Juliet: What brought you to Woodstock?
Heidi Sjursen: I’m 3rd generation Woodstocker. Grandma came from Denmark and Grandpa came from Norway. Bjarne and Marie Sjursen. He was a butler and she was a chef for some super fancy family and I think that is how they met in New York City. They fell in love, got married, and then they moved up here. They lived very modestly and had my dad here.
Juliet: That was Ole, right?
Heidi: Yes, Ole.
Juliet: My mom had a Volvo in the ’70’s so, they had a car relationship (all laugh)
Heidi: Yes most people I know either bought a car or had one fixed by him at some point, which is pretty cool.
My dad stayed here. He loved the mountains. He found this piece of land, built this house, and met my mom. He actually started “Ole’s Auto Body and Sales” right here in the garage in the first year of my life.
Jeffrey Abell: (to Heidi) Your mom had a salon downstairs too.
Heidi: Yep, my mom Annette had a hair salon where our office is now, downstairs, where we do all of our editing. It was pretty cool. Downstairs is broken into two pieces, the basement part which is now our office was the salon, and the garage part which was the first phase of “the shop”.
Juliet: Ole’s was out on 212?
Heidi: Yes, 212 where “Especially Swedish” is now.
(Ole Sjursen had his shop on 212 from 1973-2003. He had to sell due to illness (ALS) and he passed away in 2005)
Juliet: (to Jeffrey) What brought you here?
Jeffrey: (smiles) Heidi brought me here. (she giggles) I always heard of Woodstock, of course, everybody has.
Juliet: What’s your first memory of it?
Jeffrey: I think it was the Fourth of July.
Heidi: Is that the first time I brought you up here?
Jeffrey: Yeah, and I came up on the bus. It was actually pretty funny when we got to the traffic circle and I think the bus driver was new. We kept going around and he said “I don’t know where to go” so people were telling him how to get here. I got off the bus on the green. It was dark, so I didn’t get the full effect, though I thought town was cute. Heidi picked me up in her pink flames convertible and we went to Legends (now Cucina).
Juliet: Was that the fist time you saw that car?
Jeffrey: No, we had it in the city.
Heidi: Oh no, we were driving around in the city like maniacs in that car.
Jeffrey: I loved it, I thought it was really beautiful up here. My dad grew up in Ossining so I’d been around upstate when I was younger, visiting my grandparents.
Juliet: (to Heidi) What’s your first memory of Woodstock?
Heidi: I would say Woodstock Elementary, being obsessed with Grease, we had a grade school gang called the Pink Ladies. We were inseparable, best friends, and real tough – still are! (laughs) What also comes to mind is riding around on my bike on this awesome simple dirt road that is still an awesome simple dirt road. Thank God it’s never been paved. It’s a private road and it’s the way it always was. There’s a funny picture of me on my Huffy Bike, when I was about 7, in a satin jacket with one of my dad’s motorcycle helmets on which kinda sums it up.
Juliet: What has changed about Woodstock?
Heidi: I would say … the big influx of city folk. Not just having weekend houses but they’re moving up here..
Jeffrey: Especially in the summer, you notice it on weekends because it’s like crazy in town.
Heidi: Which is great. Now that I think about it, my Grandparents did that very thing 85 years ago, so I guess it isn’t all that new.
Jeffrey: It’s always been busy in town … but it’s filled with people.
Heidi: It’s definitely different in that way. And I must say, there is A LOT that feels exactly the same and super nostalgic to me about our magical little town.
I was in the city for 14 years and I was in Manhattan for the first seven. People kind of got pushed out to Brooklyn and Queens. I moved to Brooklyn and that’s where I met Jeffrey. YAY! (we laugh) But it’s nuts, it seems like people are getting pushed…
Heidi: Yes it seems like the artists are getting pushed even this far.
Juliet: How did you two get from Brooklyn back to Woodstock?
Heidi: Jeffrey and I met in Brooklyn one night at a mutual friend’s birthday party and danced the night away. And it was on. (giggles)
Jeffrey: It clicked.
Heidi: Oh did it click. It was so cool because we were both filmmakers, so not only did we fall in love but we immediately started making films together. I was just finishing one film and he helped me with the post production. Then we started making movies and things together. We were both freelancing and doing stuff in film and TV for other productions in New York. We started our own production company, “I Do Movies”, in Brooklyn and realized we could do it anywhere. We do promos, online commercials for businesses, music videos … we shoot live performances, document events, and we specialize in weddings. They are really cool documentaries, cut with a sense of humor and heart, not AT ALL what you think of when you think “wedding video”. We have made our own niche in that field, and we love doing it.
Jeffrey: We were getting more and more into shooting weddings. Everyone in Brooklyn wants to get married upstate (they both laugh) It seemed pretty perfect. We were loving coming up to Woodstock more and more often. We were kind of getting over the city at the same time.
Heidi: We loved the city and then we were done. The timing worked perfectly because my mom was getting ready to move out of the house … and to downsize … and …
Jeffrey: We just went for it.
Heidi: Yeah, we took the house over that my dad built with his own two hands.
So we moved from Brooklyn to Woodstock to shoot everyone from Brooklyn’s wedding in the Hudson Valley!!
Juliet: What’s your favorite thing about being here?
Heidi: Being close to my mom, and being able to see her a lot. Nature … our backyard* …The feeling of this place.
Heidi: I just love this town. We really deck out our backyard in the spring, making it as magical as we possibly can, and spend every spare moment there. It’s our “Heaven Haven.”
Jeffrey: The area is so gorgeous. The beauty up here is amazing.
Heidi: (to Jeffrey) “Oh thank you so much!” (laughter ensues)
Heidi: My very best friends from childhood all moved back and we get to hang out.
Jeffrey: That’s another thing that’s changed for me is not knowing anyone up here and now I have lots of friends. Everyone is so nice, it’s great community of people.
I DO MOVIES
*I was inspired to photograph Jeffrey and Heidi in their backyard after seeing it for the first time during their third time in the Woodstock Film Festival this October. They hosted an outdoor screening of their music video for Burnell Pines of his song “Days Gone By” along with Simi Stone’s “Good Friend “ directed by Samuel Centore and Gene Fischer. Both of these hometown musicians were there to sing and play guitar around the bonfire afterwards. We were surrounded by trees bedecked with white twinkle lights – a dreamy autumn night in the country.