By Cameron Rasmusson
“Liza, Liza, Skies are Grey” is something of a departure for legendary local cinematographer Erik Daarstad.
One of the few fictional films he’s undertaken in his long career, the tightly focused story of love and self-discovery in the 1960s required a few changes to Daarstad’s modus operandi. But it was also an opportunity to help a longtime friend and colleague complete a personal project more than five decades in the making.
According to Daarstad, “Liza, Liza, Skies are Grey” writer and director Terry Sanders wrote the film script in the ‘60s as a personal meditation. However, the screenplay went unproduced for years until Sanders asked Daarstad to help him complete the project.
“He decided, ‘Let’s try to make it on a really low budget,’ so we did,” Daarstad said.
Shooting the film on a low budget presented both challenges and opportunities. As opposed to the process of photographing a documentary, where the objective is usually to capture images as true-to-reality as possible, a fictional film allows more control over the ultimate look and feel of its aesthetics. Daarstad said it was a rewarding experience but also a trying one, given his and Sanders’ age.
“We had a good time doing it even though both Terry and I are in our 80s,” Daarstad said. “So it’s a little bit of a challenge if you work long days and whatnot.”
The movie follows two teenagers, 15-year-old Liza and 16-year-old Brett, who embark on a four-day motorcycle trip up the coast of California during the summer of 1966. Nothing on the road goes quite as expected as the two young travelers explore first love in a turbulent year.
Actors Mikey Madison and Sean H. Scully star as Liza and Brett, and Daarstad said it was rewarding to work with their caliber of up-and-coming talent. Likewise, it was a pleasure to work again with Sanders, a two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker who has formed a tight personal and professional connection with Daarstad.
“We’ve become very good friends over all those years,” Daarstad said. “In terms of a working relationship we’ve done close to 30 films together. We’re both aware of what the other would like.”
Local residents have a chance to see their collaboration for themselves when “Liza, Liza, Skies are Grey” plays 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, at the Panida Theater. The film is unrated but contains brief language and sexual content equivalent to a PG-13 rating, so parental discretion is advised.
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