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A graduate in Cayuga Community College’s Class of 2022 is turning her passion for classic films and documentaries into a rapidly rising career as a social media influencer.
In less than three years, Cayuga alum Marianne Natoli’s pages on TikTok and Instagram grabbed the attention of entertainment industry staples such as HBO, Starz and Turner Classic Movies (TCM), as well as Netflix and the Elizabeth Taylor Estate. Her work for these and other outlets, plus her independent documentaries and pop culture videos, have helped her amass almost 150,000 followers across all her platforms, with a weekly total reach of 2-5 million views.
It’s been a whirlwind experience for Natoli, who earned her Associate of Applied Science in Media Production at Cayuga in December 2021 and launched her TikTok profile in late 2020.
“I started off making funny videos about ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Sound of Music,’ and it just took off right away,” she said. “I spent time researching what worked and what didn’t work for other people, and I had a lot of experience on-camera from high school. Some of my videos and series went viral, and that brought in more people and the attention of larger brands and studios.”
Building her fascination with films from an early age by filming family videos with her father, Natoli enrolled in Cayuga’s Media Production program when the degree was offered online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with building her TikTok skills while isolated during the pandemic, Natoli credited her time at Cayuga for encouraging her development and providing her courses to build her skillset.
“Everyone was always very encouraging of my work and believed in me. Professor (Steve) Keeler’s documentary filmmaking class was my first experience in this form. A lot of the techniques I learned at Cayuga, particularly video editing, are skills I use a lot on TikTok,” she said.
Her time at Cayuga saw her earn a Telly Award and an award at the inaugural Cayuga Film Festival for her documentary “Living Lab Equipment,” which examined the use of animals in lab testing. She’s currently a judge for this year’s Cayuga Film Festival.
Along the way she began producing content highlighting classic films featuring luminaries like Elvis Presley, Ann-Margret, and Lucille Ball, features on the Indiana Jones franchise, and a 10-part video series on Elizabeth Taylor.
Those efforts drew attention from larger brands. Among other opportunities, she was hired to promote “Stranger Things” for Netflix, “And Just Like That” on HBO Max, “The Santa Clauses” for Disney+, and “Elizabeth the First,” a podcast narrated by singer Katy Perry about Taylor.
Her burgeoning presence on social media culminated this summer when she was invited to walk the red carpet at TCM’s Classic Film Festival. Joined by her son, Ledger, Natoli was interviewed on the red carpet by host Dave Karger about her passion for older films.
That one-of-a-kind experience reinforced not only her passion for classic films, but also her determination to help younger audiences realize the continued relevance of older films.
“I always say that I was raised by Turner Classic Movies and TV Land, with those older movies and shows,” she said. “I’m genuinely interested in these films and the people who made them and starred in them. I think that caught TCM’s attention — that at my age I’m someone with an interest in these films, that I recognize their relevance and that I built a platform tying those messages to today’s society.”
Natoli continues to build on her social media successes, but is also exploring a return to long-form documentary filmmaking. She’s developing a new project that is currently in pre-production, with preliminary shooting scheduled for New York City. She hopes to submit the video in the 2024 Cayuga Film Festival.
Her TikTok and Instagram pages can be located on both sites under the page name “hey_marianne.”