Student Artist Profile: Mike Natoli

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Published September 11, 2019
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The Montclarion
Mike Natoli is a senior television and digital media major at Montclair State University. His passion for visual storytelling has inspired him to release an eight episode series titled, "Mojave Blues," which is based on the "Fallout New Vegas" video game universe. He spoke with Montclarion Video Editor Annabel Reyes about his success and creative process.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue filmmaking?

A: Even though I played with a camera from about the time I was seven or eight years old, I really didn’t know what I wanted to be. I thought it was just a neat thing to do and it never really crossed my mind until high school when I found out I could take TV production as a class.

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Mike Natoli poses with his camera.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Braunlich Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Stephanie Braunlich

After that, I started trying to climb through the ranks in high school and try to be the best I could be there and try to learn everything I could. We learned Final Cut Pro 7 and eventually switched over to Adobe. I learned actual HD cameras and I just started getting a group together that I could start to make films with. That camaraderie is what you take with you throughout high school. It was a unique experience.

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A movie poster of “Mojave Blues,” written and directed by Mike Natoli.
Photo courtesy of Celia Mascio Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Celia Mascio

Q. What is your film, “Mojave Blues,” about?

A: “Mojave Blues,” for those of you who don’t know the “Fallout” universe, which is a video game universe, is a post-apocalyptic western about two mismatched people who got really bad luck in life.

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D.J. Gursaly (left) and Jolie Decker (right) on the set of “Mojave Blues.” Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Mike Natoli

One character has been wrong in some way and got shot in the head and left for dead. She survived it and then this authority figure in this post-apocalyptic wasteland is sent to track her down and stop her from robbing people because she’s starting to take what she can get.

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“Mojave Blues” takes place in the Mojave Desert, based on the Fallout video game universe. Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Mike Natoli

It’s an action-comedy and it takes place in the “Fallout New Vegas” universe. It’s a role-playing game, it’s one of the games without a plot. You can be whatever you like and I think that element and that ambiguity is essential for creating a series because if you can be anything then you can write the characters around anything, they just have to be in that universe.

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Jolie Decker plays the role of Six in “Mojave Blues.” Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Mike Natoli

Q. Why did you decide to create “Mojave Blues?”

A: Sometimes there are stories that need to be told. That’s the existential way of putting it, but the more practical way of putting it is that I had to make a film for a TV course, Advanced Television Production. We had to do a chase scene. It’s supposed to teach continuity and fluency of shots. I used it as an excuse to make this film. Jolie Decker, who plays Six, and the ranger who’s played by my friend and cosplayer D.J. Gursaly, were all “Fallout” fans. A couple of the producers, Tom Rose and Brendan McNally, are “Fallout” fans as well so we understand the universe and we believe in the project.

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Jolie Decker plays the role of Six in the series, “Mojave Blues.” Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Mike Natoli

Q. What was it like having your film selected to be in the MystiCon Film Festival in Roanoke, Virginia?

A: It was actually a magical time to get recognized for that sort of thing, I hope that it gets selected for more, honestly. We’re thinking about entering it in the Garden State Film Festival, which I was a part of. I was lucky enough for them to select one of my student films that was a pilot for another series I was doing, called “Existence,” and that got selected for a couple of years to play at film festivals.

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A movie poster for Mike Natoli’s student film, “Existence.” Photo credit: Photo courtesy of MCP Entertainment

I want to go to festivals mainly because I want to show the actors that there is a pay off to this. It’s more than just seeing yourself on a screen, it’s seeing yourself on a screen in a theater and people are enjoying and reacting to your film. I think that’s amazing.

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Mike Natoli poses with his favorite Canon camera. Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Annabel Reyes

 

Q. How has Montclair State University guided your filmmaking?

A: I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve accomplished in filmmaking or TV series producing or anything media-making without the assistance of Montclair State and the wonderful professors I’ve had here. I’m really grateful for Montclair State because this is the best place right now, in the nation, for TV production and film.

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The cast and crew of “Mojave Blues” pose for a photo on set. Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Mike Natoli

Q. What do you want to do after college?

A: I want to eventually become a film editor. I love to do that. I love every aspect of camerawork and directing, but what I really love to do is edit because you get to see it come to life in front of you and put your own twist on it. I’d love to edit films professionally in Los Angeles, that’s my goal, but I’m happy to be in the New York area because this is one of the best places to be too.

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D.J. Gursaly plays the role of the Ranger in “Mojave Blues.” Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Mike Natoli

Q. Where can we see Mojave Blues?

A: You can follow MCP Entertainment on YouTube, that’s where all of my content usually gets released. “Mojave Blues” comes out this October 2019, so look for it. The trailer is coming soon!

 

 

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