Category Archives: filmmaking

Interview with Author Kate Lebo about Pie and Poetry

Kate Lebo makes poems and pies in Seattle. Her writing has appeared in Best New Poets, Gastronomica, and Poetry Northwest. When Kate is not creating poems, she is hosting her semi-secret pie social, Pie Stand, around the US, teaching creative writing at the University of Washington and Richard Hugo House, and pie-making at Pie School, her cliché-busting pastry academy.

Chin Music Press recently published her debut collection, A Commonplace Book of Pie, with illustrations by Jessica Lynn Bonin. An eclectic mix of prose poems, fantasy zodiac, humor, and recipes, the book explores the tension between the container and the contained while considering the real and imagined relationships between pie and those who love it.

A Commonplace Book of Pie from Kate Lebo on Vimeo.

Gina: Please talk to me about pie as poetic muse. What is it about pie that sparks your imagination?

Kate: Pie offers a sweet structure for me to work within and push against, a whole list of pie varieties that each come with their cultural and seasonal associations, assumptions that can be turned upside down, moods that can be illustrated with food, or little known facts that can reinvigorate a pie we thought we knew. I started with pumpkin pie and, like anyone at a feast, couldn’t stop there. As the collection grew, I began to see how pie, as commonplace as it is, is a powerful metaphor for what we reveal and conceal, what we contain, how we contain it. Crust keeps the secret of its filling, but invites us to cut it open and reveal all.

And pie has a certain universal delight to it. For the same reason you have fun reading the poems, I had fun writing them.

Gina: I gather A Commonplace Book of Pie evolved through several iterations. Please tell me the history, and how you ended up publishing with Chin Music Press. Your book seems quite different than the other titles they publish.

Kate: A Commonplace Book of Pie started as a handmade zine, just one part of an otherwise ephemeral collaboration with the sculptor Brian Schoneman. Pie was our common place, and we used it in the project to make an approachable, playful sculpture. The zine gathered bits and pieces of pie lore and aphorism together, set them with recipes, and complicated things with 10 prose poems, each describing what sort of person you were if you liked a particular kind of pie. The idea was to have fun with a shared love of food, but it was also to go deeper into that food than mere enjoyment, to ask the audience to consider how food tells a story about who they are.

I continued to print and handbind the zine for a couple years after that, selling it in indie bookstores and at events. I kept writing pie poems. In part because I wanted to make poems, and the structure was there, waiting for me to fulfill it, and in part because I wanted to figure out what this project was about, why people responded to it with such energy, why I’d chosen to write poetry about something as sweet as pie. Most of the ideas I’ve mentioned here have become clear to me only through writing the full manuscript, which now has 25 poems, two master recipes for fruit pies, 5 recipes to get you going, and a smattering of quotes and pie ephemera. And illustrations. This book wouldn’t be complete without Jessica Lynn Bonin’s incredible paintings, which capture the materials and process of pie-making in a way words never could. A Commonplace Book of Pie owes its inspiration and its culmination to collaboration–with two incredible artists, and with Chin Music Press, my publisher.

While I was writing the book, I kept an eye out for presses that published beautiful, affordable books that mixed genres. When I saw Shiro: Wit, Wisdom and Recipes from a Sushi Pioneer, which came out in 2011 on Chin Music Press, I knew I’d met my match. I pitched ACBOP to them first. Two or three weeks later, they took it! I wasn’t expecting publication to be that simple. I think our shared interests made things easy as, well, you know. We’ve worked as a team to get the book out into the world, setting up an unconventional and ambitious book tour that’s as comfortable in Whole Foods as it is in literary venues. The subject matter of A Commonplace Book of Pie is unusual for Chin Music, but the multi-genre, visual form is right up their alley.

Gina: I loved your riffs on pie personality types. Several years ago, I had the idea of a dating app or website that would match people based on their pie personality profiles. I’ll never get around to that idea, so feel free to run with it if you like. In your book, you define lots of different pie personalities, but you don’t say which one you most identify with. So, what sort of pie are you, Kate Lebo?

Kate: Ha! I’ll never tell. Okay, I’ll tell. There’s bits of me in all the poems, though none of them are about me. Sometimes I’m cherry. Sometimes I’m mud. That line about “the chocolate pie-lover would like to convince you that her height is three inches above the crown of her head”–that’s totally me. I’m trying to do that right now.

Gina: Your book trailer is charming and well done. How did you create it?

Kate: Thank you! I’ve been so lucky to work with Stringbean Productions, a film crew based in Seattle, Washington, on videos like Bliss and Taste of Pie School (you can find all our videos here). We reunited for this book trailer with the idea of weaving impromptu tales of pie personalities from complete strangers, old friends, and local personalities. We camped out in Victor Steinbrueck park on the Seattle waterfront on a hot day in July. Interviewed anyone who would stand still and say something about pie. We filmed in just about every part of town, in backyards and front yards and parks. Our editor cut the best bits together to make a short film that captured an otherwise hard-to-summarize book. There’s absolutely no way I could have made that film on my own–I’m just the idea lady. Erik, Jean, Katie, and Doran just blow me away with their teamwork and vision.

Gina: Writing Pie Contest in a Box put my in touch with the wonderfully generous pie mafia sisterhood. What’s your connection to author/pie entrepreneur Beth Howard (queen bee of said sisterhood)?

Kate: I believe we met through a Facebook group, Pie Nation, which has introduced me to a whole community of writers and bakers nationwide. In the summer of 2011, I stayed with Beth at the American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa, helped out at her Pitchfork Pie Stand, and wrote part of the manuscript for A Commonplace Book of Pie. It was a dreamy week. She says “your hands are your best tools.” I couldn’t agree more.

Gina: What’s next for you?

Kate: A cookbook! Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour & Butter will be out on Sasquatch Books this Fall 2014.


Björk: Words to Live By

“When I was asked to do a film about an introverted blind person who thinks heaven is inside a song I said yes, because I was going down that road anyway.”

— Björk (Talk magazine, October 2001)

This quote surfaced when I cleaned my office today. I jotted it down on October 12, 2001 as I thought it mirrored my own career path. It still rings true to me now. For example, this morning somebody contacted me about editing a museum catalogue for an exhibition about cars of the future. Of course my answer is yes.


Interview with Ellen Weissbrod: Director, Producer, Writer, and Editor of “a woman like that,” which will Premiere at the Berkshire International Film Festival

Ellen Weissbrod

Filmmaker Ellen Weissbrod merges her own coming of middle-age story with her pursuit of the truths behind the legends of 17th century female painter Artemisia Gentileschi in a woman like that. The documentary will premiere at the Berkshire International Film Festival with screenings on June 5th in Great Barrington and on July 6th in Pittsfield. For tickets, click here.

Although she has been making documentaries for almost 20 years, a woman like that is Ellen’s first personal, feature-length film. Her previous work includes the IDA nominated Face to Face, a portrait of 38-year-old conjoined twins Lori and Reba Schappell; the Emmy nominated It Just Takes One; and the Warner Bros. feature documentary Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones, which premiered at the Edinburgh, Toronto and New York Film Festivals. Roger Ebert named it as one of the best films of 1990. She has also made award-winning commercials for HBO and many music videos.


Gina: In the film, you say that researching Artemisia was like following a trail of crumbs that led back to yourself and your work. What is it about her story that inspired you?

Ellen: Artemisia was a painter and she told stories . . . primarily about woman heroes: Susanna, Cleopatra, Lucretia and Judith, among others. Artemisia’s greatness is in the one frame she chose to paint, how she re-frames the story. It is in these singular frames that Artemisia redefines the women’s stories, and reinvents their narrative arcs.

And Artemisia does this not just in her painting but in her own life; with the letters she writes to her patrons and in her self-representation – in the story she tells as she takes the stand against her accused rapist – over and over Artemisia re-frames her own story against the conventional narratives of her own time. Through this process, Artemisia empowers us all – myself included – to re-think and re-imagine our own trajectories – to reframe the stories we dream for ourselves.

As author Alexandra Lapierre says in the film, “if she dared, we can dare it as well.” And as Artemisia herself writes to a patron who has questioned her abilities, “You will find the spirit of Caesar in this soul of a woman.”

In her art making, with her storytelling, I believe that Artemisia has left to each of us a trail of breadcrumbs to find our own way to become “a woman like that.

"Susanna and The Elders" by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1610

Gina: How many years did it take you to create this film? Do you have any advice for aspiring documentary filmmakers?

Ellen: I have been thinking about Artemisia’s story for 20 years. I first thought of making a narrative feature and wrote a script, although I did not have the tenacity at that time to make it happen. So when the show of Artemisia and her father Orazio came to NYC’s Metropolitan Museum, I decided I had to make it happen. So I guess it took me between 8 and 20 years to bring this to fruition.

To aspiring documentary filmmakers I would just say you have to figure out how to tell the stories you want to tell in your own way.

Ellen Weissbrod

Gina: Why did you make the title of your film lowercase?

Ellen: To me ‘a woman like that’ is part of a sentence – I want to be … a woman like that or I’ve got to find a way to be … or How can I be… a woman like that?

Gina: The quest to know Artemisia consumed your life for so many years. Now that your film is finally complete, what’s next?

Ellen: Like many filmmakers I have a lot of things on the back burner – but now the first order of business for me and my producing partner Melissa Powell is to get this film seen and Artemisia’s story known. We’re self-distributing, and traveling to museums, colleges, film festivals, independent theatres and bookstores, showing the film and talking about Artemisia and everything her work and life inspires in people.

"Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes" by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1613-1614

JK Wedding Entrance Dance

This video recently went viral for good reason. I share it here in the event that you didn’t receive five links to it yourself.  Somehow I think this couple is going to have a happy life together.

R.I.P. Michael Jackson


Quoting my friend Lauren:


It’s as easy as I23


I’m having trouble embedding the video…here’s a link to a wonderful video of the Jackson 5 singing “ABC” on the Ed Sullivan Show (1970).





Berkshire International Film Festival Party Photo

Me and Goose’s friend Loki’s mom, Hope Sullivan, who runs IS183 and who walks/runs/chats-about-writing with me at dawn now and then, and her artist friend, Dan Mahoney, at the Berkshire International Film Festival opening night party at Pearl’s in Great Barrington. Photo by Seth Rogovoy.

My head is still spinning from the incredible weekend of films. I don’t have time for a full report just now, but hope to debrief soon.

2009 Berkshire International Film Festival

The Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF) opens this Thursday night in Great Barrington, MA. I will be tweeting live through the festivities at Hope to see you there!

My New Gig: Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF) Tweetmaker in Residence

Posting in a hurry as I’ve got lots to do today, but want to let you know about my fun new gig as Tweetmaker in Residence for the Berkshire International Film Festival. Leading up to the festival, I’ll be tweeting about the films and filmmakers (this year’s BIFF schedule includes 70 films from 13 countries) and then I’ll be a live micro-blogging fool during the event itself, May 14 – 17 in Great Barrington, MA. To follow along and add to the conversation yourself, please see

Ben Hillman's Victory Video

O to Joy from Ben Hillman on Vimeo.

Interview with Caren Cross

Writer, director, and producer Caren Cross is a first-time documentary filmmaker who became obsessed with wanting to figure out why she and others had abandoned their lives in the United States to live in a small town in the mountains of central Mexico.

Caren’s undergraduate degree is in painting. She was diverted from that passion after seeing Frederick Wiseman’s documentary, Titicut Follies, an exposé of the abuses in a mental hospital. Graduate school came next and she subsequently worked for 27 years as a psychotherapist in private practice. Then a one-week vacation in Mexico changed the course of her life again.

After 30 years of pursuing the American dream, she felt compelled to leave it all behind and start a new life in Mexico. Thousands of Americans have inexplicably made the same choice to relocate to the town of San Miguel de Allende. Lost and Found in Mexico is their story. Why do they come? Why do they stay? Why do they find life in a third world country more satisfying than life in the United States? Combing the streets of San Miguel looking for answers, Caren gathers a compelling web of stories. The answers are inspirational, compelling, and incredibly honest.

For more information about the film and to watch a three-minute trailer, click here.


Gina: With the election coming up, I’m hearing a lot of people in the States say, “If Obama doesn’t win, I’m fleeing the country.” As one who has left your home country, do you feel that it’s possible to actually escape?

Caren: I also keep hearing and reading those declarations! When I came to Mexico ten years ago, I came because something in Mexico appealed to me, not because I wanted to escape from something. After a few years it occurred to me that I had changed radically and that it was because I was no longer affected by American culture and I wasn’t part of the Mexican culture. I was suddenly free.

This was surprisingly quite beneficial for me. I hadn’t been aware of how anxious I was, how much I had been driven by a desire to achieve, to look good, to keep up with popular culture, etc. And the worries that I felt in the states were mostly gone. Now, however, the state of affairs in the states is affecting the entire world. The details of this presidential race are discussed constantly in the homes and streets here in San Miguel de Allende.

The outcome of the race is on all of our minds. Most of us care deeply and are helping out in some way and do not feel immune to the state of affairs up north. So, now I would say that one can’t entirely escape by fleeing the country. But one can escape the fast-paced life that leaves little space for relationships and the constant barrage of consumerism and competition.

Gina: How long did it take you to create the film? What was most surprising to you about the process as a first-time filmmaker?

Caren: Well, first of all, I thought that making Lost and Found in Mexico would be easy. It certainly looked easy! What could be so hard? I figured it would take 3 months. It turns out that it took 3 1/2 years! The first thing that I did was to order 6 books from Amazon with titles like, How to Make a Documentary Film. What most surprised me was how many ways there are to construct a film. And getting clarity on what I wanted to portray was quite difficult. More difficult was cutting out witty, entertaining parts of the film that I loved but that really didn’t “fit” under a topic. The editing process took 2 1/2 years.

Gina: What are your favorite and least-favorite things about living in San Miguel de Allende?

Caren: My list of favorite things is really long: the friendliness of both the Mexicans and Americans; the sense of community; the weather; the quality of the light; the ability to do all that you need to do on foot; and the high percentage of interesting foreigners who have come to live here. I guess the main thing is how I feel each day when I wake up. On the negative side, I really miss first-run movies and I miss having the Sunday paper in bed with a cup of coffee. Somehow reading the New York Times on the computer doesn’t quite make it.

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