Producer/Director: William J Saunders
William J. Saunders (who goes by “Joe”) began his career at NFL Films where he directed and produced documentary content for broadcast and cable networks such as HBO, FOX, ABC, NFL Network and the BBC. Big Charile’s, a documentary Saunders directed and produced about a Chiefs bar in the heart of South Philadelphia, won an EMMY Award in the Outstanding Long Feature category. In 2011, Film Works Entertainment distributed his first narrative feature film Sweet Little Lies, about a young girl’s quest to find her father. The award winning film, Billy Mize and the Bakersfield Sound was the first feature documentary produced under Saunders’s company, Old City Entertainment. He is currently directing two feature documentary projects: The Penny Black, a docu-thriller Executive Produced by Oscar winner Alex Gibney and an untitled documentary on the United States foster care system. Saunders has an MFA in directing from Columbia University and is a member of the Directors Guild of America.
A statement from the director:
“As a documentary filmmaker, I have always found Billy Mize’s story to be a goldmine. His life reached extremes that are the stuff of dreams and nightmares. But Billy didn’t let himself be defined by his circumstances. Instead, he chose to define himself by his actions in those circumstances. Despite enduring the worst blows life has to offer, Billy Mize persevered and came out smiling.
I know because I grew up with his smile. He’s my grandfather.
Helming this project was a difficult decision. After researching Billy’s story, I discovered a theme, a through line that has stayed constant throughout Billy’s life: an unrelenting dedication for family. It seemed fitting that a story with such strong familial themes should be told by family.
It is not my intention to glorify my grandfather. He is human, and has flaws like the rest of us. Those flaws are an integral part of this film and create a richer, fuller story. We will have deeper connection with Billy when we see his strengths along side his weaknesses. This film is about survival and perseverance, but also about shame and loss. It’s these existential elements that force us to look inward, at our own choices in life.”
Co-Producer: Alex P. Greer
Alex P. Greer is an experienced filmmaker and award-winning photographer. He received his Film degree from Columbia University, where he graduated with honors. While at school, he won the Columbia University Film Productions Audience Award for Camp Kicks, a documentary short that he directed and produced about sneaker collectors who spend days camping outside of stores until a new shoe is released. He also founded the Columbia University Film Faculty Screening Series, and had his graduating Thesis, a genre-study approach to “bad” movie sequels, circulated by his professors to book publishers, where it’s currently making the rounds. Since moving to Los Angeles, he’s worked as a freelancer with Disney, AT&T, and Dot and Cross Productions in both the production and camera departments. He most recently secured finishing funds for the documentary film Billy Mize & the Bakersfield Sound as a co-producer, which premiered in competition at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival.