Josephine Decker

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Josephine Decker
Born (1981-04-02) April 2, 1981 (age 42)
Alma materPrinceton University
  • Filmmaker
  • performance artist
Years active2005–present

Josephine Decker (born April 2, 1981) is an English–born American filmmaker and performance artist. Films she has directed include Butter on the Latch (2013), Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (2014), Madeline's Madeline (2018), Shirley (2020), and The Sky is Everywhere (2022). She also co-directed the documentary Bi the Way (2008) with Brittany Blockman.

Early life[edit]

Decker was born in London and raised in Texas. As a child, she played the piano and dreamed of being a writer, as well as a photographer for National Geographic.[1] She graduated from Highland Park High School in 1999 and Princeton University in 2003, where she aspired to become a conductor and applied for a conducting class.[2] She was inspired to become a filmmaker after watching Monsters, Inc.[3]



Decker produced and directed her first short film, Naked Princeton, in 2005.

In 2008, Decker co-directed the documentary Bi the Way with Brittany Blockman, which focused on bisexuality in the United States. Despite being described by Variety's Joe Leydon as a "once-over-lightly examination of an alleged cultural phenomenon",[4] the film went on to win the Alternative Spirit Grand Prize at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.[5]

Decker wrote and directed her second short film, Where Are You Going, Elena?, in 2009. In 2012, she wrote and directed the short film Me the Terrible, which Richard Brody of The New Yorker called a "wondrous short film."[6]

In 2013, Decker wrote, produced, and directed her first feature film, the experimental psychological thriller Butter on the Latch. The film garnered praise from Eric Kohn of Indiewire, who said Decker's career was "one to keep an eye on",[7] and Peter Debruge of Variety, who wrote that "Decker has fashioned the kind of feature debut the film industry simply doesn’t support, but would do well to encourage: a visually poetic, virtually free-form groove in which emotion, rather than narrative, guides viewers through a young woman’s visit to a Balkan folk music camp."[8] Decker was included in Filmmaker Magazine's 2013 list of 25 New Faces in Independent Film.[2]

In early 2014, she completed her second theatrical film, the experimental erotic thriller Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, starring Sophie Traub and Decker's frequent collaborator Joe Swanberg.[9] To raise money for the film's post-production,[10] Decker ran a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter with a goal of $15,500.[11] The campaign closed on August 22, 2013, having raised $18,517.[11] In his review, Kohn gave the film a B+ and commented, "Its labyrinthine characteristics suggest the unholy marriage of Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch. While nowhere near the same level of refinement as those giants, Decker concocts a wholly enveloping vision of isolation told with a grimly poetic style that wanders all over the place but never stops playing by its own eerie rulebook."[12]

In September, 2014, it was announced that Butter on the Latch and Thou Wast Mild and Lovely had been picked up for a theatrical and VOD distribution by Cinelicious Pics with a planned release set for November, 2014.[9][13]

Decker has also appeared as an actor in many independent films, including Joe Swanberg's Uncle Kent, Onur Tukel's Richard's Wedding, Saturday Morning Mystery, the romantic tragedy Loves Her Gun, and Stephen Cone's Black Box.

In November 2015, Decker served on the Jury of the 33rd Torino Film Festival. The festival had paid tribute to her work in the Onde section in 2014.

Decker co-directed with Zefrey Throwell the 2017 documentary Flames. As Deadline put it, "Shot over the course of five years, the project charts the immensely passionate and profound relationship between the two artists, watching the spectacular romance, excitement and adventure of their relationship at its peak, and the fallout as Decker and Throwell clash, falling out of love with each other."[14]

Decker’s third feature film, Madeline's Madeline, screened at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals in early 2018.[15][16] It features Molly Parker and Miranda July, and introduces 19-year-old Helena Howard as a troubled acting student whose "class exercises become increasingly immersive and personal".[16]

In 2020, Neon distributed Decker's feature Shirley, inspired by the life of author Shirley Jackson. The film starred Elisabeth Moss and Michael Stuhlbarg, and was produced by Christine Vachon and executive produced by Martin Scorsese.[17] On, critic Sheila O'Malley called it Decker's "most ambitious film to date."[18]

In a change of pace, Decker directed the coming-of-age drama The Sky is Everywhere, which was released in 2022 by Apple+ and A24.[19] In an interview, Decker said, "I think I was really ready to make something that was a little lighter and had more lightness and less gritty, dark, violent, sexual. Probably for my next movie, I’ll go back into it hard, but this was a nice little respite."[20]

Performance art[edit]

In May 2010, Decker attended the last day of Marina Abramović's retrospective The Artist Is Present at MoMA. As she sat down across from Abramovic, Decker immediately disrobed and stood naked in the middle of the museum until seven security guards escorted her out over the museum’s no-nudity policy.

Decker declared that her goal was to be "as vulnerable to [Abramovic] as she constantly makes herself to us."[21]


Decker cites Antichrist, Days of Heaven, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Silent Light as her primary influences, as well as the novel East of Eden, director Joe Swanberg, and frequent collaborator Sarah Small. She cited Black Swan as a particular influence on Butter on the Latch.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Decker grew up as a Christian, and is now a Buddhist, having practiced the religion since at least 2011.[23]


Year Film Credited Director Credited Producer Credited Writer Credited Actor Credited Role Notes
2005 Naked Princeton Yes Yes Short film
2008 Bi the Way Yes Documentary; co-directed with Brittany Blockman
2009 Where Are You Going, Elena? Yes Yes Short film
2010 Squeezebox Yes Documentary short
2011 Uncle Kent Yes Josephine
Autoerotic Yes
Art History Yes Yes Juliette
2012 Me the Terrible Yes Yes Short film
Saturday Morning Mystery Yes Gwen
Richard's Wedding Yes Phoebe
2013 Black Box Yes Holly
Loves Her Gun Yes Charlotte
Butter on the Latch Yes Yes Yes
2014 Thou Wast Mild and Lovely Yes Yes
2015 Rosehill Yes Alice
2017 Flames Yes Yes Yes Herself co-directed with Zefrey Throwell
2018 Madeline's Madeline Yes Yes
2020 Shirley Yes
2022 The Sky Is Everywhere Yes


Year Title Role Notes
2018 Room 104 Director, writer, and actor Season 2, episode 7, "The Man and the Baby and the Man"
2020 Dare Me Director Season 1, episode 6, "Code Red"


  1. ^ Decker, Josephine (June 24, 2020). "The Poetry of Josephine Decker's Movies". A.frame. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  2. ^ a b ND (2013). "Josephine Decker". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  3. ^ "Interview: Josephine Decker". NoBudge. March 8, 2014. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  4. ^ Leydon, Joe (March 31, 2008). "Review: 'Bi the Way'". Variety. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  5. ^ "2008 Film Festival Award Winners Announced". Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  6. ^ Brody, Richard (May 14, 2013). "Two Independent Films to Watch Out For". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  7. ^ Kohn, Eric (May 10, 2013). "A Sexy, Wild Romp You Have to See to Believe: Josephine Decker's 'Butter on the Latch'". Indiewire. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  8. ^ Debruge, Peter (February 10, 2014). "Berlin Film Review: 'Butter on the Latch'". Variety. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Cipriani, Casey (September 5, 2014). "Cinelicious Pics Acquires Two Raunchy Josephine Decker Films". Indiewire. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  10. ^ Barraclough, Leo (January 24, 2014). "New Europe Picks Up Berlinale Film 'Thou Wast Mild and Lovely'". Variety. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  11. ^ a b "Thou Wast Mild and Lovely". Kickstarter. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  12. ^ Kohn, Eric (February 6, 2014). "Berlin Review: Sexual Depravity Takes On Nightmarish Proportions In Josephine Decker's 'Thou Wast Mild and Lovely,' Starring Joe Swanberg". Indiewire. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  13. ^ Horst, Carole (September 5, 2014). "Josephine Decker's 'Butter' and 'Lovely' Bought by Cinelicious". Variety. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  14. ^ Grobar, Matt (April 21, 2017). "'Flames' Directors Josephine Decker & Zefrey Throwell On Confronting The Extremes Of Intimacy — Tribeca Studio". Deadline. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  15. ^ Ebiri, Bilge (January 28, 2018). ""Madeline's Madeline": The Best Film I Saw at Sundance". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on January 31, 2018.
  16. ^ a b Young, Deborah (February 19, 2018). "'Madeline's Madeline': Film Review, Berlin 2018". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on February 20, 2018.
  17. ^ "Shirley (2020)". IMDb. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  18. ^ O'Malley, Sheila (June 5, 2020). "Shirley". Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  19. ^ "The Sky is Everywhere". IMDb. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  20. ^ Johnson, Ally (February 15, 2022). "Josephine Decker Talks 'The Sky Is Everywhere,' Visualizing Emotions & More [Interview]". The Playlist. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  21. ^ Carlson, Jen (June 10, 2010). "Marina's Unexpected Nude Speaks Out". Gothamist. Archived from the original on February 24, 2018. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  22. ^ Decker, Josephine (February 7, 2018). "Josephine Decker: the films, books and people that influenced me". BFI.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. ^ Zafiris, Alex (August 10, 2018). "Cinema as Sacred Space: Josephine Decker Interviewed by Alex Zafiris". Bomb Magazine.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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