first time?
Oh, no, he saw it. She has seen it from the beginning, all the way through. It was originally about 40 minutes long, and we cut it down to 25 minutes because obviously it’s not a short film if it’s 40 minutes. No, he was definitely someone I would turn to for advice. I’d say, “Hey, this shot sucks. What do you think?” Or whatever. But yeah, I’m pretty sure he’ll be there for my screening. I’ll definitely be there for him.
What’s the best possible scenario for how your movie plays here? Are you hoping to find distribution for it, or does it lead to another opportunity or something else?
I do not know. I just want to have as many eyes as possible and be able to showcase some of my talents – or what I hope are talents! I mentioned that it could become a feature, so that could be interesting. But I’m just excited to see what happens and where it takes me. I really want to do a little bit of everything. I want to write. I want to take photography. I want to make movies. I want to act in movies. I just want to be myself.
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and brevity.