Gary Hawkins was born and raised on a farm in Trinity, North Carolina. His first film – produced when he was 17 – featured his grandmother making her “world famous” fried apple pies. The film was called DRIED, FRIED, AND LAID TO THE SIDE. He followed up DRIED, FRIED with THREADBARE, a quiet meditation on the sunlight dapples that animated his grandmother’s quilts. His third film captured a violent thunderstorm at night.
Hawkins continued to make films of various lengths and on a wide range of subjects. His breakthrough doc, THE ROUGH SOUTH OF HARRY CREWS debuted on UNC-TV in 1989, and went on to win several awards, including an Emmy Award. The CREWS bio is currently being restored for inclusion in the Criterion Collection.
His next ROUGH SOUTH entry was THE ROUGH SOUTH OF LARRY BROWN. Cited by The Oxford American as “an essential Southern documentary,” the BROWN doc won several awards at top tier festivals and enjoyed a lengthy run on French television.
Hawkins experimental short, ZERO IRONY (assembled from decades-old footage of his grandmother’s farm) premiered at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2015, and was subsequently invited to the Edinburgh and 46th Poetry International film festivals. ZERO IRONY can be seen on the Labocine website, a hybrid streaming platform designed to showcase science in cinema.
Hawkins jazz doc, IN MY MIND, premiered at the Kennedy Center in 2010, then made a run through the festival circuit that culminated in a screening and discussion at the National Gallery of Art in 2015. IN MY MIND is a collaboration with jazz pianist, Jason Moran that deconstructs his tribute to Thelonious Monk’s infamous 1959 Town Hall concert. Championed by art historian, Christian Delage, IN MY MIND enjoyed a 2022 run through France that concluded with a special screening at La Filmothèque du Quartier Latin in Paris.
Hawkins is a screenwriter and a 2000 Sundance Fellow (for an unproduced screenplay called DOWNTIME). He also wrote the screenplay for JOE, starring Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan. JOE received accolades at the Vienna, Deauville, Munich, and Edinburgh festivals, and recently enjoyed a resurgence on HBO. Hawkins is currently at work on a coming-of-age series for Rough House Pictures called ZONA ROSA. Based in part on true events, ZONA ROSA is a rowdy, coming-of-age drama set in a Texas border town, circa 1989.
Hawkins is one of the original founders of the UNC School of Filmmaking. His most successful directing students are David Gordon Green (GEORGE WASHINGTON, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS), Jeff Nichols (MUD, THE BIKERIDERS), and Craig Zobel (COMPLIANCE, MARE OF EASTTOWN). In 2010 Hawkins was picked by Variety Magazine as one of the top ten filmmaking instructors in America.
Currently, Hawkins teaches screenwriting and nonfiction filmmaking at Duke University, where he is ranked in the top 5% of all humanities instructors.
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