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Hal Hartley ’84

Film BFA

Prolific independent filmmaker, Hal Hartley, recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of his first feature-length film, The Unbelievable Truth.  His impressive list of writing, producing, and directing credits includes feature and short narratives, documentaries, television series, as well as composing for the screen.

Life After Purchase

After graduating, Hartley recalls, “I worked odd jobs in New York City, mostly in the film production business, and kept writing screenplays and making short films. I ran with a crowd of other Purchase graduates—filmmakers, actors, musicians and visual artists.”

In 1988 Hartley made his first feature, The Unbelievable Truth. Hartley went on to describe his career trajectory: “It turned out to be modestly successful, was distributed worldwide, and established me as a professional filmmaker. I worked non-stop for the next ten years making five more feature films and assorted shorter works for television. After 1998 I slowed down my film production work and investigated other fields: writing and staging my play Soon in Europe, studying computer technology, composing, and teaching at Harvard University for three years.”

In 2004 Hartley was offered a fellowship to the American Academy in Berlin. Hartley said, “After my four-month stay at the Academy I settled in Berlin for five years. While there, I produced Fay Grim (2006) and the collection of short films called Possible Films 2 (2009), as well as staging the contemporary opera, La Commedia, by Dutch composer, Louis Andriessen, in Amsterdam (2008).”

In 2009 Hartley returned to New York City.

Hartley continues: “In these last ten years I’ve made three new features, directed television episodes for Amazon, developed a few of my own (as yet unproduced) television series and built an online retail distribution business selling my films worldwide. Though more films and episodic television projects are likely, I spend a lot more of my creative time these days writing fiction, essays, and making music.”

Looking Back at His Time at Purchase

“Thirty-five years later, my main take-away about Purchase is that I was lucky to have landed there” Hartley said. “At twenty, I was still too immature, shy and ignorant to learn much from the world at large. I would have been overwhelmed. Purchase provided me with an introduction to the world’s variety as well as helping me discover what my aspirations actually were.”