At Harvard, Gabrielle studied English, American history and literature, and creative writing. She won the OAC’s Individual Excellence Award two years in a row, in poetry and in filmmaking. Gabrielle established a film production company with her sisters aptly named the Five Sisters Production. And most recently, she directed the award-winning documentary on gender, Kings, Queens, & In-Betweens. You can learn more about Gabrielle and her production company at FiveSisters.com, and watch the comedy series Old Guy on YouTube.
Key points include:
Will Bachman 00:01
Welcome to the 92 report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host will Bachman and I’m here today with the class secretary of the class of 1992. Gabrielle Burton, Gabrielle, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. Well, alright, so first off, tell me what, there’s so many things right reunion, you’re managing our Facebook page, your Harvard magazine, you I think edit the entries? I’m not sure. Tell me what does the class Secretary do?
Gabrielle Burton 00:34
That’s a good question. I think it’s sort of up to the person who does it. I was always interested in our class community and making it a community situation where everybody would feel welcome. And I felt like, well, you know, you have to step up if you have certain desires on these things. And so I started getting involved in the fifth reunion, just volunteering. And then as the years went on, I was chairing the reunions every, you know, there every five years and and then the secretary thing came up, because I was sending in notes for the Harvard magazine from our class. And that’s basically the position is to try to keep that community going, you’re in charge of the class notes, you’re in charge of communications and in charge of sort of creating a sense of community among the class, and you can be as active or inactive as you like. And I just really love our class. So I want people to feel supported and connected and, you know, part of a bigger group that has an amazing energy that can, you know, do good things in the world.
Will Bachman 01:39
So members of the class that have anything to announce, where should they send that how to get that to you,
Gabrielle Burton 01:46
then they can send it to hr 92 email@example.com. Or there’s also in the magazine. There, you know, people can also do it to me on Facebook, or through my personal email, or there’s an email address, I think of class notes as well, or through our I think our class website has a link to the class notes also. So all of those get to me, and then I pull them together. And then the amazing Harvard magazine, staff editor, does those, you know, the final edits and formatting and and then we’ve been taking up quite a lot of real estate in those pages lately.
Will Bachman 02:23
Yes, it’s fun. Lots of announcements. Oh,
Gabrielle Burton 02:28
my goal similarly to yours. I mean, what I’ve been doing is actually reaching out to classmates. And so my goal, like your podcast, is to cover all of our class so that everybody is included. And what I asked people generally, which I think is similar to the spirit you’re doing this in is what interests you what can you share with people that can inspire others? And I really love that focus, rather than the kind of pressured focus many of us feel of you know, I’ve written a book, wait, no, that person has written a book, I haven’t written a book, you know, that kind of self comparison thing that can happen from those types of announcements, and rather focus instead on celebrating these achievements as a class, you know, amplifying our classmates work and, and, you know, talking about what we can get from it as a as a point of inspiration. I
Will Bachman 03:17
love that. I love that. Don’t you don’t need to wait till you get married or make partner at the law firm or publish your book. Exactly. Just you know, I had a go lashing trip with my friend, right? Some Yeah,
Gabrielle Burton 03:30
yeah, a lot of the best notes of bad things like I like Georgia, Bush puts on the job, I’m thinking about this in the pandemic, should I buy a motorcycle, you know, I’m thinking about a cross country trip or other people were saying I’ve been, you know, during this time, it’s obviously midlife, but also the pandemic, we’re having a lot of, sort of time to think and reflect and, and, you know, different ways that we’ve been taking stock of our lives and where we want to go next. And so that those are really the best notes when people are talking about that kind of stuff, because I think everyone relates to it and take something from it. That’s so much, you know, it’s very personal, which is nice.
Will Bachman 04:08
Well, thank you for your service to our class. You have been doing that for years and years, and is deeply appreciated, as you know, by many, many of us. Let’s so
Gabrielle Burton 04:17
nice. Let’s turn to you. So when it gets super exhausting,
Will Bachman 04:21
yeah, remember that? Yes. Remember that people deeply appreciate it. And it’s so much work organizing a reunion, there’s so much behind the scenes, I’m sure. Let’s talk about you. So let’s
Gabrielle Burton 04:35
commit to classmates. You’ll you’ll talk to all of them I’m sure at some point, but um, yeah, really great group of people who change sometimes year to year and just do really wonderful creative ideas, too. So it’s a team effort.
Will Bachman 04:48
Let’s turn to you. So tell us a bit about kind of the snapshot of your journey since since leaving college
Gabrielle Burton 04:58
snapshot is such a Interesting question. I thought when I, well, I’m from let’s start, I’m from Buffalo, New York, and I grew up there. And then after college, I live for a while and in Boston, and then I got a rotary scholarship and went to France for a year. And then I moved back and moved to New York for a number of months. And then I was planning to move to LA. So I went live there for a while, then I moved back to Boston. And then I’ve ended up in Columbus, Ohio, just north of the city in a town called Delaware. And, and I really love it here. I wasn’t planning to stay here. But it’s, I love the state, and I love where I live and the geography and the people. And so I am, I’ve made my home, and I’m thinking I’m going to stay here. And I thought when I left college, I would be kind of the next Laurie Anderson, I don’t know if you know her, who’s a performance artist, and combined storytelling with music, theater, and film, etc. And then when I got rotary scholarship, I went to France and ended up not wanting to do what I was supposed to do, which was very academic approach, kind, of course of study. And I showed up to photography school said, in my French, you know, that was not fluent. Um, could I please come to the school on they sort of said, you know, well, do you think you are, you know, your little, not someone who has not followed all the roles and doesn’t have a portfolio, etc. So I went back, and I said, You go play? And, and they said, Oh, please, you know, just go to your university. There’s a film school there. And so I was already what do you call it registered at a at a university there. And so I went to that place, I went to the film school, and I, it was Friday, and I asked them, you know, I roughly translated my resume and my interest. And they, the admissions person left for a second, the Secretary of the Department came back after a few minutes and said, Okay, classes start Monday. And I showed up, and it turned out that 800 students had applied to the school, something like 100 of them had come had been invited to take a week long exam, and 28 were chosen, and I was the 29th. And so it was a very intense school, eight hours a day, it completely changed my life. And I became a filmmaker, I came back to the US, my sister, Maria was directing a film, I came on to work with her with my sister, Ursula. And then we ended up forming company, five sisters productions with our other two sisters. And the rest is history.
Will Bachman 07:37
I’ve, I’ve sort of just distantly kind of known about your firm, five sister productions. And it always struck me that that would be like such intense pressure, like, if any sister leaves the business, they would totally, you’d have to change the
Gabrielle Burton 07:52
name of it, you’re not invited for the holidays.
Will Bachman 07:56
stress me out, you know, you have to stay in can’t change.
Gabrielle Burton 08:02
You know, it’s interesting, because we did have to go through sort of a, an adjustment period of First of all, you can’t bring up business at every, you know, like, during the holiday. I mean, there were things that were lines we had to draw, because you’re together, and then it’s like, oh, did you make that call, and suddenly, you’re filled with, you know, oh, my God, I have to do this at my work to do list. And then on the flip side, to also think, well, what is our creative vision? And what do we want to make this company look like? And I think that it was, you know, we, we conceive of it as something that’s like an umbrella company for us all. So we can go and helm certain creative projects. And maybe, you know, all the sisters aren’t super passionate about something or don’t come on 100% onto something. But we are at all times. And yet, we are all there for each other. And at the end of the day, we all want a high quality, engaging, you know, film that’s going to big make a contribution to the world. So however, that works in the daily business of that getting that made, it ends up allowing us all to kind of create the work that we want to create, and multiple works, because there were five of us. So that worked out really well.
Will Bachman 09:16
I I know it’s just one tiny part of your over but I love your old guy series.
Gabrielle Burton 09:25
Thank You that we actually had shot before the pandemic and my parents. It was the last project we did with them because they have died since. And so then we, my mother got cancer, and then we turned to caretaking on that intensively, sort of as a family for a while and spending, you know, the last time we had with her, and then my father kind of started ailing after she died and we had really few wonderful years with him. And so then this was kind of an interesting thing to return to the project and they’re so vital. rent. And you know, it’s right before my mother found out she had cancer. So it’s like, you know, they were really kind of engaged and healthy. And you know, this moment of creative fulfillment all of us together. And my mother had had the idea for the series, which is a micro series, you can binge watch it in under 25 minutes, I think it is. of six, six episodes about ageism. And so it’s a comedy about ageism. And my dad plays the old guy, which was inspired by his real life events, where he had retired, gone to LA and then became an actor, sort of, by happenstance. And then, and then he ended up becoming someone who was on a lot of TV shows, you know, Jay Leno would ask him, ask for him, and skits and things. And he was on baskets, up until he died, actually, which was pretty amazing as Zach alphadex his father in law. And so he would notice, though, that all these parts, no matter what they were, would fall into stereotypes, and generally, and be called just old guy, they didn’t even get a name. And we thought this, my mom said, you know, this would be a great comedy series. And she wrote a, you know, rough script of it, we all came together and worked on it as a family and, and then when the pandemic hit, there is such a rise, in ageism in the national narrative, about the value of older people, the value economically devalued, culturally. And so we thought, also, because everyone was so stressed and isolated, we thought, let’s finish this and get it out and have it as a both a point of conversation and also a point of gathering and to make the laugh. And so we did that. And then what was really cool was, it was in the running for an Emmy nomination, which was really a kick. So it didn’t get it. So I guess it’s an honor to be nominated to be nominated. But, but it’s really fun.
Will Bachman 12:10
Wow, what a I’m sorry to hear about your parents passing. It is a wonderful memento to them to have to have made it his beautiful set of videos. Yeah. What do filmmakers know? That about how the world works that non filmmakers don’t know?
Gabrielle Burton 12:39
It’s such an interesting question. Um, I think I think of two things. And one is, I think that it depends on the film Mark maker, of course, every filmmaker is different, just as every person in every profession has got their own perspective they’re bringing to that. But I think when you get into the storytelling, filmmaking, and the complete the complexity, really, that goes into both making a film and then getting it made, does that make sense? So you’re getting it out there, there’s so much of a collaboration that’s needed. As a filmmaker, you can’t do it alone. And sometimes in your team, there’ll be a weak link, and it really impacts the project you’re making. So as an artist, you don’t have all this control. It’s very expensive, as an art form, as well. And so you have to be constantly compromising or you can’t, you know, achieve something that you wanted to. And sometimes it’s random, you might have a snowstorm that impacts, you know, a shoot day, or rain. And those kind of challenges are things that you have to adjust to all the time. And then to value the collaboration that people are bringing to the table. So I think that what it teaches you is how, how important all of the cogs of the wheel are that it’s not something where, you know, there’s there was, for a long time this idea of a knitting, you know, Gabrielle Burton film, and my sisters, and I sort of always chafed at that. And what it really comes down to is, it’s because it’s not one person who’s made this film, there are hundreds of people who are necessary to go into making a film, and then to putting it out and making it available to people. So those those elements of realizing how interconnected we all are, are something that are very prevalent. When you’re a filmmaker.
Will Bachman 14:39
How does it change the way you think, going to just day to day, outside of a professional context? Just living your life walking through a city driving to the suburb, doing your shopping? Do you think that being a filmmaker has changed the way you look at the world?
Gabrielle Burton 14:59
Know that it’s true The way I look at it as much as I probably went into it, because I looked at the world in a certain way, because I love people and the stories they have to tell and, and just the visual beauty that’s kind of all around from very mundane elements in our lives to, obviously, you know, it’d be super fun to do it make an action film, those kinds of aspects that are possible and film are, or something I think that drew me to the, to the field itself. And I think one other aspect that is interesting, which is a little bit of a diversion from what you’re saying, but it does connect with how my career has shaped the way that I look at the world. Because I came out of school, kind of in the free to be you and me generation that we were all where we were thinking we sort of have equal opportunity and a kind of merit based thinking. And when you get into the real world, it’s just not true, it’s turned out. And the tough thing is like in in my career field, it’s shown that in sort of an egregious hiring numbers, where every year I think it’s ranges from three to 6%, of directing, of top directing jobs go to women and other top creative positions have the same kind of statistic. And so that’s both, like horrifying, shameful and unacceptable. But when you’re living it, you know, what do you do? And I think for many years, it wasn’t clear that that was the case. And then those numbers came out. And suddenly, kind of this certain element of struggle was explained, or of opportunity, not being, you know, not following through. And, and then it became an issue of Okay, so what, what, then, so if you are someone who’s facing certain hurdles, and challenges, you know, how are we going to move forward. And what you can do is to go and try to create your own opportunity to try to create that system. So it creates opportunity, maybe not for you, but it might be in time for other people or the next generation. And then to value the people on whose shoulders you stand on. So there’s a project my sisters and I are working on now called half the history. That’s a series of film poems that are about talking about women in American history, and trying to, you know, have other people who wouldn’t necessarily know about these women or be exposed to them, to have them more included in the history books and the kind of more mainstream narrative.
Will Bachman 17:44
Sounds like very, that’s important work. Yeah.
Gabrielle Burton 17:47
Yeah. I mean, I think it’s an interesting thing of how do you, how do you choose what you’re going to do if you hit certain hurdles in your work? And then just systemically and another project we’re working on is the Donner Do you know, the Donner party? Well,
Will Bachman 18:04
the Colorado they, you know, eight, you know, their partners, etc.
Gabrielle Burton 18:10
That’s a symbol.
Will Bachman 18:13
Like invite you to a barbecue, right?
Gabrielle Burton 18:16
The Sierra Nevadas Oh, who’s, you know, who’s gonna click on that? But yeah, that that actually was a story my mom was somewhat obsessed with creatively through her life. And she wrote a couple books that were really beautiful one a novel about Tamsin Donner imagining her journal, and then another was a sort of memoir slash history. And so we are working on that becoming a limited series now, about kind of talking about a family in the 70s and 80s. comparing that with 100 years previously, under 20, of this family, you know, also carving out some new opportunity for their family and themselves. And so I think those kinds of themes are what really are more interesting to me now as work to make and also potentially more doable, if that makes sense.
Will Bachman 19:20
What would most surprise your college aged self about how your journey has played out so far?
Gabrielle Burton 19:28
I think it probably connects to what I was just talking about. I didn’t know in a way how the if you’re going to say the quote system works, and what it what it means to I guess I thought in some ways that there would be more open doors but that said, not knowing the way the quote unquote system works. My sisters and I just went out and made films, you know, we did stuff, which in some ways was helpful to not accept that, oh, this is the way things work. So that that was definitely a way that our, our careers and I’m making these different films worked. I think I just didn’t realize also how gender would would play a role, like the gender role work division and household and parenting, I’ve now have two kids, and how that would kind of come crashing down almost unavoidably even in our, you know, in people who are very progressive thinking is just a big pressure. And but then I reflect and it’s like, you know, change happens. So seismically even though it feels incrementally, because like, when we went to college, women weren’t allowed to walk up the steps of whitener library, the front steps, right. And that was within our lifetime. And I mean, it wasn’t when we went to college, it was, when we were born, that was happening. And then by the time we went to college, that was a relic of the past. So that’s incredible. And as we move forward, I think that keeps happening. And so that’s, that’s interesting, because when I reflect on who I was, I don’t I think I expected it to be more open an equal, obviously. And and I think that there are really good conversations happening now culturally about taking hard looks at this instead of sort of politely trying to move around that. And so that’s really good.
Will Bachman 21:26
What did your parents feed you that it turned out that all of five of you ended up becoming filmmakers, what? What was going on in your household, and it sounds like you weren’t even expecting to do it until after you graduated from college. So what was going on there?
Gabrielle Burton 21:45
Um, nine mother was a writer, and my dad had been a jazz musician. And then he went into academia. He actually went to grad school for psychology, and he ended up becoming a developmental psychologist, researcher. And that happened because he read an article about the psychology of musicians, and he wrote a rebuttal to that. And then, and then somebody said, Hey, have you ever thought of going into a different field, and so my parents were people who were open to the idea of our becoming artists. And I think they weren’t afraid of that for us. I think they also wanted to make sure that we were aware of how much rejection like all the time. And, and yet, also, they just kind of allowed us to be who you wanted to be. So I think that felt very open for choosing a field a career. And then I just was sort of stung by the film bug when I was in film school, because it’s such a beautiful art form, and I just fell in love with it. So then, for my sisters, and me, we kind of came together in a, in a natural way, where we realized we could pool our talents, and we weren’t all in this field at all. But it came together and it kind of it just was kismet, or something and, and it’s and we really love each other and we share creative ideals and goals. And so it’s worked really well, I feel really lucky.
Will Bachman 23:25
He talks about creating your own opportunity. Can you tell me a little story about that about, you know, from the early days of what it took to get funding into, you know, to get backers, or what if that was necessary at all? Or just how you made some of the first things and, and how you’ve been able to create your own opportunities to make film? Yeah,
Gabrielle Burton 23:47
sure. Um, well, on one of our films, camps, that, uh, actually, some college friends helped that happen. And I’m forever grateful to them to just kick start that project. And we made it extremely low budget, that film has not been released. And we’re actually talking with some people about getting that out, you know, maybe on Amazon or something. So one of the streaming services in the next year. So that was just I had written a script, it was kind of based on, you know, a lot of my experiences temping after college and the quarter life crisis kind of idea of what are you going to do with your life? And so we just made it and it was scrappy, and we, you know, begged and borrowed equipment and got free food for the crew from restaurants and Starbucks. And so that’s, you know, a way that we learned how to get these things done. And then I would say after, I mean, we’ve moved in some ways into documentary work also, because that is something where we don’t have to wait for a studio funding or for, you know, a million $2 million budget to be greenlit, we can just make that work. And I think that that is something you see a lot of women doing because it’s it has less barriers for entry. So my film, kings, queens and in betweens, for instance, was something I did here in Columbus. And I was going out filming, you know, and I was just borrowed a camera from someone that was going to these drag shows, and filming and filming interviews and that sort of thing. And got a couple of people here to help with some of the interviews as well. And so it was a way of putting it together. And I learned how to edit. Because I had two wonderful editors, but they didn’t have endless amounts of time to donate to the project. And so I learned that skill to get it done.
Will Bachman 25:44
What’s the best advice that you’ve received along your journey as a filmmaker from either, you know, mentors, you know, more experienced people? What’s been the most helpful? Advice?
Gabrielle Burton 25:59
Hmm. I had such I have to think about that. In some ways, I think it’s gonna come from my mom, because she was an artist who dealt with rejection all the time. And she actually thought of wallpapering, or basement with all of her letters of rejection. And I think the fact that she shared that so openly, and also her disappointment, it’s like you lick your wounds, and then you pick yourself back up and put on your boots and get back to work. I think that was probably the best advice, even though it was not always verbal. It was just that, you know, it things don’t, things don’t just happen for you. You have to make them happen.
Will Bachman 26:48
Do you feel it’s an Do you feel that there’s, you know, there used to be gatekeepers, where you couldn’t get anything published? or made available? today? You know, anyone with an iPhone can at least make some kind of, you know, video, right? And put it out there? Immediately. How do you Yeah, yeah.
Gabrielle Burton 27:09
Yeah. It’s still tricky, though. Because obviously you have, you have enormous channels of, of, you have levels of how people get content out there, right. And so you have your main streaming platforms and your studio films, and you have, and so each of these levels had gates you have to get through. So even if you make something and you put it on, you know, at iTunes, or on YouTube, it’s a tree falling in a forest unless people are able to find it. And so how do you get to a point where you define that as success for yourself, and that’s the other thing, it’s, it’s, um, oh, you know, another great quote, I had read, actually, when we were releasing manna from heaven, was, if you win a presidential election by a landslide, half of the country is still against you. And the idea is that, I apply that to work. So that if I put out a film, and you know, half of the people in the room like it, that’s a landslide. And I think you have to start defining yourself and your success, not by that outward number, counter, you know, views or that sort of thing. That said, there’s just the reality of you want your work to be seen, you need to keep going, you need to be able to get funding for the next project. And so how do you do that. And I think that we see how channels or algorithms, and be influenced by funding and by marketing, and those, that’s where the gates are more invisible now. And I think that’s really tricky, so that you’ll have some people who are able to break through some of those. But otherwise, it’s still quite a difficult way of getting your work out to the public beyond just say, a close circle of friends. And that’s, I think, the tricky part of all of this stuff. There are more platforms, but there are also the same system, same sort of systems in place and some of it is just the natural way that we organize ourselves that then narrow those channels for what actually gets the widest views.
Will Bachman 29:30
What what courses that you took at Harvard, if any, have stuck with you and had some impact on your life, whether related to your filmmaking or anything else. There any any courses that sort of have stayed with you.
Gabrielle Burton 29:48
After so many that shaped me. First year, I took a seminar with Henry foskey, the Japanese economist and also that semester I hit a terrible experienced in a music theory class. And as I said, I thought it was going to go into kind of music, theater, etc. And I needed it for to be a music major. And I was failing the class, and I would throw up every day before was really a horrible experience. And it was kind of semi abusive by the professor. Actually, it turned out and so anyway, I had failed the midterm. And I went to Professor Rosovsky, and said, Could I not come to class today, I’ve just failed this midterm. And because it was right after, and he said, No, you cannot be excused, you have to come to class. And that’s the end of the story. It doesn’t matter. This is small potatoes, and it just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of life. And I was so mad at him. Such a jerk. And then, as the years went on, I thought it was such a good lesson, because that actually also impacted me a lot in my work where, you know, you can’t focus on some bad thing that happens, a bad review or a negative occurrence, you have to keep focusing on the wider view of the work and of the, of your trajectory and your life and what you’re trying to accomplish and do the best you can. And so that was really wonderful. And his class was great, too. He then I talked I took from him, I think it was history of China and Japan. And and also MacFarquhar taught that class, the Cultural Revolution as well. And that was mind blowing for learning about authoritarian regimes and how fascistic governments form. So that’s obviously something we’re seeing terrifyingly little the rise of today again, and I, I thought that was really so interesting to be able to study that long history and in detail with those great professors. And then there were other people like Katherine Lindbergh was my junior thesis advisor. And she was really, really difficult. But it was a wonderful experience writing with her and Verlyn Klinkenborg, who was my thesis advisor, and he had done a writing class and then I had him as my advisor, and he was wonderful in teaching me about simplifying writing, which is connected to film and, you know, Marjorie Garber, there’s so many amazing people history and literature, people, quantum physics, I feel like all these you know, Stephen Jay Gould, class earthlife, and everything. I think, all these sort of made me think about how important profoundly important the liberal arts education are, for learning about history and you know, the long line of people and events that went before us and giving contexts and again, you know, acknowledging and understanding complexity in life because it’s so easy to simplify and when you know, all of that history, you can’t jump to simplification and modern times
Will Bachman 32:57
you mentioned Verlyn Klinkenborg i i was lucky to take his creative writing course as well. Are you in the class with me? I don’t think so. But he I took it last semester senior year here for listeners he is out with a fantastic short book several short sentences about writing I think it is really great and his early books making hay what what what what did you take away from working with vert Verlin about your about your writing how has it shaped your your creative output
Gabrielle Burton 33:32
he really pushed me to simplify every single sentence and to look at it and it’s interesting because in his you know, first book which I’d read at the time, he is not simple and his sentence construction and so but his his approach was so good for really looking at economy and making sure that what your goal is is getting across on the page and so I I just am forever grateful to him for that and then for noticing things he did also that series in the New York Times I think about that was about his living on a farm and the
Will Bachman 34:09
farm life country to country live so
Gabrielle Burton 34:11
we’re all like that was it Yeah. And and I think that that is I am so connected to that sort of way of looking at the world of noticing the the nature around you especially here in Ohio, it’s live out in rural area and I feel very connected to that part of our country and wanting to preserve it and to notice what’s going on around us. So I loved that about Berlin he was really focused in on and each student I think He adjusted his teaching focus with them to say, You know what, what would they what would bring out the best writer in them?
Will Bachman 34:51
Yeah, he had such a big impact on so many so many students there on the on his writing.
Gabrielle Burton 34:57
Yeah, did you with him? How did what did you Get out of him.
Will Bachman 35:02
No one was, it may be a sort of an obvious thing, but really do read out loud your sentences. And and this idea that there is not such a thing as a meaning of your sentence that is divorced from the actual words of the sentence that it’s not there’s sort of Platonic meaning out there, but it’s read the sentence and you know, to your point about simplifying it, and taking out anything that’s extraneous. So I often find myself looking at sentences and just taking out two or three words that aren’t really
Gabrielle Burton 35:36
helping you. Yeah, yeah, I always have that quote, after taking his class I had the quote from Thoreau that says, simplify, simplify, simplify. And my joke was that he should have just written, simplify. And that’s what I got from Roland is all you need is the one word really get your point across
Will Bachman 35:59
copy editing, enter David.
Gabrielle Burton 36:03
In other was another writing teacher was so wonderful is there as a guest, I don’t know if you took her class, Adrienne Kennedy, I did not play right. She was just really amazing African American sort of modernist playwright, and just really an amazing teacher and how much he cared about the students and figuring out what you could say in a avant garde type of form. And that was really that pushed me in a certain direction. That was really helpful as well to think about art in a different way. So she was great.
Will Bachman 36:37
Last section of the show is Department of cultural artifacts, where I ask, what books or films or music or performance art has, you know, had some impact on you and that you recommend people check out?
Gabrielle Burton 36:56
This is such a good question. And also the kind of question I just can’t stand because I have to narrow it down. Right?
Will Bachman 37:03
You don’t want to leave out the black friend, right? Yeah, yeah. Well,
Gabrielle Burton 37:07
yeah. And it makes you reflect on kind of my own personal inner narrative of what I think about myself or choose to focus on is having shaped me, which is an interesting way of thinking about that. So okay, for the sake of this question. Let’s see. You know, besides obviously, I’d mentioned Laurie Anderson. And that was a big influence. I think, I think actually, you know, my sound sort of nepotistic. But my mother’s books, and my father’s music really shaped me, profoundly. I mean, fundamentally, in the process of that, we traveled around the world. We backpacked, we hitchhiked across Alaska, we follow the Oregon Trail to when my mother was writing about the Donner party and we actually wrote are big red stationwagon in the, you know, along the wagon ruts and through the desert and stuff, to try to understand what their experience had been. And so seeing that kind of research, intensity, and then flexibility and as a family also, that they brought the family, on the adventures with them, and with their work was something that was so such a gift. And, in some of it was out of necessity. But then also we didn’t have the money to, you know, travel and, you know, we camped and that kind of thing, or we shared a box of cereal for breakfast. And that’s what we did. And so I learned also probably had to be a producer from that, because we each child had to keep the accounts one day a week, we each had a day that was called first turn. And so that day of the week, you had all these responsibilities. And then you’d also get benefits. So you could sit in the front seat with mom and dad, you could you know, get the first choice that something if it happened special and but you had to keep the accountant little account book or you had to take care of you know, take out the trash or be responsible for making dinner that day and to learn how a family can function that way. And how then, you know, on the larger level a society can function to raise everybody up at the expense of no one was something that my parents felt so strongly about, which came from the Donner party kind of idea of not wanting to have to turn to you know, cannibalism. But also to not have someone die at the expense of other people. Right. So, so, symbolically, and so how do you make that happen and kind of idealistic world and to learn to function within those constraints, so And yet, have everyone thrive? So I think that’s those would be ones I mean, films, I’d say my favorites include. Groundhog Day, castaway. The terminal kids love skis blue, white and red series. Jane Campion and Julie Taymor films. There’s so many films that are just wonderful. And then recently, I’ve read books that I really loved Sirsi Have you read that?
Will Bachman 40:15
I love that book. And her and her other one.
Gabrielle Burton 40:19
I haven’t read Billy’s Yeah, I want to the girl who drank the moon is a, I think it’s probably categorized as like a young, young fiction. But it’s just every line is a piece of poetry in that book. Similarly, there’s a, like middle grade novel, but called Cornelia and the audacious escapades of the Somerset sisters, which is really a wonderful book. And then I’ve read some books recently, like, decipher series, or dry or our classmate, Jeff, rad keys lights out and Lincoln with if you read that one, I have not read that one. Oh, it’s really good. And and those books all sort of think about humanity, and what would happen if we had some event that affects us on a major, a major element of our functioning? So
Will Bachman 41:07
it’s hard to imagine that happening ever?
Gabrielle Burton 41:10
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Oh, my gosh, that’s like, um, have you watched the series station 11.
Will Bachman 41:16
I just read the book. I haven’t seen the series. Okay,
Gabrielle Burton 41:19
I haven’t read the book, which I should read. I didn’t know it was a book until I watched the series. But I became, you know, that kind of binge obsession with a series over the course of a couple weeks. And then it’s about a virus that, you know, affects all of humanity. And it’s just these kind of books that spin out from something that’s a little bit beyond where we are now are haunting and the way that they I just think it’s so creative, the way people think about it. And Jeff Rockys is sort of a comic, a darkly comic novel, so very much worth reading, especially because he’s a classmate.
Will Bachman 41:55
So, those are great recommendations. We’ll include those in the show notes. Gabrielle for listeners that want to follow up and track your production and progress and what you have coming out. Where would you point them online?
Gabrielle Burton 42:11
Oh, five sisters. productions.com. So spelled out five, and then sisters with s productions with an s.com. Or you can look me up I have some things on YouTube. And then also there’s our website, old guy, old guy comedy.com. And it’s that also has the series on YouTube that people can watch. And then kings queens in betweens.com is another is another film kings, queens in betweens.com. And then I’m on all the socials, obviously, so anybody can find me anywhere.
Will Bachman 42:50
So we will include all of those links in the show notes and listeners, you can go to 92 report.com. That’s nine to report calm. To get the shownotes the transcript for this episode, check out all the other episodes sign up for a weekly email to get notified of new episodes. Gabrielle, thank you so much for joining. This was a really fabulous conversation.
Gabrielle Burton 43:15
Thank you. It’s really It’s nice that you’re posing the questions and it’s nice to take a moment out of my day to think about them and it’s always fun to talk with you well