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Overland Park Filmmaker's 'Pink Collar Crimes' Seeks Empathy For 'Complicated Women'

Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
'I really love telling stories about complicated women,' says Sharon Liese, the co-creator and producer of 'Pink Collar Crime' on CBS.

At first glance, the premise behind "Pink Collar Crimes" seems a little less heartwarming than the stories its co-creator, Overland Park-based filmmaker Sharon Liese, is known for.

As a documentary filmmaker, Liese's most recent project dealt with tiny gnome houses on a Kansas walking trail and the power of kindness ("The Gnomist"). She has also followed mothers and daughters as they learned to embrace their insecurities ("Selfie"), and chronicled Blue Valley high schoolers tackling issues like depression and teen pregnancy ("High School Confidential").

"Pink Collar Crimes," however, focuses on women who commit felonies.

“I really love to tell stories about women," Liese told host Steve Kraske on KCUR's Up To Date. "I really love to tell stories about complicated women.”

It was a shared interest in telling empowering stories about women that helped Liese and her co-creator and producer, Jon Kroll, come up with the idea for "Pink Collar Crime." Liese said the series is a good example of how to tell "really good, important, stories" while also being entertaining. 

The series has eight episodes. Liese and Kroll spent time focusing on which perspective would add the most humanity to each story they were telling, which is why some episodes center on the viewpoint of the criminal and others are told by a family member or detective. 

"I still like to tell heartwarming stories, and tell stories that are deep, that you really get into to find out what is going on with your subjects," said Liese. "The human part of the story, rather than just details of the story beats." 

The first episode, “Minivan Mom Bank Robber,” aired on July 27, featuring Roxanne Pennock of San Diego, California. One day in 2009, Pennock dropped her five children off at school and decided to rob a bank. 

The series premiere gave the soccer mom a chance to tell her story. At the time, Pennock was addicted to painkillers and in desperate need of money. Liese said she and Kroll wanted the series to draw out empathy from viewers. 

The seventh episode, set to air on Saturday, Sept. 8, visits a 1998 Kansas City murder-for-hire case. Titled "Cash of the Carriages," the episode follows events that unfolded when a Country Club Plaza carriage owner hired someone to kill her competitors. 

The woman was convicted and spent nine years in prison for conspiring murder. She still claims she is innocent. 

"If I am doing a CBS series, I was bound and determined to find a Kansas City case," said Liese. 

Liese said "Pink Collar Crimes" has allowed her to follow trends developing in documentary filmmaking. Each episode used actors as well as the real people who were involved to chronicle the events of the crime. The show was also filmed using techniques to imitate eye contact, with interviewees looking directly into the lens. Liese said they used a special device that mirrors the producer's face in the camera. 

"There's a difference when we tell people 'Here's my question, now look into the camera' and they don't have those non-verbal cues," Liese said. "We wanted it to feel like the viewer was having a conversation with the people who were being interviewed."

Emily Park is KCUR's Up to Date intern. You can follow her on Twitter, @HeyThisIsEm.