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Meet the Filmmakers: Scott Hicks-- 'GLASS: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts'

By Tom White

Over the next few weeks, we at IDA will be introducing our community to the filmmakers whose work will be represented in the DocuWeekTM Theatrical Documentary Showcase, August 8-14 in New York City and August 22-28 in Los Angeles. We asked the filmmakers to share the stories behind their films--the inspirations, the challenges and obstacles, the goals and objectives, the reactions to their films so far.

So, to continue this series of conversations, here is Scott Hicks, director/producer of GLASS: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts..

Synopsis: Filmmaker Scott Hicks gives us a unique glimpse behind the curtain into the life of a surprising and complex man. GLASS: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts is a remarkable mosaic portrait of one of the greatest-and at times controversial-artists of this or any era.

IDA: How did you get started in documentary filmmaking?

Scott Hicks: As a young filmmaker, I formed a production company to bid for government contracts, which resulted in a number of documentary assignments. Later, in the early days of Discovery Channel, they commissioned me to write and direct a number of large documentary series on ambitious subjects like the Chinese Army or submarines, and I enjoyed considerable success with these. They proved to be high-rating programs, and I won an Emmy and a Peabody for the work.

IDA: What inspired you to make GLASS: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts?

SH: I had known Philip for a number of years when his manager Jim Keller reminded me he would be turning 70 in 2007. At his suggestion, I decided to embark on the project absolutely on impulse. I knew Philip to be a fascinating, multi-faceted person and artist, and had no doubt the journey would be an intriguing one.

IDA: What were some of the challenges and obstacles in making this film, and how did you overcome them?

SH: Finance was the perdurable problem, but with the partnership of my friend and colleague Susanne Preissler of Independent Media, we underwrote the early shooting of the film. I had to learn how to use an HDV Camera, as I had to keep crewing to a minimum by shooting the film myself. Ultimately, a number of valued partners became involved, including American Masters and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and, along with investment from a number of Australian individuals, we were able to complete the film.

IDA: How did your vision for the film change over the course of the pre-production, production and post-production processes?

SH: What started out as a necessity-shooting the film myself-soon made itself evident as the best approach, because of the intimacy of contact with Philip and the other subjects of the film. Even when we had raised a budget, I decided to stick with the approach I had started with. The post-production, too, was an enormous challenge. Editor Steven Jess was a tremendous collaborator, making a huge contribution to the film. As he was in New York and I was in Adelaide, South Australia, a lot of our work together was done on the Internet, another novel process for me with such a big project. Oasis Post in Adelaide handled the tremendous technical complexities of finishing the film from numerous formats.

IDA: As you've screened GLASS: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts-whether on the festival circuit, or in screening rooms, or in living rooms-how have audiences reacted to the film? What has been most surprising or unexpected about their reactions?

SH: As the film has played in theatrical release around the country, I have been delighted by the emotional response people have shown towards the film. Many have described it to me as inspirational, seeing in Philip's journey and outlook on life something to contemplate in relation to their own lives. Even people who profess not to be fans of his music have told me how the film has affected them, and even caused them to reassess their reaction to his work.

IDA: What docs or docmakers have served as inspirations for you?

SH: Werner Herzog is a perennial inspiration, with his restlessly insatiable curiosity about humanity. I saw the Maysles brothers' Grey Gardens in 1976, and have carried the impact of that with me ever since. Other filmmakers like Michael Apted, who has also successfully alternated fictional features with his documentaries, are also very inspiring.

GLASS: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts will be screening at the Village East Cinema in New York and the Arclight Theater in Hollywood.

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To view the DocuWeek schedule in Los Angeles, visit

To purchase tickets to DocuWeek at the ArcLight Hollywood, visit