By Heather Adamson
VANCOUVER — Throughout the past year a group of students from Templeton Secondary’s after school film program have been collaborating with Downtown Eastside songwriter and musician Rodney DeCroo to produce an original music video for his song “Strange Boy in an Ugly Town.” On September 24th they are hosting a free, all-ages video premiere at the Cultch, along with a live Q&A with the students and a concert performed by Rodney DeCroo & The Wise Blood.
What makes this project so inspiring is the way in which DeCroo and industry professionals Flick Harrison (filmmaker) and Rebecca Blissett (photographer, videographer) became involved and handed over the creative reigns to the Templeton youth in order to provide them with the most authentic experience possible. “It was our goal to go in and work alongside them to bring their ideas to life,” says DeCroo. “They fully committed themselves and everyone cared so deeply about the project.” This included launching a massively successful Kickstarter campaign that exceeded their goal and raised $11,437 with the support of 155 backers, a feat that humbled DeCroo as a local artist who is sensitive to the plight of the self-promoting independent musician. “The self-promotion is endless and becomes borderline narcissistic,” jokes DeCroo. “I get so sick of myself, which is why I wanted to become involved in something more meaningful.” This is when DeCroo contacted Templeton drama teacher Jimmy Crescenzo, who holds a reputation for transforming the lives of students through art at Templeton for the past 30 years, a fact that resonated strongly with DeCroo’s own past.
Raised by a single mother on welfare in inner city Pittsburgh, DeCroo was sent to live with his father in Surrey at age 16 after a cop tipped his mother off that he was at risk of being arrested and facing serious jail time. Within two years of arriving to Canada he was living on the streets. “I was a juvenile delinquent,” says DeCroo. “I never had any real mentors and just fell through the cracks. The only thing that saved my life was I became obsessed with writing poetry and songs.” DeCroo shared his story of survival with the students of Templeton and they embraced him right back, showing him deep respect through honouring his song and bringing it to life through their own eyes. “Every shot, every location, every narrative, every decision they made blew me away,” says DeCroo. “I am living proof that art can transform your life and that is the only lesson I could teach these students, but in the end they taught me so much more.”
The “Strange Boy in an Ugly Town” music video premieres on Saturday, September 24 at the Cultch. Doors open at 7:00 p.m., curtain is at 8:00 p.m. To get your name on the guest list at the door, email firstname.lastname@example.org subject heading “RSVP” and your name(s). All ages, free admission.BC, British Columbia, Cultch, Rodney DeCroo, Strange Boy in an Ugly Town