Since graduating from Harley, Andrew DeNatale ‘15 has earned his undergraduate degree from Sarah Lawrence College and pursued a career in the New York City filmmaking industry as a cinematographer and camera operator. So far, his work has taken him across the United States for feature films, network documentaries, commercial product videos, and independent short films. Despite working in very technical positions behind the camera, an education grounded in writing, humanities, and social science still informs every aspect of his job as a visual storyteller. At Harley, his passion for humanities, history, and the arts was fostered by teachers across many disciplines and helped form a bedrock of critical thinking and analytical expertise that every great filmmaker can call upon in their work.
In a history class focusing on World Wars taught by Bill Schara (History, 1997-2021, 2022-present)), Andrew dove deep into research on the historical context of German filmmakers during World War II and the line towed between art and propaganda. Research into the striking visual techniques used in those movies (and throughout Hollywood) testified to the artistic power that filmmakers could wield over an audience in both negative and positive ways. In AP Digital Media with Michael Gaffney (Digital Media Arts, 2012-14), Andrew spent the semester documenting the craftspeople of the Morse Lumber Company, a local Rochester company with a history dating back to 1853. This project gave Andrew a chance to learn how to tell the story of those workers and their craft through imagery.
It’s hard to talk about Harley School academics without mentioning its focus on developing writing skills. Andrew still speaks about how important it was to have a grounding in writing before entering a liberal arts college like Sarah Lawrence. The academics of that institution lean heavily on a student’s ability to write strong, coherent, and research-based papers for every class. Sarah Lawrence’s structure allowed Andrew to study a wide range of topics including art history, philosophy, world history, and filmmaking. Despite this variety of subjects, writing was always the connecting thread, and it further refined his ability to communicate ideas, build a compelling story, and connect to a reader’s experiences.
At Sarah Lawrence, a course on the history of the Modern Middle East was a perfect opportunity for him to fuse historical writing analysis and filmmaking. The first several months focused on analyzing historical texts and academic writing about the enormous changes Middle Eastern countries experienced after two World Wars. The class then had the opportunity to view films made by Iranian, Israeli, and Palestinian artists. Viewing these films after understanding the historical context of their respective countries brought a depth of understanding about why they were made the way they were and the cultural influences affecting the filmmaker’s decisions on how their stories were told.
During his 3rd year at Sarah Lawrence, Andrew began to focus more on the craft of cinematography, learning how lighting, camera movement, and lensing could help support a movie’s script and the actor’s performances on screen. His work on two student films, Jack Turbo and Más Bowls, helped both movies earn entry into film festivals. Knowing how the choice of a specific lens can affect a viewer’s relationship with a character, or when to move the camera during a shot are skills that can only be used well if the cinematographer can analyze and deconstruct a movie script. It is a skill that Andrew first remembers from piecing apart Shakespeare with Kirsten Allen Reader ‘90 (Middle School English, 1999-2018 and Director of Enrollment, 2018-present) and Rajesh Singaravelu (Lower School, 2004-2007, History, 2007-present) in Middle School. This is all to say that at the core of any good filmmaker is the ability to communicate effectively.
Andrew’s next project is a short film titled Danny’s Diner, a collaboration between him, Carson Earnest, and Ellie Gravitte, the film’s director. The story follows two young women who have been stuck working at “Danny’s Diner” for most of their young lives and they cannot take its abysmal working conditions any longer. Their plot to escape and find their version of paradise is complicated by the return of a hungry patron looking to reconnect to his childhood diner. At its core, this is a story about two people trying to find their pocket of space in a world that has so far disregarded them, and the lengths they will go to for love.
The film is currently in its final stage of fundraising until mid-November and an Indigogo page is open for anyone interested in supporting the project. All donations are welcome and they will help fund the crew, production design, location and equipment rentals, and editing. Other ways to support the filmmakers include sharing the fundraising page on social media and following the production company on Instagram: @page8pictures. More information about Andrew’s work can be found on his website: www.andrewdenatale.com.