|Photo by Jack Gould|
BEING THE PROGENY of a famous parent isn’t always easy. For one thing, the press makes all sorts of assumptions about you. Singer-songwriter Tiffany Anders, the 34-year-old daughter of independent filmmaker Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging, Mi Vida Loca), says most writers imply that her mother’s media-darling status is responsible for her own folk-music career, a point she insists is not correct.
“I guess it makes sense, but it irks me sometimes,” says the dirty blond who housesits for Ethan Coen in Santa Monica and works in the country-folk section of Amoeba Music.
“Quite frankly,” adds Anders, seated at an outdoor café on Main Street, “she’s not a big enough director that people would care.”
Anders, a high school dropout whose dad is a onetime longhaired British hippie who met her mom on a Greyhound bus, explains that she grew up “working class” — her mom’s cool factor is high but she’s not rich like Steven Spielberg. So she went to public schools and spent most of her 20s supporting herself nannying for the children of such hip VIPs as Coen, Flea, and even Courtney Love one night. She has recorded two albums for Seattle’s Up Records. Her last, Funny, Cry, Happy, Gift, was produced by PJ Harvey, released in 2001 and received mixed reviews. The L.A. Times and Billboard liked it — “a songwriter/guitarist of exceptional promise,” Billboard wrote — but places like the Philadelpia Daily News weren’t as kind: “Tiffany Anders has a lot of things going for her. Her voice is not one of them . . .”
Anders admittedly first met Harvey with her mom, but the two later cultivated a friendship when she ran into the rocker on the streets of New York and slipped her a demo. Now, years later, she and “Polly” are close — the kind of friendship Anders uses two fingers to illustrate. Harvey produced her, inspired her and even headlined a sold-out concert promoted by Anders at the Henry Fonda Theater last month as part of her mother’s second annual Don’t Knock the Rock Film Festival.
The festival, a four-day, four-night event sponsored in part by ArcLight, is a mosh pit of music-related films old and
new and is the mother-daughter team’s first joint venture.
The screenings are accompanied by an impressive concert series, which is where the younger Anders comes in. This year, Anders booked Harvey, J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr fame, John Doe, Built To Spill, Jon Brion and local faves like Dios. Last year she booked Sonic Youth.
“My mom was like, ‘I want to do this film festival, and I want you to book the bands.’ I’m such a music snob. I was like, ‘Well, if I’m booking the bands, they have to be good bands, and they got to have good venues. She thought we would have a couple bands playing in bars. I just tried to get the best people I could.”
The festival itself, she says, isn’t so much about getting its films distribution (though, this year’s Gram Parsons documentary, Fallen Angel, allegedly got picked up) as it is about catering to a “specific audience,” meaning die-hard music fans who might enjoy watching a classic like The Harder They Come on a big screen, as well as Edgeplay, the new documentary on ’70s icons the Runaways.
One thing Anders admits receiving from her mom is her ability to go after what she wants.
“My mom has always been like, ‘If you see something that inspires you, go after it . . . Pursue, pursue, pursue.’”
The elder Anders’ life is a testament to those words. The go-get-’em director put herself through UCLA Film School as a single mom, and got her first break working as a PA on Wim Wenders’ 1984 Paris, Texas after she struck up a correspondence with the award-winning German director.
Tiffany took the cue. When she was 14, she got her first guitar and decided to write to Dinosaur Jr’s then lead singer J Mascis. Mascis, who was her idol, responded. And soon she was selling “merch” for his band and eventually singing backup. Her and Mascis’ longstanding — platonic — friendship, is another thing people have gotten wrong. She says her mother’s clout had nothing to do with it, because at the time she wrote him the first letter, her mom had never made a film. “I think he wrote me back ’cause I had a cool guitar,” she smiles.
In fact, when her mom set out to do Gas Food Lodging, she used Tiffany’s name to approach the musician about lending music to the soundtrack. Mascis not only provided music for Gas Food Lodging, he made his acting debut in the film and later appeared in her Brill Building homage, Grace of My Heart.
The younger Anders, who recently played with the Animal Collective at the Echo, says she had a great time doing the Don’t Knock the Rock concerts, but is reluctant to start promoting professionally for fear of it spoiling the charm. Instead, the singer, who can add herself to the list of children of filmmakers who have inspired their parents — legend has it that it was Wes Craven’s daughter who convinced him to hire a then unknown Johnny Depp for A Nightmare on Elm Street — will most likely continue working at Amoeba and thinking about where she will live after Coen and his family return at the end of the summer.