Tim Sanders grew up in the Australian city of Adelaide, where he was won over by the mood and mystery of Aussie film classic Picnic at Hanging Rock. He studied film as part of his degree, but was not impressed by the quality of teaching. "They accidentally screened the randomly spliced out-takes of our final 16mm effort and we got a pass mark."
Sanders got his start after getting to know some Australian filmmakers, when his OE included a visit to the Cannes Film Festival. Back home he got a job as a unit manager, arranging snack and toilet facilities, as he began working his way up the line through production managing, line producing, and finally producing in his own right.
The 80s saw him gaining a great deal of experience; it was the heyday of Australia's tax shelter production boom and the scale of the work was unprecedented. It was the era of classic movies Breaker Morant, The Man from Snowy River, Gallipoli and Crocodile Dundee, and Sanders got close to talented filmmakers such as Peter Weir.
Tim Sanders first worked in New Zealand in the early 80s, during the shoot for Australasian-funded adventure Race for the Yankee Zephyr. In the 90s, he was back to produce ambitious mini-series Fallout, which dramatised events leading up to the Lange-led Government announcing its opposition to nuclear weapons. Sanders also worked on TV series Plainclothes and was on the producing team of Peter Jackson's big-budget The Frighteners, plus a lesser-known title, mutant lizard movie Aberration. He then helped Jackson on Lord of the Rings, acting as co-producer during the pre-production phase and first few months of shooting.
Sanders next role was as Head of Production at South Pacific Pictures. The high point of that experience was joining the producing team on Niki Caro's adaptation of Whale Rider. Internationally, the film would become the most successful New Zealand story to date, with impressive grosses, a run of awards, and rave reviews.
After a couple of years, Sanders struck out on his own, intending to focus on high value films tailored for the international marketplace. The ambitious Perfect Creature (2006), directed by Glenn Standring, was the first of these. Set in an alternative universe New Zealand where vampires are not the enemy, it remains one of the most expensive locally-set films made here to date. Perfect Creature won local headlines after being acquired for US distribution by Twentieth Century Fox, although after extended dithering, the company eventually dropped plans for Stateside theatrical release.
Sanders also produced of ambitious dystopian TV series This is Not My Life, whose plotline spins from an opening scene where a man wakes up and fails to recognise his wife. The show won a 2011 Aotearoa Television Award for Best Drama Programme.
In 2012 he produced feature Kiwi Flyer, the tale of a boy and his efforts to win Nelson's annual trolley derby.
Late 2014 saw the launch of production company Field Theory, which sees Sanders partnering with fellow producers Fiona Copland and Philippa Campbell. Given start up funding by the New Zealand Film Commission, Field Theory's focus is "high-end film and television for the international market". Among the projects being developed are The Guinea Pig Club (to be directed by Roger Donaldson) based on the revolutionary WWll work of plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe; and an adaptation of Elizabeth Knox sci-fi horror novel Wake.
'Kiwi Flyer takes flight' (broken link). Accessed 7 July 2011
'New NZ screen production company' (Press Release) The Big Idea website. Loaded 29 September 2014. Accessed 9 April 2015