Allison Anders

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Allison Anders
Born Mary Allison Anders
(1954-11-16) November 16, 1954 (age 60)
Ashland, Kentucky US
Alma mater UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
Occupation Director
Years active 1987–present
Known for Gas Food Lodging
Mi Vida Loca
Grace of My Heart
Children 3
Parent(s) Alberta Steed
Bob Anders

Allison Anders (born November 16, 1954) is an American independent film director. She is most well known for her films, Gas Food Lodging, Mi Vida Loca and Grace of My Heart.[1][2] Anders has frequently collaborated with fellow UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television graduate Kurt Voss. She has also often worked as a TV television director. Anders' films have been shown at the Cannes International Film Festival and at the Sundance Film Festival.[3] She has been awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant as well as a Peabody Award.

Early life[edit]

Anders was born in Ashland, Kentucky to mother Alberta "Rachel" Anders (née Steed) and father Robert "Bob" Anders.[4][5] She has four sisters, one of whom, Luanne Anders,[6] starred in her first film, Border Radio. One of her sisters is Dominique Steed née Du Bois, the daughter of Louis Ernesto Gomez-Moncalleno Du Bois.

Her paternal side has ancestry that traces back to the Southern Hatfield family and, more distantly, to George Washington's spy, Caleb Brewster, while her maternal side includes another George Washington spy, Abraham Woodhull.[5]

When Anders was 4 years old, her father abandoned the family. Anders' mother and father were divorced when she was 5 years old.[7] After her mother moved her and her sisters to Los Angeles, Anders suffered a mental breakdown at the age of 15 and was hospitalized. When she came out of the psychiatric ward, she was placed into foster care but ran away. She hitchhiked across the country, at one point ending up in jail. After turning 17 years old, Anders dropped out of her Los Angeles high school and moved back to Kentucky. She later moved to London with the man who fathered her first child.[8]

In her early 20s, Anders moved back to Los Angeles with her daughter and attended junior college, Los Angeles Valley College,[9] while working odd jobs. Due to constant relocation as a child, Anders had not had a steady education. She said that growing up most of her time was spent watching TV and going to movie theaters. Influenced and inspired by the films of Wim Wenders as well as other filmmakers, Anders applied to UCLA Film School.[10] During her time at UCLA, Anders produced her first super-8 16-millimeter sound movie. Wenders attended the screening.[8] In 1986, Anders got her B.A. in Motion Picture-Television from University of California Los Angeles.[3]



In 1986, Anders won the Samuel Goldwyn Writing Awards for a script called Lost Highway that she wrote about her father.[11] She said that after writing the script she shared it with her father, and was able to have a relationship with him again.[9]

Anders' first film, the punk music-heavy Border Radio, was co-written and co-directed with Kurt Voss and Dean Lent and was made while they were at UCLA. It was nominated for Best Feature of 1988 by the Independent Feature Project for Best First Feature.[12] The film told the story of three musicians who stole money owed to them from a job who then fled to Mexico. The indie drama features the Los Angeles punk-rock scene of the 1980s.[12] Despite the $2,000 contribution from Vic Tayback and loans from Voss' parents to fund the film, there was not enough money to make the movie so the filmmakers used local locations and cast performers they knew. However, this is actually in accordance to their original plan. For the starring role, they cast Anders' sister, Luanna Anders, and musician Chris D., as the leading man, as well as Anders' daughter, Devon Anders, who played Luanna's daughter in the film. Violating UCLA policy, the filmmakers cut the film at night in the school's editing bays, where Anders' two young daughters would sleep on the floor.[12] In 2007, Border Radio was given a special release on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection[12] and was lauded for being groundbreaking independent cinema.[13]

Anders second feature was the 1992 film Gas Food Lodging, for which she won a New York Film Critics Circle Award and National Society of Film Critics for Best New Director, a nomination for Independent Spirit Awards for Best Screenplay, a nomination for Independent Spirit Awards for Best Director, and for which actress Fairuza Balk won an Independent Spirit Award. The film also won the Deauville Film Festival Critics Award and film was also nominated for the Golden Bear at the 42nd Berlin International Film Festival.[14] Gas Food Lodging features the stories of three vibrant, restless women in a dusty Western town, is a coming of age story about a truck stop waitress and her two daughters.[15] The film was originally a project based on the novel Don't Look and It Won't Hurt by Richard Peck, but Anders re-wrote the original story from the female perspective, making Gas Food Lodging a loose adaptation.[9]

Her next film was Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life), about girl gangs in the poor Hispanic Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, where Anders lived. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993, and saw wide release in 1994. The film features features a female perspective on what it is like to grow up in the inner city, where almost every girl has at least one child by age 21, and most homeboys of the same age are either dead or in prison. Mi Vida Loca peers into the lives of several of the young Echo Park women.

In 1996, Anders' film, Grace of My Heart, was released. Martin Scorsese executive produced. It tells the story of a songwriter, played by Illeana Douglas, who begins her career in a Brill Building-type songwriting experience. Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach had their first collaboration on the film, and were nominated for a Grammy Award. The film is both a musical and as well as a drama,[10] featuring an original musical soundtrack.[16]

In the late 1980s, Anders had become friends with members of the pop group Duran Duran, and frequently inserted small references to the band in her films (character names, posters on walls, and so on). In 1999, after bassist John Taylor had left Duran Duran and was beginning to launch an acting career, she co-wrote and co-directed the film Sugar Town with Kurt Voss about the Los Angeles film and music industry. The film starred several musical friends of hers, including Taylor, X singer John Doe, Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp, and singer/actor Michael Des Barres. Sugar Town followed the interconnected lives of a handful of power brokers, wanna-bes and has-beens. Gwen (played by Jade Gordon), a self-centered would-be rock star who will do anything to further her career, is working as an assistant to production designer Liz Ally Sheedy, but when Gwen discovers Liz has a date with famous producer Burt Larry Klein, any loyalty she has to her boss immediately goes out the window.[17] The film was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, one for Best Film and one for best Newcomer for Jade Gordon. The film won the Fantasporto award for Best Screenplay for Anders and Voss.[citation needed]

Her 2001 harrowing autobiographical film, Things Behind the Sun,[18] deals with the long-term aftermath of rape.[7] It was released on the Showtime cable TV network. The film won an Emmy Award nomination for actor Don Cheadle as Best Supporting Actor, three Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Don Cheadle for Best Supporting Actor, Kim Dickens for Best Actress, and Best Film. She and co-writer Kurt Voss received a nomination for the Edgar Award. The film was awarded the SHINE Award as well as the Peabody Award. Things Behind the Sun was inspired by an experience Anders had in 1967 where she was raped by group of boys.[19] Anders actually shot some of the film in the same location in Cocoa Beach, Florida, where the gang rape occurred.[7]

Anders' 2012 film, Strutters, completed the third in the loosely categorized trilogy of films that she started with her debut film, Border Radio and Sugar Town. The film was co-directed with long-time collaborator, Kurt Voss, and featured musicians like Ariel Pink. J Mascis worked on the score.[20] The film was funded by a Kickstarter campaign.[21]

In 2013, Anders released the Lifetime produced TV movie, Ring of Fire, a June Carter Cash biopic that featured the musician Jewel. The film was inspired by John Carter Cash's book, Anchored in Love: A Tribute to June Carter Cash. [22]


Anders began directing shows for broadcast and cable television in 1999, including several episodes in the second and third seasons of Sex and the City, as well as episodes of Grosse Pointe, Cold Case, The L Word, Men In Trees, The Mentalist, and What About Brian?

In 2011, she directed an episode of the John Wells production, Southland, which involved a car chase scene.[23] Anders directed an episode of TURN: Washington's Spies, which was especially interesting to her because she has connections on both her paternal as well as maternal sides to the characters who were spies for George Washington.[5]

Other work[edit]

In 2013, Anders interviewed 94-year-old actress and Hollywood legend, Marge Champion, who appeared at a 2013 Hollywood film festival screening of the 1968 cult film, The Swimmer, which starred Burt Lancaster. The interview was a featured supplementary behind-the-scenes on the 2014 Blu-ray/DVD release of the film by Grindhouse Releasing/Box Office Spectaculars Blu-ray/DVD restoration of the film.[24]

Started in 2003, Anders is the co-founder with her musician daughter, Tiffany Anders, of the Don't Knock the Rock Film and Music Festival, in Los Angeles.[25]

In 2006, she appeared in the road-trip documentary Wanderlust. Anders has also contributed to the web series Trailers from Hell.

In 2013, Anders bid on and won a rock and roll record collection that was owned by the actress Greta Garbo. She created a website called "Greta's Records" to curate and share the 50 records.[26]

In development / past projects[edit]

Long-term associations[edit]

Anders counts filmmaker Wim Wenders a mentor. She started as a fan, sending him letters and music. Wenders eventually responded. Anders said that she created a faux grant that she "won" so that she and at least one other friend could study under Wenders on location on his film Paris, Texas. They have been friends for over 30 years.[29]


In 2003, Anders became a Distinguished Professor at the University of California Santa Barbara where she teaches in the Film And Media Studies Department one quarter every year. She has taught coursed on topics ranging from autobiographic writing, rock and roll films, to music supervision.[3]


Personal life[edit]

Anders has three children. She has two daughters, Tiffany Anders, a musician and music supervisor, and Devon Anders. Her son, Ruben Goodbear Anders, was fostered (and eventually adopted) by the family for three years after the death of his mother, Nica Rogers,[33] who appeared in Mi Vida Loca.[7][34][35] Tiffany was named after the film, Breakfast at Tiffany's.[9]

Anders was in a long-term relationship with Kurt Voss.[9] During the 1980s she was in a relationship with Duran Duran bass player, John Taylor.[36]



Year Film Credited as Notes
Director Writer Producer
1984 Paris, Texas Production Assistant
1987 Border Radio Yes Yes Won – Independent Spirit Awards for Best First Feature 1988
1992 Gas Food Lodging Yes Yes Screenplay
Won – New York Film Critics Circle for Best New Director 1992
Won – National Society of Film Critics for Best New Director 1992
Nominated – Independent Spirit Awards for Best Screenplay 1992
Nominated – Independent Spirit Awards for Best Director 1992
1993 Mi Vida Loca Yes Yes Written by
1995 Four Rooms – Segment: "The Missing Ingredient" Yes Yes Written by
1996 Grace of My Heart Yes Yes Written by
1997 Lover Girl Yes Executive Producer
1999 Sugar Town Yes Yes Written by; Co-Directed with Kurt Voss
2001 Things Behind the Sun Yes Yes Written by
2002 In The Echo (TV movie) Yes Yes Yes Written by; Producer; Costume designer
2007 The Pacific and Eddy Yes Executive Producer
2009 Until the Very Last Moment Yes Short; Executive Producer
2011 A Crush on You (TV movie) Yes
2012 Strutter Yes Yes Yes Written by; Producer
2012 Ring of Fire (TV movie) Yes Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing of a Drama 2013
2013 Fireflies Yes Executive Producer
2013 Rock N Roll Mamas (documentary) Yes Executive Producer
2014 I Believe in Unicorns Yes Executive Producer


  • 1999: Sex in the City – Director, 4 episodes: "The Caste System," "La Donleur Exquise," "Drama Queen," "The Big Time"
  • 2000: Grosse Pointe – Director, 2 episodes: "Boys on the Side," "Star Wars"
  • 2004: Cold Case – Director, 1 episode: "Volunteers"
  • 2006: The L Word – Director, 1 episode: "Last Dance"
  • 2006: Men in Trees – Director, 1 episode: "Power Shift"
  • 2006: What About Brian – Director, 2 episodes: "What About First Steps," "What About the True Confessions?"
  • 2011: SouthLAnd – Director, 2 episodes: "Sideways," "Fallout"
  • 2013: The Mentalist – Director, 1 episode: "The Red Barn"
  • 2014: Orange Is the New Black – Director, 1 episode: "You Also Have a Pizza"
  • 2014: Gang Related – Director, 1 episode: "Invierno Cayó"
  • 2014: The Divide – Director, 1 episode: "Facts Are the Enemy"
  • 2014-2015: Murder in the First – Director, 4 episodes: "Pants on Fire," "Blue on Blue," "The McCormack Mulligan," "Nothing But the Truth"
  • 2015: TURN: Washington's Spies – Director, 1 episode "False Flag"
  • 2015: Proof – Director, 1 episode: "Memento Vivere"

Works and publications[edit]

  • Anders, Allison. "On Claudia Weill's film 'Girlfriends.'" Sight & Sound. Vol. 25 (10). London: British Film Institute, October 2015. ISSN 0037-4806


  1. ^ Swartley, Ariel (19 September 1999). "Film; Certified Genius, With a Tatoo [sic]". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "The Monster That Ate Hollywood: Interview - Allison Anders". Frontline. PBS. 22 November 2001. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "Allison Anders, Professor of Film & Media Studies". University of California Santa Barbara. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  4. ^ "Mary A Anders - Kentucky, Vital Record Indexes". FamilySearch. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Allison, Anders (21 June 2015). "Real Gone Daddy". Blitter Baroque: workbook y public diary de Allison Anders. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  6. ^ "Luanna Anders - Kentucky, Vital Record Indexes". FamilySearch. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d Espinoza, Galina; Wang, Cynthia (27 August 2001). "Nightmare Revisited: Filming in the House Where She Was Raped Helped Allison Anders Heal". People (Vol. 56, No. 9). Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "The Monster That Ate Hollywood (Program #2007)". Frontline. PBS. 22 November 2001. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Stone, Judy (30 September 1992). "Tough Road To Acclaim Allison Anders, Raped At 12, Catatonic For A Year, Has Seen Her Fortunes Change. Her Survival Tale "Gas Food Lodging" Won Fame In Film Festivals. Today It's Back In Town". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Mercurio, James P. (1996). "Contemporary Melodrama: Interview with Allison Anders". Creative Screenwriting (Vol. 3, No. 4). pp. 25–28. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  11. ^ a b "Notable Winners: Allison Anders. First Place, 1986". Samuel Goldwyn Writing Awards. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Morris, Chris (15 January 2007). "Border Radio: Where Punk Lived". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  13. ^ Lim, Dennis (19 January 2007). "The fade-out of L.A.'s punk rock scene: 'Border Radio,' a time capsule of underdog mythology, deserves its spot in the history of independent film.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  14. ^ "Berlinale: 1992 Programme". Berlinale 1992. 1992. Retrieved 24 May 2011. 
  15. ^ Maslin, Janet (31 July 1992). "Review/Film -- Gas Food Lodging; Rueful Women, Rootless Men In a Dreary Western Town". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  16. ^ Maslin, Janet (13 September 1996). "One Fine Day at the Brill Building". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  17. ^ Maslin, Janet (17 September 1999). "Film Review; A Los Angeles Snapshot Of Ashrams and Ambition". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  18. ^ Rooney, David (28 January 2001). "Review: 'Things Behind The Sun'". Variety. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  19. ^ Weintraub, Bernard (7 August 2001). "Assault as Autobiography; A Filmmaker Draws on Her Memories of Being Raped at 12". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  20. ^ Harvey, Dennis (18 October 2012). "Review: 'Strutter'". Variety. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  21. ^ Anders, Allison. ""Strutter" a film by Allison Anders & Kurt Voss". Kickstarter. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  22. ^ Morris, Christopher (22 May 2013). "Allison Anders, Jewel Sing June Carter Cash's Praises". Variety. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  23. ^ SouthLAnd First (5 March 2012). "Exclusive interview with "Fallout" director Allison Anders". SouthLAnd First. Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  24. ^ Dursin, Andy (24 March 2014). "Aisle Seat 3-25: The Swimmer, Wolf of Wall Street". Film Score Monthly. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  25. ^ Markowitz, Andy (28 August 2013). "Allison and Tiffany Anders: Don't Knock the Rock, Around the Clock". Musicfilmweb. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  26. ^ "Greta's Records By Allison Anders". Greta's Records By Allison Anders. 21 January 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  27. ^ Graham, Terry (29 January 2008). "Letters From Readers – April 2008 – Wild West: Quanah Quest". HistoryNet. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  28. ^ Schneider, Michael; Adalian, Josef (19 December 2007). "Cabler AMC to build on drama success". Variety. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  29. ^ Anders, Allison; Wenders, Wim (9 September 2015). "Allison Anders (Grace of My Heart) Talks with Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas) for The Talkhouse Film Podcast". The Talkhouse. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  30. ^ Anders, Allison. "Alison Anders' Letter". Samuel Goldwyn Writing Awards. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  31. ^ "MacArthur Fellows: Meet the Class of 1995: Allison Anders, Filmmaker, Los Angeles, California". MacArthur Foundation. 1 July 1995. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  32. ^ Variety Staff (16 August 2013). "'Ring of Fire': Emmy Nominee Allison Anders on a Jewel of a Composition". Variety. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  33. ^ Cobo-Hanlon, Leila (21 July 1994). "Another Side of the 'Crazy Life' : Although flattered to see themselves on screen, for many Echo Park youths, the depiction of their lives in 'Mi Vida Loca' may be true but it misses the untold stories of compassion and understanding". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  34. ^ Archerd, Army (12 September 1995). "Pols vie for spots on 'Murphy Brown'". Variety. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  35. ^ Brett, Anwar (25 March 1995). "Making Life Into Movies: Anwar Brett meets a rare film director who downplays the violence of her characters' lives". The Independent. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  36. ^ Pryor, Kelli (22 July 1994). "Allison Anders Faces Frustration and Success: The director bounces back from a failed project with a story close to home". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

Printed material[edit]

Audio visual material[edit]

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