Billy Donoso ’23

Masterclass Martin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking, Professional Development Course

It’s a delightful thing to hear that not every critically acclaimed Hollywood director came from a glamorous upbringing. That was my first impression of Martin Scorsese, the man we now recognize for directing such greats as Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Taxi Driver and who came from humble beginnings on 232 Elizabeth Street in New York City, torn between life on the streets and life in the Catholic Church. In this masterclass, I learned about the classes he took at NYU to become familiar with the craft of filmmaking, the Italian neo-realist movies that informed his cinematic style, and the key elements that made up Scorsese’s process: finding vastly different stories which spoke to him and his personal life in some way, shape or form; finding actors who went into the film relating to their character in deeply personal ways; finding locations and costumes that embody the themes and period of the film; finding a way to transform a shot that is intended for one particular moment but may provide more meaning or utility when used in a different moment. These are some of the arduous steps he advises aspiring filmmakers to take, but a glimmer of relief clearly shines through this one man’s message when he is frequently open about how futile his efforts would have been if not for the support of a dedicated, bright, versatile team by his side. I learned so much about filmmaking that I decided to make a short film myself over the summer, in part because of the instructions of the masterclass workbook and in part because of the inspiration I got from his words “to just get out there and do it.” Doing that during a pandemic pushed me to my physical and mental limits, but overcoming the obstacles made the entire experience one of the most gratifying endeavors I’ve ever undertaken.

I could go on and on to describe how applicable Scorsese’s words were, but in short, it has given me the confidence to go out and keep making films. This might sound as if I’m leaning more into an applied program of film coursework at Williams, but I’ve honestly never really appreciated the breadth of knowledge that a Williams liberal arts education has to offer until now. I would love nothing more than to study the language of great stories with an English major and explore the archive of great art with an art history major as well. Next semester, I am pre-registered for an art history tutorial on the Cinematic Portrayal of Africa, an art history class on the History of Photography, an English seminar on American Modernism, and an astronomy class on the Stars: From the Sun to Black Holes. For now, I want to just thank the amazing people at the ’68 Center for Career Exploration as well as the Estate of Bruce Davey from the bottom of my heart, for the lifechanging opportunity to take Scorsese’s Masterclass on Filmmaking.