Senior Profile: Napoliello makes film unapologetically

Rachel Napoliello is pictured. Courtesy Rachel Napoliello

Graduating senior Rachel Napoliello didn’t start her Tufts career knowing she wanted to pursue filmmaking. 

“I came in knowing I was definitely going to have a chemistry major, and I originally thought I was probably going to pursue studio arts as a minor or something, just because I wanted to keep that in my life,” she said. “I’ve always made films, ever since I was young — some of them were pretty hilarious — but I just never thought about it as a career path.” 

After getting involved with Tufts University Television (TUTV) during her first year at Tufts, however, Napoliello learned that she could pursue her passion for filmmaking and storytelling alongside her chemistry major. 

Over the course of her time at Tufts, Napoliello has come to understand what filmmaking and storytelling means for her from her time with the Film and Media Studies (FMS) program and with TUTV.

 “Over the four years I think what the film department really did was teach me what stories I wanted to tell,” Napoliello said. “Especially because it’s a liberal arts school, a lot of the different film people are interested in a lot of different areas of study, it really allows you to focus on your filmmaking as an individual art form.”

Specifically, Napoliello noted that her experience in filmmaking has shaped her personal form of storytelling in what she understands as “quiet films.” 

“I think across the films that I felt have been closest to what I want to make, it’s definitely as pared-down as it needs to be. It’s like Hemingway — there’s nothing extraneous to the story. Just really intentional and conscious filmmaking,” Napoliello described.

This stylistic interest culminated in the production of her senior thesis film, “Young Adults,” during which Napoliello loved engaging in the collaborative aspect of filmmaking. 

“I started defending my thesis, and people were there, and some of the crew members were there, and I just started crying because I just loved everyone so much … so the story itself was important to me, but it was really working with the people I worked with and seeing how incredible they were and talented and just feeling like a little community that we all created together. That was my favorite part of the process,” she said.

Over the course of her time in the FMS program, Napoliello reflected on some classes that were a major influence on her understanding of film, including Film Directing with Jennifer Burton, Advanced Documentary Production with Natalie Minik and any of her classes with Khary Jones. However, Napoliello’s experience in TV in the Age of Change with Tasha Oren taught her another important lesson about not being afraid to love the things she did. 

“In that class, the final paper I wrote was this ridiculous paper on how ‘Supernatural’ changed how TV treats Judeo-Christian mythology, and it was 20 pages. It was research, but while I was writing it, I was like, ‘This is hot nonsense’ … But I had so much fun writing it — I’ve never enjoyed academic writing … but that was the first time I really enjoyed it, and [professor Oren] didn’t really put me down for liking those kinds of things. It was just like, ‘Your likes are valid,’” Napoliello said.

Napoliello learned to apply this validation of her essay to the things that she enjoyed more generally. 

“Why am I apologizing for the stories I like?” she said. “I think it’s in society that women and female-identifying people say sorry all the time, and it just made me rethink that. Why am I saying sorry for if I call you out on your BS, or have different media tastes than you?”

Upon graduating, Napoliello wanted to thank everyone who was a part of her filmmaking experience at Tufts.

 “They really want you to make what you want to make and do what you set out to do, and they’re so supportive in that and helping along the way — and that goes for the community as well, in FMS and TUTV, really everywhere. The art community is so cool at Tufts,” she said.


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