Photos by: Julia Stotz
Kirsten is an animator and stop motion filmmaker living in Los Angeles. She has studied at both CAL Arts and MICA; taking that knowledge to the streets, she has worked with several clients from Google to Cartoon Network. We highly recommend checking out her work but in the meantime, get a glimpse into her thoughts on books and narrative and pickles below.
Girls At Library: What was the name of the first book you fell in love with, that turned you into a life long reader?
Kirsten Lepore: I think it was probably A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. It’s such a wild, cerebral book and is a really perfect blend of relatable, captivating characters and sci-fi adventure. It totally hooked me as a kid at a time when I was really hungry for thought-provoking, otherworldly stories. I recently reread it, actually, and it’s just as amazing as I’d remembered.
GAL: What is the power of story? Ways in which fictional narratives have impacted you and your life.
KL: Story can change everything! It can have such an impact on so many people – I think this is why I’ve chosen a career in filmmaking. Most of all, I think a unique fictional narrative has the power to show people that anything is possible, which I think is the most freeing and exciting prospect. I feel most inspired when I’m knocked off my feet by a really original story, and am forced to reevaluate everything I know to be true. That’s a wonderful, refreshing feeling.
GAL: Do you have a current – or “forever” – favorite book?
KL: Ahh, it’s hard to choose. I definitely have my favorite children’s book that will always hold a special place in my heart, which is Leo Lionni’s Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse. I would beg my mom to read it to me every night, and one night I pulled a total fake out move where I “read” the book to her. She was stunned for the first few pages because I was way too young to read, but she soon realized after I had been turning the pages in the wrong places, that I had just memorized the whole book and was trying to fool her.
GAL: How often do find yourself reading?
KL: I wish I read more often! Some weeks when I’m in the middle of a great book I’ll read every night and be up until 2 a.m., totally immersed. Other times when work gets too overwhelming, I’ll have long dry spells. There are always a couple fun things in the nightstand queue that I always look forward to, though.
GAL: Who would you say is your favorite author?
KL: My favorite author of the moment is probably Miranda July. Last year I read The First Bad Man and it completely blew my mind. It’s just so damn unique that I couldn’t get enough. I also read No one belongs here more than you a few years back and felt the same way about that one. She just has an incredible gift for creating the most imaginative situations, and I find that I always relate to the weird inner dialogue of her characters.
GAL: Do you have a current favorite reading spot? Where is it?
KL: I love reading in the rocking chair on the front porch, or in the hammock swing in the backyard. I think there’s something about moving subtly that really stimulates my brain. Or maybe it’s just comforting like being back in the womb. I do know that I do my best writing when I’m on a moving train – so there’s gotta be something to this moving thing…
GAL: Or – can you read anywhere?
KL: I don’t like sitting upright in a rigid chair with a book on a table – always hurts my neck. I also find that when I’m reading in a cushy place, within two minutes I’ll most likely be curled up in some strange position with my feet tucked down in a couch crevice, or something.
GAL: Do you have any books that inspire your work (technically or otherwise)?
KL: I feel like every book somehow inspires or informs my work in some way. As a stop motion filmmaker, there are so many parts of the craft, from story to character creation to visual design to shot framing. It’s sometimes great to reference graphic novels to get creative ideas about how to structure shots or to break out of the usual format.
GAL: Having recently re-watched Move Mountain and your other shorts, I’m curious if you ever turn to any books or stories while creating your animated films or shorts to guide the characters or script?
KL: Usually my ideas come from person life events or are informed directly by a specific material, like snow and sand in the case of Bottle. However, in the stop-motion episode of Adventure Time I just wrote and directed, one of my favorite Leo Lionni books, Frederick, served as a major influence when I was first forming the story. Frederick is actually based on the old fable, "The Ant and the Grasshopper," which has been adapted many times over the years. I always identified with Frederick’s character though – he’s the sort of guy that comes off as lazy, but is really off alone somewhere making all kinds of art that he eventually gets to unleash on the world when the time is right.
GAL: Non-fiction or fiction?
KL: No preference! I do like to change it up though! I think the combination of creativity in fabricated stories and scientific books that teach you more about the known world makes for a great balance.
GAL: When reading non-fiction, what genre do you gravitate towards?
KL: I usually read scientific non-fiction. I love David Eagleman’s work, especially Incognito which is a really digestible and fascinating look at neuroscience and mysteries of the brain.
GAL: Ok, now for a tough one: if you were to write your memoir, what would you title it?
KL: Oh geez, that’s so hard. Probably something about pickles. I think I’d call it Pickles, Cheetos, and Ginger Ale …yeah, I think that’s my vibe.
GAL: Please name a few books you recommend reading, and the reasons for your choices.
KL: I feel like everyone needs to read The First Bad Man – it’s just the craziest narrative I’ve ever read. It’s the most original thing! I really love Jeffrey Brown’s graphic novels, too – Clumsy was my first and probably favorite of his. He’s got such a goofy, fun drawing style, but his stories are very personal, emotional, and center on romantic relationships. Also, I’m in the middle of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo right now and I think it might just change my life. Ok, I’ve gotta go meticulously fold all my shirts now…