Director, producer, writer Terry Sanders is a two-time Oscar winner who has produced and/or directed more than 70 award-winning dramatic features, theatrical documentaries, television specials and a large body of portrait films of major American artists, writers and musicians.

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Sanders was born in New York City and moved with his mother and stepfather to Southern California when he was 11.   He graduated high school from Cate School in Carpinteria, California.

Sanders’ spent his freshman college year at California Institute of Technology where Linus Pauling was his chemistry professor.  The following year he transferred to UCLA Film School where he produced and photographed the Oscar-winning dramatic short story film, “A Time Out of War,” the first student film to win a real Oscar.

Sanders first professional job after graduating UCLA was directing the second unit of “Night of the Hunter” for Charles Laughton.  Later he adapted “The Day Lincoln Was Shot” for CBS-TV and co-wrote the screenplay of “The Naked and the Dead” for Warner Bros. 

Sanders produced and co-directed with his brother Denis the independent features “Crime and Punishment, USA” starring George Hamilton and the United Artists feature “War Hunt” starring John Saxon which introduced Robert Redford in his first movie role.

After 10 years in the narrative film world, Sanders joined forces with documentary film producer David Wolper and wrote, produced and directed five films including “The Legend of Marilyn Monroe” which was narrated by John Huston.

Sanders then formed his own documentary film company, The Terry Sanders Company, and produced and directed several films for the United States Information Agency including two music films,  “Portrait of Zubin Mehta” and “Copland Portrait.” 

In 1972, Sanders became a co-founder and associate dean of the Film School of California Institute of the Arts.  He taught several filmmaking courses while also directing and producing many films including the National Geographic television specials, “This Britain” and “The New Indians.”

In 1976, Sanders formed the American Film Foundation with his partner Freida Lee Mock and over the next decades, produced and/or directed dozens of award-winning films including “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision” which won the feature documentary Oscar and “Never Give Up: The 20th Century Odyssey of Herbert Zipper” which was Oscar nominated for best documentary short.  Among many other awards, Sanders also won the Primetime Emmy for “Lillian Gish: An Actor’s Life For Me.”

LIZA, LIZA, SKIES ARE GREY represents Sanders return to his roots in narrative filmmaking.  He regards the coming-of-age feature as an experimental art film.

Director’s Statement

LIZA, LIZA, SKIES ARE GREY was conceived as a meditation on first love in the ‘60s.

I wrote the screenplay the ‘60s after chancing to read an unproduced coming-of-age first love screenplay and thinking, “I can do better than that.”

Setting the story over four days in the summer of 1966, a summer of the Draft, the exploding Sexual Revolution and continuing fear of the Bomb — a summer of confusion and stress for teenagers — and drawing from fragments of my own life, I wrote the screenplay which came close to being produced under a then new American Film Institute program. Unfortunately, the AFI program never materialized, and LIZA, LIZA, sat on a shelf for 45 years while I produced and directed a great number of documentary films.

A few years ago, my daughter, Jessica Sanders, herself an accomplished filmmaker, read LIZA, LIZA, and reawakened my passion to make the film. A screenwriter friend, Nicole Perlman, also read it and gave me further encouragement. Both offered valuable notes.

I was further energized by attending Mark Stolaroff’s excellent “No Budget Film School” seminar and by coming across the Screen Actors Guild very helpful Ultra Low Budget Agreement.

In recent years, digital motion picture technology – image capturing and editing and visual effects – has progressed to the point where it’s now possible to make a fairly ambitious, high quality, narrative film – even a period film — for very little money.

Casting being all important, I was lucky to discover 15 year old Mikey Madison, an amazing young actress, for the part of Liza. I was equally lucky to find another very talented teenager, Sean H. Scully, for the part of Brett.

With the dedicated collaboration of my long-time cameraman, Erik Daarstad; an incredible first-time line-producer, Patricia Seely; a top Hollywood Studio motorcycle wizard, Justin Kell; an enthusiastic young crew of 20; an excellent cast which included 43 speaking parts — all working for $100 a day — we shot for 22 days over 5 weeks, mostly in available light, on 30 locations along the coast from Pacific Palisades to Big Sur. It was an incredible experience for all.

LIZA, LIZA, SKIES ARE GREY is intended as a small, sweet — bitter/sweet — love story, to which, hopefully, everyone can relate.