Francesca Scorsese on What It’s Like to Direct Her Famous Father—on Her Viral TikTok

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Martin Scorsese—responsible for GoodFellas, Raging Bull, The Departed, Killers of the Flower Moon, and far too many more to name here—is widely considered our greatest living film director. But who is the greatest director of our greatest director?

That would be Francesca Scorsese, his 23-year-old daughter and a filmmaker in her own right. Earlier this year, her short film Fish Out of Water, about a wayward young mom who reconnects with her own father, screened at Cannes and the Tribeca Film Festival. While Francesca's actual father doesn’t appear, he does feature prominently on her TikTok, where their videos together regularly go viral. The pinnacle of the form, “Dad Guesses Slang,” is just shy of five minutes long and has garnered 2.4 million views. It dropped in the midst of the Killers of the Flower Moon press tour, when the 80-year-old was otherwise preoccupied with giving heavy, reflective interviews in which he pondered his mortality and the very nature of art—including in GQ. Then, there he was, an American legend trying to figure out what terms like “tea,” “slept on,” and “hits different” mean, in real time. It’s easy to see the appeal.

The TikToks, some have even posited, have served as great PR for getting younger moviegoers into the theater—on opening night, 46% of audience members at Killers of the Flower Moon were under 35.

Father and daughter have always been tight, bonding over movies early on. That Francesca eventually became a director seemed almost fated. “My first footage that I ever shot, I was three years old,” she tells me. “My dad handed me the camera and he directed me to shoot him. And it’s so funny because you hear me breathing really heavy behind the camera, trying so hard to get the shot right.”

She first started featuring him on social videos around 2015. It was the days of the app Dubsmash, a precursor to TikTok that allowed users to record themselves lip-syncing to funny audio clips. “He had a beard. He had just shot Silence,” Francesca recalls, referencing Scorsese’s harrowing 2016 religious epic about Jesuit missionaries in 17th-century Japan. The audio she picked was the song “Disco Disco Party Party,” which, she says, “he thought was the funniest thing ever.”

Soon after, she signed her father up for Instagram, where, along with promoting his work and various films, he also shares intimate family photos, frequently featuring canines. But it was on TikTok where the Francesca and Martin partnership began to sing. (Most recently, she may have been the one to urge him to sign up for the movie rating app Letterboxd.)

“He was in the middle of work and I was like, ‘Do this stupid video with me.’ And I think it was a nice little break for him, even if it was just for a couple of minutes,” Francesca says. In the April 2021 video, she asked him to identify various feminine products: a scrunchie, a beauty blender, an eyelash curler. “He literally still comes to me and he’s like, ‘If we do another one, it has to be funny and interesting—it has to be a good idea like the feminine-products one,’” she adds. (Dad does draw the line somewhere: no dances.)

“Dad Guess Slang,” posted in October, inspired entire news cycles. Along with being a fun gimmick, it was, in part, useful for the elder Scorsese. For instance, when she told him that GOAT stands for “greatest of all time.” “He was like, ‘Oh, that’s what it means! Everyone keeps saying that to me.’ Rick, his manager, and Leo”—yes, DiCaprio—“they’re like, ‘you’re the GOAT.’” He was thrilled to hear it, though, she adds, her father’s favorite slang term remains “hip.”

“It ended up blowing up more than we could have ever imagined,” she says of the video. “Now I feel like I’ve opened a Pandora’s box.”

There are an inordinate number of eyes on her videos now. A recent one, “The Muse,” features her father gushing over a new muse he had supposedly found to star in his next film—who turned out to be Francesca’s wholly unimpressed schnauzer, Oscar. “My dad adores him and he adores my dad,” she says. “It’s funny because he kind of looks like my dad too.”

Joe Russo, who has directed a number of Marvel films, made his own video in response; he cuts from footage of Scorsese and Oscar to himself holding a schnauzer, joking that his own dog was named “Box Office.” It was a reference to the years-long argument that began when Scorsese said in an interview that Marvel movies aren’t cinema.

Francesca says she hasn’t seen Russo’s response, though she has both trolled Marvel fans in the past and her own father, once wrapping all his Christmas gifts in Marvel wrapping paper.

“I don’t want to offend anybody or anything. I do very much stand with my dad, but I did educate myself,” she says. “Originally, when I was agreeing with him, I’d never seen a single Marvel film. And then during COVID, I finished all of them, but I still stand by it. I will say some of them are fun.”

Nor did she think the wrapping paper thing would blow up to the extent it did after she shared it on her Instagram stories. “People keep telling me to get him a Marvel cake,” she says. “I’m like, ‘He might kill me.’”

While in the midst of writing a new short and her first feature, Francesca recently collaborated with her dad by creative directing the behind-the-scenes footage of an ad he filmed for Blue de Chanel fragrance, starring Timothée Chalamet. “It was really cool seeing [Timothée] directed by my dad. They have such a fondness for each other,” she tells me. “He reminds me a lot of Leo in a sense.” A24 has also tapped the duo to write a book “about my film upbringing and how that shaped me as a person, as an artist.”

Behind the scenes, she has also come to be a trusted advisor of her father’s. Back when Silence was being made, a then-teenage Francesca saw a rough cut a few times. “I remember taking notes,” she says. “He didn’t ask me to, I was just like, ‘I was confused by this’ or ‘That looked fake’ or ‘I didn’t understand this’ or ‘You cut away too quickly.’ It was just instinct.”

Scorsese took her notes to heart. “He literally loved that,” she says. “And he and [editor] Thelma [Schoonmaker] actually went through it, and then they kept inviting me back to look at the rough cuts again to keep taking notes.”

In some ways, Francesca is part of a grand Scorsese tradition. Her father found great inspiration within his own family, whether it was filming a documentary about his parents in ItalianAmerican or having his mom, Catherine, appear in several of his films, including Taxi Driver, After Hours, GoodFellas, Cape Fear, and Casino.

“I didn’t even draw the comparison, making these TikToks with him and him directing his own parents, because I don’t even relate these TikToks to ItalianAmerican,” she says. “But I actually love that, and I one hundred percent want to direct him. I definitely want to do something ItalianAmerican based. I view that as my little time capsule of my grandparents, because I never got to meet them. So I hold it very close to my heart.”

Originally Appeared on GQ

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