How Martin Scorsese conquered TikTok at the age of 81

He’s not the only octogenarian director active on social media — Coppola teaches cinema on Instagram while Paul Schrader keeps Facebook afloat

Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola
At 81 years old, Martin Scorsese (right) is an active TikToker, while 84-year-old Francis Ford Coppola (left) is prolific on Instagram.Collage: Blanca López Solórzano
Miquel Echarri

Joe Dante has polite manners. The veteran director of films like Gremlins and Piranha recently posted a “Happy Halloween” message on X and announced a new episode of his The Movies That Made Me podcast. Not long ago, he also said farewell on X to his old friend William Friedkin, who died on August 7.

Dante, who retired from filmmaking after directing an episode of the (forgettable) horror anthology Nightmare Cinema in 2018, mostly shares obituaries and sends birthday wishes on social networks that are more familiar to older generations. Still, he’s more active than other filmmakers his age like John Carpenter, who tweets at the frenetic pace of once a month. Brian De Palma abandoned Instagram five years ago, and David Lynch last appeared on social media when Bernie Sanders still had a chance at becoming president of the United States.

There are always exceptions, of course. Martin Scorsese, who just turned 81, is incredibly active on various platforms, including Instagram, TikTok, X and Letterboxd. “When the time comes to remember him, Martin Scorsese’s legacy will be that of a pioneer. In his lifetime, Scorsese managed to harness the untapped power of an art form that had long since fallen into a bloated state of rote disrepair. Scorsese grabbed that art form with both hands, and became a superstar by refining and revitalizing it,” wrote Stuart Heritage in The Guardian. The art form? TikTok, of course.

Martin Francesca Scorsese
Martin Scorsese and his daughter, Francesca Scorsese, at the Tribeca Flim Festival in June 2023.Rob Kim (Getty Images for Tribeca Festiva)

Scorsese is an exceptional storyteller and a restless spirit. That’s why he enthusiastically ventured into producing content on the short-form video platform. Scorsese has the help of his youngest daughter, Francesca, a 23-year-old actress and student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (Scorsese is an alumnus). She is the driving force behind this intergenerational bridge connecting survivors of New Hollywood with 21st-century film fans.

Heritage believes the veteran filmmaker got started on TikTok when the Hollywood actors’ strike forced him to take on all the publicity for his latest film, Killers of the Flower Moon. Francesca suggested abandoning the usual publicity tour in favor of Instagram and TikTok, Gen Z’s beloved entertainment platform.

Puppy power

Take a look at this video. It’s a concise, 100-second masterpiece in which Scorsese tells us how he saw the light and discovered a new muse.

Having directed renowned actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Ellen Burstyn, Margot Robbie, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe and Winona Ryder for over 50 years, Scorsese has now decided to give opportunities to “new talents” who can take his cinematic work “to a new dimension.” He interviews a rising star named Oscar, who happens to be Francesca’s beetle-browed Schnauzer (that sort of looks like the director).

The placid puppy is planted in front of Scorsese, who exhorts him to show expressions of fear, love, sadness and transcendence. In a shot full of delicious dramatic tension, the new muse about whom people are saying great things barely moves a muscle until, with canine indolence, he extends his legs and lies down on the sofa. “Brilliant, brilliant!” exclaims Scorsese. “You’ve got the role!”

Francesca wrote the script for the scene, which was conceived, planned, executed and edited in just 15 minutes. It was posted to Francesca’s TikTok account minutes later. Martin was surprised by the agility and efficiency of the entire process, writes Maya Salam in The New York Times. The only “special effect” they used was offering Oscar a doggy treat to get him to lie down.

Scorsese had appeared on his daughter’s TikTok before, but this time he was amazed to see how a simple sight gag could generate over 100,000 thumbs-up and thousands of comments in just a few hours. Turns out, there’s a shortcut to capturing the attention of Gen Z. Anyone can do it, even octogenarian directors who make three-hour movies.

Learn, Marvel

The viral popularity of Oscar’s audition led the TikTok community to explore Scorsese’s previous appearances on his daughter’s account, which began in mid-2021. A fan favorite is Francesca’s video quizzing her dad about the youth slang of today.

The piece has already garnered over two million views and continues to receive enthusiastic comments like, “Everything this man touches becomes cinema,” and “Learn, Marvel.” Others said, “Imagine how nice it must be to have Martin Scorsese as a father” and “What a good time to be alive.”

The origin story of this improvised web series is a 22-second TikTok video of candid Scorsese moments that prompted Francesca to call her father a “certified silly goose.”

When Francesca’s followers saw the director cuddling a puppy and having a laugh with old pals like Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro, they started to get interested in this older guy who seemed kind, funny and approachable. Some even said they might watch his movies.

Lisa Respers France writes on CNN Entertainment that it’s moving to see the man who “made classics like Raging Bull, Taxi Driver and Goodfellas” finding new audiences on TikTok. “Utterly charming and a true testament to the fact that Scorsese rules no matter the medium, I love seeing people learning and leaning into new things.”

At Francesca’s urging, Scorsese has joined Letterboxd, a much smaller social network for film lovers. Although he hasn’t published any reviews yet, Scorsese did post a list of favorite films that includes Lourdes by Jessica Hausner, The Taking of Power by Louis XIV by Roberto Rossellini, and Sweet Smell of Success by Alexander Mackendrick.

The godfather is on Instagram

Other filmmakers of Scorsese’s generation are also exploring social media with newfound enthusiasm. Francis Ford Coppola, the creator of iconic films like Apocalypse Now, The Godfather and Rumble Fish, joined Instagram last May with the announcement, “I have officially joined the world of social media. My hope is to give you a glimpse into my life and journey in making the most interesting film of my career @megalopolisfilm. One of the greatest surprises in life is when you realize you’re elderly. But there’s a gentle comfort coming from that, as everyone loves stories and long ago adventures told by their Grandpa.”

Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola at the 2023 Atlanta Film Festival in Georgia.Paras Griffin (Getty Images)

Since then, the talented “newcomer” has been sharing updates about Megalopolis, set to premiere in mid-2024, along with some of the promised grandpa stories. One notable contribution to digital culture is his Ask Me Anything session from last June, in which he revealed that The Conversation is the film he’d like to be remembered for. He also said he often thinks about the Roman Empire, dislikes video games, and has no regrets about casting Diane Keaton as Kay in The Godfather.

We still have to talk about Paul Schrader, another director who emerged in the late 1960s. Stuart Heritage credits him with “single-handedly keeping Facebook afloat.” Jorge Cotte’s writes hilariously in Complex about the American Gigolo director’s wild Facebook posts, and quotes Schrader’s scathingly brief review of Avatar: The Way of Water: “The movie started. There was a bunch of cool stuff on screen. Then the movie ended.” Schrader posts prolifically about his adventures in large shopping centers, seeks help from followers with his iTunes playlists, and expresses disdain for Elon Musk and love for Taylor Swift (who doesn’t?).

Jo Light writes on No Film School that Schrader’s Facebook is “definitely worth a follow for his commentary on the film industry and current events (as well as the occasional Hollywood kerfuffle),“ like his recent scornful rant about fellow filmmaker Brian De Palma and how much he liked Us by Jordan Peele.

Schrader’s latest posts include a posthumous remembrance of cinematographer John Bailey, a poem by Michael Weston King, a fiery defense of Robert De Niro after the actor’s company was heavily fined for gender discrimination, and a photo of Margo Timmons (from Cowboy Junkies) playing Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane at the City Winery in New York. If you comment on one of Schrader’s posts, don’t be surprised to see a reply from the director himself.

The social media accounts of Joe Dante and George Lucas may be neglected gardens, but Martin and Francesca Scorsese’s TikTok is a treasure trove of miniature audiovisual art. Coppola’s Instagram offers a crash course in cinema, and Schrader’s Facebook is the place to go if you want to exchange pithy comments with one of the most astute curmudgeons in the world.

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