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INTERVIEW: Director Alan Hicks Discusses His First Film, "Keep On Keepin' On"

"Keep on Keepin' On" follows the mentorship between jazz-legend Clark Terry and blind piano prodigy, Justin Kaulflin. (Courtesy Photo)

"The way I got involved in film, it's one of those things that naturally accorded in my life." said Director Alan Hicks, who's making his Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) debut with "Keep on Keepin' On." The documentary, which is Hicks' first film, follows the mentorship between jazz-legend Clark Terry and blind piano prodigy, Justin Kaulflin.

Hicks, an Australian native, moved to New York at 18-years-old to study at William Paterson University. While at school, one of his professors invited Hicks to a jazz club and introduced him to Clark Terry. "He walked me in the door, and sat me inbetween Clark Terry and his wife, and I was starstuck," noted Hicks about the initial meeting. At the time, the director was planning on moving back to Australia, but Terry had heard him play, and suggested he should stay in America to finish his studies. From that time on, Terry and Hicks met nearly everyday and eventually, Hicks joined Terry's band. It was that chance meeting at the jazz club, which planted the seeds for "Keep on Keepin' On."

Cinematographer Adam Hart, who happens to be a close friend of Hicks, was instrumental in turning "Keep on Keepin' On" into a reality. Hicks and Hart used Kickstarter to fund the project and after achieving their goal, they both flew to America and started filming soon after that. "We based it off the story, and learned how to make a film around it," said the first time director. "We wanted to create a non-fiction narrative and watch the story unfold."

For Hicks, the most rewarding part of the project was seeing Terry work with his students and Hicks really wanted to capture Terry's compassion for his students. 23-year-old blind piano prodigy, Justin Kaulflin, is one of those stories captured in the film. Their mentorship started years before filming "Keep on Keepin' On," and for the jazz icon, it's all about passing down the history, in anyway he can. "I wanted to make a film that would hopefully inspire people to look at their own lives and what they have to offer that they can pass down to anybody," noted Hicks.

"I am super excited and really looking forward to going to the Hamptons," said Hicks. "Getting to share Terry's story is a dream of mine."

"Keep on Keepin' On" is screening as part of the Hamptons International Film Festival Summer Doc Series on Friday, July 25, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. at Guild Hall. Alec Baldwin will host a Q & A with Special Guest Director Al Hicks following the film.

Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. To purchase tickets, visit www.guildhall.org. For more information about HIFF, visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.

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