Member Spotlight / Beverly-Whittemore Sisters
From writing novels to making films, these sisters are the definition of a dynamic duo.
Sisters Kai and Miranda Beverly-Whittemore still remember their first collaboration.
“It was a day-in-the-life documentary that Miranda shot of me when she was 13 and I was six,” said Kai. “She used a pixel vision camera.”
It’s a little past 9:00 am on a summer morning in VCET. Kai and Miranda sit next to each other in a conference room as the morning sun peeks in.
“It’s hard to pinpoint when we started working together,” added Kai. “Because it’s just always been a constant backdrop of our lives. We’ve had lifelong collaboration.”
Kai, a filmmaker, and Miranda, a novelist, became VCET members in April. Meet the two sisters whose shared passion for storytelling led them to 266 Main Street and learn about their exciting collaboration ahead.
Growing as storytellers
Miranda and Kai were born to an anthropologist and an ethnographer, spending much of their childhood around the globe. Miranda attributes her passion for storytelling to years spent in Senegal, while Kai credits a theater camp in Oregon.
“We did a lot of theater together at this amazing camp run by hippies,” said Kai. “A lot of our storytelling came out of that. It was very formative for both of us – it sparked our joy of making.”
Miranda studied English at Vassar College and began her professional journey at the Unterberg Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. After fetching coats and coffee for luminaries like Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and John Irving, she eventually transitioned to becoming an author herself.
Over the past couple decades, Miranda has etched her name as a New York Times bestselling author, with five published novels –– including titles like June, The Effects of Light, and Fierce Little Thing (an Editor’s Pick at the New York Times). Her stories center on female perspectives, memory and loss, intergenerational relationships, and legacy.
Miranda’s third novel, Bittersweet, is set on Mallet’s Bay in Burlington.
“My books are at the crossroads of commercial and literary fiction,” said Miranda. “A lot of juicy secrets, sometimes a murder, good sex. These are books that I hope people would want to take on vacation.”
Kai charted a distinctive artistic journey as a writer and film director, inspired by her older sister’s ambition.
“She’s seven years older than I am,” said Kai. “So I saw her working at the poetry center and realized, ‘Oh, I could be an artist, too.’ That was a large part of my inspiration.’”
Kai began learning about filmmaking at the University of Chicago, where she worked for a student-founded production company, Fire Escape Films. Following experience as a fine arts model, Kai directed her first film, exploring the shift from being in front of the camera to being behind it.
After graduating, Kai spent her twenties in New York City, before moving to Los Angeles. She emerged as a talented filmmaker, affiliating with esteemed groups such as Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective and Film Fatales in Los Angeles.
“My work similarly explores female identity and development,” said Kai. “My background is in documentary filmmaking, but I also really love narrative filmmaking.”
Finding a home at VCET
When the pandemic hit, Miranda and Kai decided to leave their urban lives behind for Vermont. The sisters have roots in the Green Mountains – Kai was born in the state, while Miranda spent several elementary school years at Union Memorial in Colchester.
“In New York you are always with other people, and of course, that became completely unappealing as soon as COVID hit,” said Miranda. “We had spent a lot of summers here and realized if we joined forces, we could raise our kids together.”:
Initially, the sisters pursued their work from home, until Kai heard about VCET from a friend in Burlington. She was given a tour and was instantly hooked.
“Kai called me and was like, ‘we have to go!’” recalled Miranda.
“What’s special about being here is that there’s always somebody on the desk over who’s doing something completely different than you are,” said Kai. “And if you just strike up a conversation, they’ll tell you about it. I love that.”
Recently, the sisters obtained a fixed desk for the first time.
“It’s really fun that we’ll be together because we’ll have the opportunity to collaboratively be side by side,” said Miranda.
“And cheer each other on,” added Kai.
Kai and Miranda have collaborated on a number of film and TV projects, including one based on Miranda’s first novel that they co-wrote and co-produced. Currently, they are developing several TV series pitches, based on three different books by Miranda.
Outside of these projects, Kai is working on a graphic memoir, while Miranda is revising her new book.
“And on any given day, there might be another project in the mix,” Kai adds. “We have no shortage of ideas.”