Just about when most of us mountain people come down with the first bout of cabin fever to contend with, Valentine’s Day comes around and acts as if it were the “Hump Day” of winter. People jump at the excuse to add some spice to life with chocolate and roses or a romantic getaway. But not everyone is dying to get out. Fully immersed in their work and having a blast, every day is “Love Day” for 40 year old Heidi Sjursen and her husband Jeffrey Abell (32). They have made a career out of documenting what Jeffrey considers, “Aside from perhaps birth, the best day of people’s life.” What started as a gift became a business when the movie they made of a friend’s wedding turned out to be the best wedding video in the world. Ido-Movies. Heidi and Jeff more than capture the “I Do” when they film; they have made it their mission to make really good Wedding Movies from start to finish. The end result is a film that you really enjoy watching.
I know, wedding videos can be a frightening thought, but what you get when you hire Jeff and Heidi is a unique film that is not only entertaining but beautifully captures the sentimental importance of such a monumental occasion. They understand what it takes, because they themselves are madly in love with each other and what they do. In moving (back for Heidi) to Woodstock, together, they have created a life where they get to enjoy the summer — shooting every weekend — and hunker down in winter, turning the “long haul” into valuable creative time together.
Once they start post-production it is almost impossible to get them to break from what they call “Wediting.” This summer they renovated their basement into a super stylin’ fully operational video-editing complex — which really means a comfortable room to work in that looks like you won a makeover from a show on HGTV — so they’re comfortable right where they are. Think Mod 2012, silver walls and furniture redesigned and decorated deftly with re-purposed items found in the garage and at yard sales. One of Heidi’s hobbies is collecting all things fun and cool; be they Jumpsuits Farrah Faucet might have worn to Studio 54 or a working Barbie tape recorder complete with microphone attached, she’s good. She and Jeffrey are great together.
Heidi is a second generation Woodstocker. Her father, Ole Sjursen, built the home Heidi grew up in on the land where he worked as a teenager farming potatoes and tilling dreams for a future that he went on to far exceed; making a family with Heidi’s mother Annette, and a career out of his love for cars and motorcycles. Ole’s Auto Body began in his garage and later moved to Route 212 where he continued to serve the community for 30 years, selling Heidi’s friends their first cars, fixing them when they wrecked them, and amassing a library of towing stories to later tell, like pulling Ozzy Ozbourne out of a ditch on Ricks road. Heidi attributes the roots of her love affair with humor to her dad who wasn’t afraid to make a fool of himself, don a wig and a wild outfit, and ham it up. He encouraged her to take humor as her religion and she has gone to great lengths to honor those early teachings with antics like driving 90 miles dressed as a UPS delivery guy to ask her dad if she could “Use the Can” in her Man Voice. It was worth the whole trip to hear him whisper, “There is this really weird guy in the bathroom,” just before whipping off the wig and surprising him.
Heidi went to Los Angeles after Onteora high school in 1989, “The year of the High kicking Unicorn” as she puts it, where she got her first agent and roller-skated on Venice beach in between modeling shoots. “L.A. was fun, but my career really took off when I moved back to Manhattan.” Heidi lists her endeavors, displaying a bit about how much energy she has for the party. She had a design business making custom clothing for boutiques in New York and Los Angeles. Her designs were sported by Debbie Harry, Joan Jett and Britney Spears. But as fun as that was, it was more of a hobby than a career. She hosted a public access variety skit-com TV show out of Manhattan called TV Show; promoted a very successful weekly Tuesday night disco party to a very eclectic packed house at Coney Island High. Again fun, but she kept being led back to making movies. Funny movies.
Heidi is not just a comedienne. She is a Humorist, taking comedy to an art form that speaks from a direct and unique place. Unabashed and raw, you don’t always know what to expect. This is why she is extra blessed to have met and married her partner in crime Jeffrey Abell, also a filmmaker who studied at the College of Santa Fe before moving to Brooklyn.
Theirs is a tale of love at first sight that, not surprisingly, comes with a fun story. Heidi’s intuition that she and a friend should to go to the party across the street paid off. Despite her friend’s prior indiscretion with the host/birthday boy, Heidi was able to convince her to go. Donna Summer in the background, disco ball spins, love of his life spies future soul mate across the room and it’s On! They dance the night away, until her friend tosses a drink on the host of the party and needs to be removed from the building. A few weeks later Heidi invited Jeffrey to a circus themed party, which she hosted dressed as a clown in a tutu. Jeffrey, also a humorist, ended that first date (which went from dancing another night away to arts and crafts and a trip to the circus at Coney Island) three days later, vacuuming her apartment in Bunny slippers and Heidi’s tutu. Since film was each of their first love, within weeks, they were freelancing as a team, writing, directing and filming fun comedy shorts together. Like a couple of vaudevillian jesters, together they keep you on your toes. George and Gracie would be proud.
Ole passed in 2006, after battling ALS. Heidi and Jeffrey had been coming a lot to be with him, and eventually came to live in Woodstock. It means a lot to Heidi to live in the house he built and live in this community. She enjoys running into fellow firefighters from his 30 years of volunteer service at Woodstock Company #2. It allows her to keep a direct connection to her dad.
In 2010, they chose Interfaith Minister/Humor-Guru-Rock and Roll Therapist, Paul McMahon to officiate their own wedding ceremony. He did so in the yard Heidi grew up in not far from the swing in the tree next to the house her father built. Humor aside, their vows included their appreciation for the gift of collaborative creativity.
On the morning of a wedding they shoot, Heidi and Jeffrey each take a camera and split up, she with the bridal party and he with the groom. They shoot the fun stuff, getting ready, primping etc… And then they meet at the ceremony. The two camera shoot adds layers to the production and widens the perspective. Each of them sees differently, yet knows what the other will be looking for.
You might wonder how a couple of magnanimous personalities like Heidi and Jeffrey can document a wedding without stealing the thunder, but good humor comes with self-awareness and they are professional film makers trained in the art of reducing themselves to “fly on the wall” status on the job. Naturally hard-wired for fun and good times, Heidi and Jeffrey’s work constantly reminds them of their love for each other. That and an understanding of their craft, makes them the perfect people to document a wedding. “It is amazing working with Jeffrey, it is an incredible blessing to love each other so much and to be able to create together the way that we do, and have a lot of fun doing it.” Jeffrey agrees. “It’s fun to witness those special moments with my honey, be a part of what makes them so special and then together we get to give a gift that can be revisited forever.” Jeffrey sports a constant twinkle in his eye, “We are pretty much smiling the whole day when we are on a job. We love each other and we love our jobs. That is the best way to work.”
That love brought them back to Woodstock, and into a new aspect of film making and there’s no going back now. “We had spent a lot of time in New York, and it was awesome! But we realized that with Ido-movies, we could work from anywhere.” Jeffrey admitted that it took a little bit to convince him to move so far from the city but he gave in pretty easily; he’s happy now for making the move. And the commute isn’t bad at all. Heidi sums it up pretty succinctly, “We could live and work in an apartment in Brooklyn with the B.Q.E outside the window or in the beautiful little house that I grew up in with an amazing community and heaven in every direction.” They really do have a nicer view than the B.Q.E. “Love you Brooklyn, but we’re down with Woodstock.”
Heidi and Jeffrey welcome all lovers; same sex couples should expect to be exalted in all of their glory. They also travel outside the Woodstock area to shoot. They keep themselves busy with Ido-movies, but weddings are not the only thing going on. Jeffrey plays guitar, takes still portrait photography and builds websites. They continue to make their own movies together as well as music videos, promotional pieces for local businesses like Dig in Saugerties, The Little Gym and Avante Salon in Kingston. And birthday parties…Two clowns with video cameras are definitely better than one and they come with props!++
For more on ALS, see www.alsa.org