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SXSW Film: Highland Park in the House


by Stephen Becker 15 Mar 2009

AUSTIN — The purpose of most music videos is to simply showcase the artist and the song that they’re singing. They’re marketing tools, essentially. Josephine Decker didn’t want to make that kind of video. Sure, she was interested in promoting her friend, Brooklyn singer Charlie Hewson and his song, “Where Are You Going, Elena.” But […]

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img_4068AUSTIN — The purpose of most music videos is to simply showcase the artist and the song that they’re singing. They’re marketing tools, essentially.

Josephine Decker didn’t want to make that kind of video. Sure, she was interested in promoting her friend, Brooklyn singer Charlie Hewson and his song, “Where Are You Going, Elena.” But she also wanted a chance to be creative in her own right while digging into the song’s themes.

Decker, a Highland Park High School graduate who lives in Brooklyn, came to SXSW last year with her documentary Bi the Way, which explores the trend of bisexuality among young people. After traveling the country documenting these stories, it was time to put a little more of herself into her next project.

“I had been making docs since college and it can be creative, but I like making things up and creating a fantastical world,” she said.

“Elena” provided the perfect avenue for that. It’s sung from the perspective of a diner regular who is saddened when his favorite waitress suddenly quits her job. In the video, Elena sets down her tray and literally runs out the door.

The theme of female unhappiness struck a chord with Decker. She started a women’s organization while at Princeton called Organization of Women Leaders (OWL), and she says she’s long been interested in the struggles that women face in their professional lives. Elena’s dissatisfaction resonated.

“The thing isn’t that she doesn’t like her job. It’s that she doesn’t feel appreciated.”

You’ll be happy to know that ultimately, Elena does feel appreciated – by the utensils in the diner. When they run out the door after her, begging her to come back, things start to look up.

She’s currently shopping the video to Web sites; when she has a deal, we’ll be sure to post a link to it. Until then, she’s hard at work on a Web series about an 8-year-old with imaginary friends (The John Show) and developing a narrative feature about a girl who holds funerals for friends who cross her (An Emily and the Darkness).

And, oh yeah – she’s formed an accordion/banjo band with Hewson that plays everything from oldies to Justin Timberlake covers.

It looks like that creative itch from making all those docs is being scratched nicely.

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