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Best Boy, Grip, Caterer . . . Baby-Sitter?

Movies: Director upset conventional thinking when she put a child-care credit at the end of 'Grace of My Heart.'

September 25, 1996|ELAINE DUTKA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The child-care providers who looked after her 6-year-old son were as crucial to the making of her "Grace of My Heart" as the makeup artists and dialogue coaches, filmmaker and single mother Allison Anders says. So, to the initial dismay of the Universal Pictures legal department, she credited them at the end of the film.

"When I was in film school at UCLA, I always had a 'baby-sitter credit,' " recalls the director, who also has two daughters, ages 22 and 19. "But Universal--a traditional studio very meticulous when dealing with credits--said no. 'There's no precedent for something like this,' they pointed out. . . . 'Couldn't I just thank them instead?' "

Upset at what she perceived to be an intrusion on the filmmaker's domain, Anders, 41, dashed off a letter to the studio. "I couldn't have gone to college without state-funded day care," says Anders, a welfare recipient until 1990--two years before her highly acclaimed "Gas, Food, Lodging" hit the screen. "And even though my fortunes have improved, this film wouldn't have happened without it. To my relief, Universal 'got it.' " (The studio declined to comment.)

Though friends questioned the director's decision to take in a foster child during post-production of the Latina girl gang film "Mi Vida Loca" (1993), she legally adopted the boy, Ruben, last year.

"It's never easy," the director admits. "But life experiences add to the filmmaking experience. Ruben, who is completely devoid of female energy, helps me understand guys a lot better. I quit thinking that they should be more like girls. And I got to know the Dodgers pretty well. I don't get the game, but I think Mike Piazza is pretty hot."

Anders took Ruben with her for the weeklong shoot of 1995's "Four Rooms." But during post-production of "Grace of My Heart," she decided against uprooting him to spend two months in a New York hotel room. Every other weekend, she'd hop a plane for Los Angeles. On the alternate weekends, her son and his nanny would fly to her.

Anders was excited at the prospect of showing her latest film--the story of a young woman (played by Ileanna Douglas) struggling to find her voice in the male-dominated New York music world of the 1950s and 1960s--which opened to mixed reviews last week. A mistake, she realizes in retrospect.

"All dressed up for the New York premiere, my son asked which movie we were heading out to see," Anders recalls. " 'My movie,' I said. 'Ah, man. . . . Nothing ever happens in your movies,' he moaned. It seems like I've got a future Disney executive on my hands."

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