Former Newhouse students produce music video for Grammy Award-winning Native American musician

by Micah Castelo

August 12, 2019

Television, radio and film graduates Peter Conway ’19, Sarah Rebetje ’19 and Elijah Goodell ’19 worked with musician Joanne Shenandoah to honor missing and murdered indigenous women

Joanne Shenendoah
Grammy Award-winning musician Joanne Shenendoah Courtesy of Joanne Shenendoah

Last spring, as students in the advanced filmmaking capstone course, three recent graduates of the television, radio and film program produced a music video for the song “Missing You” by Joanne Shenandoah, a Grammy Award-winning Native American musician.

The alumni—Peter Conway ’19, Sarah Rebetje ’19 and Elijah Goodell ’19—worked closely with Shenandoah to create a video that shows the silent crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women in the United States and Canada. The video premiered at Newhouse on May 5, the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and will be nominated for best music video in the upcoming Native American Music Awards

“I wrote the song thinking about how beautiful our children are and how awful it must be to not ever know what happened to them or if they’re going to come back,” Shenandoah says. She dedicated the song to her own daughter, Leah, who was a victim of kidnapping and abuse. “This is something that has plagued us in Native American territories. The tribe lives with this, the families live with this.”

Shenandoah reached out to film professor Tula Goenka about making a music video for her song, which she also recorded at Newhouse. Goenka, who worked with Shenendoah on an award-winning PBS documentary, thought it was a great opportunity for her students.

“It was a real-life experience working with a client—having to keep in mind what her vision for the project was, but also having their own integrity and creativity in balance,” Goenka says.

Goodell acted as the music video’s director, which stars Syracuse University admissions counselor and Native American liaison Tammy Bluewolf-Kennedy and her daughter, Ciara. The video was shot in four days, and editing took five weeks, Goodell says.

The video follows a mother’s experience as she worries for her daughter’s well-being while waiting for her to come back from the mall, where young women are often targeted for sex trafficking, Shenendoah says.

Rebetje, who served as cinematographer and editor, says that the red hues in the video were intentional. Red is the official color of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women campaign because various tribes believe red can help call missing spirits back and lay them down to rest since it’s the only color they can see, according to the non-profit organization Native Womens Wilderness.

Conway, who coordinated the shoots, says the group enjoyed working with Shenandoah because of her passion for the project.

“It ended up drawing the emotion we wanted it to,” Conway says of viewer response during the screening.

Goodell also says that the project wasn’t just an opportunity for him and his classmates to refine the skills they learned in the program or to practice working in a team setting. It was also a chance for them to create something meaningful and start important conversations about issues people don’t know much about.

“I’m thankful I was a part of this because of the potential impact it can have on Native American women in this country,” Goodell says. “And it was very rewarding to speak to some of the people who attended the [screening] and see that they were very appreciative of what we were able to accomplish by making this video.”

Micah Castelo is a graduate magazine, newspaper and online journalism major at the Newhouse School.