It’s hard to imagine Martin Scorsese — the Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy, and BAFTA-winning director, who’s been behind some of the best films of all time, such as Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, and Gangs of New York, just to name a few — was ever an aspiring filmmaker attending art school.
But alas, in the 1960s, a young Scorsese was just a student at New York University’s School of the Arts (now known as the Tisch School of Arts) studying his craft. During his time there he created his first ‘official’ short film, What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? which he both wrote and directed.
The film is a comedy-drama and follows a writer as he purchases an unimpressive picture of a boat on a lake but then becomes so obsessed with it, living a normal life becomes hard. Despite Scorsese himself describing the film as “nine minutes of visual nonsense” in the 2011 book, Conversations with Scorsese, critics note that What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? has clear connections to most of his later — and critically acclaimed — films, including Goodfellas and The Wolf of Wall Street.
Scorsese does admit, albeit with another dig, that the short film was enjoyable to make and was the reason he could continue to study filmmaking.
“It had no depth at all, but it was a lot of fun. And it won me a scholarship, so my father was able to use it for the tuition for the next year.”Martin Scorsese
While What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? was Scorsese’s first ‘official’ short film, it wasn’t the first film he ever directed. In his final years of high school in 1959, he made a miniature epic set in Ancient Rome called Vesuvius VI. Later, in 2016 during an interview with IMDb, Scorsese called that film “juvenile”. So, it seems that Scorsese — like many of us — is embarrassed by the things he created in his youth.
But you can make the decision yourself on whether Scorsese’s early works are good or not; he — again, like many of us — is known to be a tad overly self-critical of himself and his films. He famously told The Guardian in 2003, “when I’m making a film, I’m the audience.”
While Vesuvius VI isn’t publicly available, you can watch What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? in its entirety below: