You could forgive Allison Anders' neighbors on her tree-lined street in Altadena for thinking she is just like them. Her house is pleasantly messy; her garden, a work in progress. In the driveway are a Kia and a Hyundai. And there is Anders herself, a warm, funny earth mother padding around in slippers and a caftan, not one but two pairs of glasses absently propped atop her cloud of auburn hair.
But there are clues: the framed movie posters on the walls, the impressive tattoo spanning her clavicle. And the names that crop up in her conversation — Quentin, Martin, Wim.
As in Tarantino, Scorsese, Wenders.
Anders, after all, isn't just the nice grandmother-to-be next door. At 57, she's one of the most respected indie filmmakers of her generation. A survivor of a hardscrabble childhood, Anders loved the movies, but it wasn't until she was a single mom on welfare that she wanted to make one of her own. After graduating from UCLA's film school, she released her first movie, Border Radio, in 1987 — two years before sex, lies, and videotape changed the indie landscape.
Unlike Tarantino or Steven Soderbergh, Anders never made the leap from indie icon to studio darling. But she has worked steadily, selling screenplays and taking on TV work to pay the bills and subsidize artier projects, which include Mi Vida Loca (about girl gangs in Echo Park) and Gas Food Lodging (about a single mom in a trailer park). A self-described survivor, Anders will take funding wherever she can find it. She and longtime collaborator Kurt Voss actually financed Strutter, the recently completed final chapter in the Border Radio trilogy, through Kickstarter.
“It doesn't get any better than that,” she says of the crowd-sourcing website. “My God. Not only can you make work on your own terms, at your own pace, but you can also invest in other people's stuff. There's cool stuff I want to see out there in the world — you can have a hand in that.”
Anders' work is famously rock & roll (with her daughter Tiffany, she started the Don't Knock the Rock Film and Music Festival, now in its ninth year). And that's why even she is amused by her Altadena address. “So Ozzie and Harriet,” she muses, and gives one of her loud laughs.
Her partner of six years, punk-rock icon Terry Graham, talked her into leaving the city. “Between the two of us, don't we have enough bohemian cred that we can move to the suburbs?” he asked.
Now Altadena is inspiring her work. This summer, she'll start production on a movie called The Amorous Humphrey Plugg, about two people having midlife crises — and she plans to film it right here in her house.
“I moved in here and got a slightly David Lynch-y vibe from the neighborhood,” she explains, and “ended up with this little drama that's also kind of a comedy.”
Gabriel Byrne, Mandy Moore and Patricia Clarkson have signed on to star. “It's gonna be great,” she promises.