Director Scott Hicks‘ documentary “Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts” traces an eventful year in contemporary composer Philip Glass‘s life as he stages the opera “Waiting for the Barbarians,” writes his eighth symphony, scores several films, travels the world and maintains a family with his fourth wife, Holly. Given unprecedented access to Glass’ working process, family life, spiritual teachers and long time collaborators, Hicks gives us a unique glimpse behind the curtain into the life of a surprising and complex man. Koch Lorber Films opens the film Friday, April 18 at New York’s IFC Center with subsequent release dates to be announced.
Hicks received Acadamy Award nominations in 1997 for best director and best screenplay (shared with Jan Sardi) for his drama based on the true story of Australian pianist David Helfgott, “Shine.” He is currently in pre-production on “The Boys Are Back in Town” described as a story of a sports writer who becomes a single parent in tragic circumstances. In his short Q&A with indieWIRE, Hicks reveals how he learned filmmake tricks of the trade, and how he was surprised one could earn a living in it.
What initially attracted you to filmmaking, and how has that interest evolved during your career?
I stumbled into film making by accident, studying drama at University. It was simply the most fun thing to do with your friends. I had no idea you could make a living doing it. After University, I sought work on other people’s films and this developed into what we call a career. I’ve tried to maintain the attitude that it should be fun, or what’s the point?
Are there other aspects of filmmaking that you would still like to explore?
Using the camera myself for the first time in shooting “Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts” was a great liberation in many ways. I felt I was able to find shots and capture moments that would have been impossible to direct someone else to do.
How did the idea for “Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts came about?
Philip Glass’ manager suggested it to me in 2005, saying it would be a good way to mark Philip’s 70th anniversary in 2007.
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film.
I started shooting it myself out of necessity, having no budget, but the intimacy of just me and a sound recordist resulted in Philip and his friends and family feeling quite relaxed about filming.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project?
Raising the budget was challenging. After Independent Media in Los Angeles kick-started the film, the financing came from a handful of private investors in South Australia. Much of the shooting was cash-flowed from the fees I was earning as a commercial director.
How did U.S. distribution come together?
The Film Sales Company in New York secured a U.S. theatrical release following the film’s successful premiere at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.
What are some of the creative influences that have had the biggest impact on you?
Training my eye through my still photography, and absorbing visual and dramatic ideas from many sources. Learning to “read” light and focus, and understanding lenses all help. Respecting actors and their individual techniques as well as appreciating how vulnerable and exposed they can feel. In the documentary world, trying never to prejudge the “importance” of any situation is crucial. Sometimes, the most interesting results can come from inauspicious situations.