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Video: Scorsese on Story vs. Plot

Jon Favreau interviewing Martin Scorsese for the third season of Dinner for Five. In this excerpt Jon asks him about story versus plot in filmmaking. A comment on YouTube says: “Favreau has no idea what Scorsese´╗┐ is talking about”.

With thanks to Matevz Luzar.

Scorsese clearly takes the viewpoint of the discerning movie goer and not that of the mainstream audience. He speaks about films that he constantly revisited. You and I do this, probably for a whole bunch of movies. The mainstream audiences doesn’t, really. Interesting also is his reference to Hitchcock, who was the director par excellence to prove that character really comes from plot.

That said, I have loved every single one of Scorsese’s movies. And, indeed, not for their plot…

But what is the difference between story and plot? And do you agree with these definitions?


If you liked this, check out more videos about screenwriting or filmmaking. And if you know of a great video on Screenwriting, let us know in the comments. Thanks!

About the Author

Karel Segers

Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in international movie rights acquisition, script development and production. He has trained and consulted to filmmakers all over the world, including award-winning screenwriters, and Academy Award nominees. Karel founded this website, as well as Logline.it!, ranks among the most influential people for screenwriting on social media, and speaks more than a handful of European languages (which should come in handy in his present hometown of Sydney, Australia).

Comments 5

  1. Plot is a component of Story and so is character – also theme and genre. My take is that Scorsese is talking about character driven versus plot driven stories rather than saying character is an alternative to story. That would be like talking of engine versus car in motoring.

    Some stories are better told through the interactions of character mindsets and mental processes than through external activities and situations – although all must be present for completeness. Like stories, in real life we don’t live only in our minds or the world, we live in both.

  2. Plot is the systematic sequence of events, which expressed the way in which a story is told. Story is the soul. It is the big picture. Plot is the blueprint for conveying that story – which contains characters – to the viewer/reader etc

    well that is my definition.

  3. Yeah. But Scorsese’s films are all hero’s journey. So are Hitchcock’s. So this distinction is all abit suspect, or at least needs to be clarified.

  4. Oh dear. See this is something writers never seem to be wired to understand. When Scorsese is talking story vs plot he is talking about form vs content. Let me give you an analogy – Van Gogh painted by dramatically stabbing, jabbing and applying the paint vigorously and thickly so that a tumult of brushstrokes and texture are clearly visible – this tells you as much or more about the painting and what he was trying to express than the crows in the cornfield or wilting sunflowers depicted do.

    It’s about medium. It’s about how you use the medium of cinema to tell the story – lighting, composition, focus, camera movement etc – “mise en scene”

    Remember cinema exists as a medium because of the invention of the camera. Not because of written word.
    It is visual communication, telling a story through pictures – for directors like Scorsese the lens is the paintbrush and he is painting with light.

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