Joe Hill (1879-1915), born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund, Swedish-American labor activist, song writer, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (the “Wobblies”)
Hill wrote “The Rebel Girl,” which was inspired by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn , founder of the American Civil Liberties Union
Music – the sister art to poetry – is always an engaging subject and labor rights and history are – or should be – of serious interest for those of us in the 99%. Hence what a delight to learn that HamiltonSeen, a Canadian film production company, is in the process of exploring the life, work and relevance of Swedish-American labor activist and songwriter, Joe Hill. In this interview, Zena Hagerty, producer and musician, explains …
JAMIE: How did the project Who Was Joe Hill get started?
ZENA: After finishing our film Harperman: A Dissident Serenade (releasing online in September), we felt strongly about showcasing the strength that music has in protest and in political movements. There is a power in voices that rise together. Joe Hill was an early American musical hero who brought about real change in the Union Movement and who died under terrible and strange circumstances in front of a firing squad.
JAMIE: How many shows and what kind of content? Why should people be interested and how is Joe Hill’s life and work relevant to our times?
ZENA: We’re going to be creating twelve episodes that explore who Joe was, what shines forward to today from his life, his music, and his legacy, and we’re going to take a hard look at whether many of the same battles for freedom that were being fought in his time are still being fought today. The plan is to speak to the musicians who carry forward his spirit and use their thoughts and words to draw a picture of now through the lens of Joe Hill.
JAMIE: What do you hope to accomplish?
ZENA: Our mission (yes, it’s that important) with every film or series is to shed illumination from a new perspective on a topic that points to the very heart of who we are as human beings. Now, that sounds intense, but what it really means is that in our work we seek to find the emotional core, to enable viewers to connect to the importance of the subject matter.
JAMIE: When is the release scheduled?
ZENA: Our release schedule is very dependent on budget at this point, with a goal of series’ completion by second quarter of 2017. It should be sold for television by that point. We’d love to see it as a weekly series over three months with an online or Netflix release to follow.
If you are reading this post from email and want to view this trailer, you’ll probably have to link through to the site to do so.
Producer Zena Hagerty has a long history of community engagement and involvement in the arts scenes of Hamilton and San Francisco and seeks to further strengthen the human spirit with her work. Zena has broad experience in media, including recording albums, performing her own music, radio broadcasting, graphic design, and many others. As director of Sublimatus as a band, an art gallery, and an entity that inspires the creative spirit within all, Zena honed a skillset that includes the ability to drive and complete large projects with expansive intentions.
Director Cody Lanktree is most inspired by dialogue created by the connection between time, beauty, and our personal truths. In the six years since HamiltonSeen’s inception, Cody has guided the company from small commercial production to whiteboxing partnerships with major marketing firms, and finally to the creation of documentaries focused on community and social issues. His vision is one that will not stop at less than fundamentally changing and challenging perspectives and the world.
Jessica Sovie is a journalism student at Mohawk College and intern with HamiltonSeen. As the project lead for The Soapbox, Jessica provides direction, insight, camera operation, and editing skills that are creating a platform for the voice of the public. She is a purebred eccentric, supporter of music and of the arts, and aims to be a champion of the underdog and underrepresented through the use and continuous growth of her skillset.
Photo credits: Joe Hill’s photograph,”The Rebel Girl,” Joe Hill’s signature and death certificate are in public domain; Zena Hagerty’s photograph is hers and under copyright.