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Winter surfing, clean lakes and toast art: Check out the newest 'Made Here' films

A tryptic of images showing winter surfers, portraits burned into toast, and a kayaker paddling in a read kayak through murky brown water.
Stills from "Winter Surfing: New England’s Best Kept Secret", "Burnt Toast", and "No Other Lake”, all projects premiering in the new season of Made Here.

Made Here is a series on Vermont Public that shares local, independent films from across our region. A new season kicks off Thursday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. Mikaela Lefrak spoke with Eric Ford, Vermont Public’s Director of Content Partnership and the producer of the Made Here series, to learn more about the unique voices and stories from local filmmakers viewers can look forward to.

Mikaela Lefrak: How did the Made Here series get started?

Eric Ford: Well, Made Here as a series started in 2016. So, it's been going for a little bit over six years. And really, the goal with the series was to share local, independent, mostly documentary films, and 30% to 40% of a typical season is from Vermont, but we're also talking about New Hampshire and Maine and Massachusetts and Quebec. And there's anywhere from a two-minute short, animated film to a feature-length documentary. So, there's a lot of interesting things, and all sorts of subjects.

Let's dive into maybe some of the themes that you have seen emerge for this new season, which, again, is starting on Thursday, Jan. 26. Do you notice any common threads here?

Yeah, it's interesting, you know, obviously, I can't really order up a film that we might be interested in. It's really about whatever the filmmaker is interested in. But we do find, actually, recurring themes.

So, very often, there's films about the outdoors, and sports. I mean, in New England, that's a big thing, being outdoors. Women's' experience and the BIPOC experience in there. That's another common theme that we find. History, arts, activism, of course, again, it's a thing that's really important to folks, not just here, but everywhere. And so, those themes that are of interest, that you would find kind of anywhere, also, those same interests are here.

And another focus that I love is student voice. And especially this season, in the winter, and spring, we have regular showcases of student work from Champlain College, and the Freedman Unity Film Showcase, which is amazing, because you often don't get to see student work. It's either a project or for school or something. And they're great. It's amazing work to be able to share with everyone.

About the film Winter Surfing: New England’s Best Kept Secret (premiering Feb. 2)

It's fascinating to watch. But I don't think I'm brave enough to try something like that, just surfing, let alone in the winter. This is from Director Greg Shea, who lives in the Boston area. And yeah, it's just a profile of these thrill seekers that are out there surfing in the winter in Massachusetts, you know, anywhere along the coast here in New England and Rhode Island, even in New Hampshire, actually a little bit of coast there. And there's these brave surfers that are out there.

About the film Ruth Stone’s Vast Library of the Female Mind (premiering Mar. 2)

I love this film. And [Vermont director Nora Jacobsen] is an amazing director. She's been here for decades making feature fiction films, and now documentaries. She's she's just a master at what she does.

And Ruth Stone is such an interesting subject, she really is, I feel, unsung, perhaps unknown. And that's a shame. That's what's great about this film is you get to learn about this really unique, amazing woman, and it's really about her life, her family. She lived in Goshen, Vermont, in the middle of nowhere, and just was making [poetry]. She might be referred to as the poet's poet. She really is just incredible. And that's what's great about this film, as you get to hear about her work, but also her as a person.

About the film Burnt Toast (premieres Mar. 16)

It's from director Timothy Morrish and it's all about Galen Paul Dively III, who lives in Danville, Vermont, and he's most known for toast art. He makes these selfie toasters. So you can actually submit a picture of yourself or anyone and and he'll make a toaster that burns that image into the toast. He was most famous for, and kind of went viral for, his Jesus toaster, so people could get Jesus on toast because, why not?

About the film No Other Lake (premieres May 4)

It's director Duane Peterson from Colchester, Vermont and Jordan Rowell. And essentially, they took a trip along Lake Champlain and kayaked the whole thing, really to shed light on what's happening in the watershed, talking to folks along the way about the health of the lake. Number one, it's an amazing, impressive first film for these directors. And it's also just so compelling and visually, too, I mean, again, it's hard to tell [on the radio] and you're going to have to see it. I'll just tell you, you got to see it. But it is an incredible film. And it really, it's an important film, because it talks about our land, and our watershed, and what's important for us to all exist here together.

The Made Here series premieres on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. on Vermont Public's main TV channel.

Broadcast on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet us @vermontedition.

Mikaela Lefrak joined Vermont Public in 2021 as co-host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Originally from Delaware, Matt moved to Alaska in 2010 for his first job in radio. He spent five years working as a radio and television reporter, radio producer, talk show host, and news director. His reporting received awards from the Alaska Press Club and the Alaska Broadcasters Association. Relocating to southwest Florida, he was a producer for television news and NPR member station WGCU for their daily radio show, Gulf Coast Live. He joined Vermont Public in October 2017 as producer of Vermont Edition.