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Robin Baker Leacock: “Diary of a Documentarian”

…I’m really big on this subject. I’m really interested in health because I believe when people are balanced and healthy they relate better to the earth, others and themselves. So I’m all for having hospitals and our health system being holistic, nonharmful, (with nontoxic therapies with no side effects) and especially hospitals being places of […]

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…I’m really big on this subject. I’m really interested in health because I believe when people are balanced and healthy they relate better to the earth, others and themselves. So I’m all for having hospitals and our health system being holistic, nonharmful, (with nontoxic therapies with no side effects) and especially hospitals being places of healing, good food and not being so scary. — So healthy living and having healthy hospitals if you need it.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Robin Baker Leacock, a documentary filmmaker who directed It Girls, A Passion For Giving, Stella is 95 and I’ll Take Manhattan.

“It Girls” is a documentary film about fashion that aired nationally in the U.S. in 2002. “A Passion For Giving” is a documentary film about philanthropy, focusing on various charities and the simple gesture of helping others. It aired in the fall of 2009 on PBS. I’ll Take Manhattan is a comedy about Native Americans and Wall Street. Her films have been shown at the Berlin, Hamptons, and Montreal Film Festivals. Robin is married to filmmaker Robert Leacock, who shot Madonna’s Truth or Dare, Al Pacino’s Looking For Richard and Christy Turlington’s Catwalk. His father, the late Richard Leacock, was a pioneer in cinema vérité documentaries.


Thank you for joining us Robin! Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

Growing up in Toronto I was always surrounded by artists, filmmakers and musicians as Toronto is a very creative place. As well my Mother Estelle Craig was a huge personality, with quite an amazing career and she is the main subject of this documentary. I married a documentary filmmaker Robert Leacock who is the son of one of the esteemed pioneers of cinema verite. But those are just my surroundings. I’ve always wanted to give a voice to particular issues and subjects … In this case — a voice to our elders.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

Well I have some funny footage of Donald Trump and Melania winking at my camera at a fashion event in my IT GIRLS movie.

But in making most of my films I feel like I am an adventuress entering many worlds and finding incredible moments. As my husband always says being a documentary filmmaker you have the opportunity to live deeply with others lives. I always thought that he should write a book “Diary of a Documentarian”, because it’s such a unique position — to spend so much time with other people filming. I really like capturing and amplifying the moment.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Well now I am working on two books. One is a book of my writing that I’ve been inspired to write over many years.

It’s so great working on something that’s not as high-tech as filmmaking.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Well I’m very lucky that I have always interacted with interesting people. That being said pretty much every one is interesting if you connect in a very open way. Two of my best interviews in my “A PASSION FOR GIVING” film were with homeless people. When I watch the film now they look like “stars” to me !

And in making this documentary STELLA & CO : A ROMANTIC MUSICAL COMEDY DOCUMENTARY ABOUT AGING I want to share how extraordinary caregivers are and what important work they selflessly do. They should always be celebrated.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

Well, I studied with Marshall McCluhan many ( many ) years ago and he suggested that I read Anais Nin. I’ve always had high regard for people that have documented their lives. I wish I had more as my life has been pretty interesting to me ! Now with instagram everyone is doing that, although in a bit of a superficial way.

So I guess I am inspired by great writers, artists and musicians that have captured truthfully their lives in their art .

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Well I can only speak personally as a woman. My own experience is that I strongly feel if I had been taken more seriously before as a young woman — I would have a much bigger output of work now. People are often judged on appearance. I’ve never been crazy about the gatekeepers that decide who should be seen or heard in the arts. But until recently with social media, they were necessary in order to be heard. Now individuals can amplify their own story.

So I think now our culture is more of an accepting place to live with many voices heard.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I’m really big on this subject. I’m really interested in health because I believe when people are balanced and healthy they relate better to the earth, others and themselves. So I’m all for having hospitals and our health system being holistic, nonharmful, (with nontoxic therapies with no side effects) and especially hospitals being places of healing, good food and not being so scary. — So healthy living and having healthy hospitals if you need it.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Well no-one really told me anything in particular when I first started — because I’ve lived my life in a nonlinear fashion. Independently.

I suppose in terms of filmmaking Robert Leacock’s Father the great documentarian Richard Leacock explained making a film of sequences — which I interpret to be a film of many moments strung together. So that’s what I try to do. I think films are made up of many moments. So is life.

My Mother always said that anything is possible. I guess that covers it all.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Anyone who has the power to make decisions that affect other people’s lives. Just so we can have a fun breakfast or lunch, make a connection about having a good sense of humour and a moral compassionate outlook on life. Good to have a laugh with people, especially if they might be a little stodgy, stubborn in their beliefs,or egotisical. To show the upside of generosity !

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Well my Mom in the film always says hers was “Keep busy” which I understand now to be keep engaged with life, which I naturally am !

I guess mine is “stay focused in the moment”. There’s nothing more important to me than taking a deep dive into the moment. I think that’s when you feel most alive. It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are, if you don’t appreciate the moment you’re in — you’re not really appreciating your life !

How can our readers follow you online?

Great !! Thanks !! A few places –

Instagram : @stellaandcodocumentary

Facebook : stellaandcodocumentary

& Website : stelladocumentary.com

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