Klaus Phillips, Professor of Film [1947-2011]

on February 8 | in Featured | by

Klaus Phillips

Klaus Phillips began teaching at Hollins in 1987. His film classes were among the university’s most popular offerings, and his Short Term trips to Germany enlisted students from many disciplines. The graduate program in screenwriting and film studies began with an initiative from Phillips. He died in October 2011.

Phillips’ wife, Deborah, and daughter, Nicole ’03, have given Hollins a magnolia tree, which has been planted near the library in his memory. Memorial gifts may be made to the Klaus Phillips Fund by going to www.hollins.edu/giveonline.

In 2002, I became a student in the graduate screenwriting and film studies program, which Phillips had established just a few years earlier. Like most people I know from my generation, my high school years were definitely more like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest than Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. And, as the only ethnic student in my high school, I felt a very painful sense of isolation.

But Phillips and I understood each other because we were highly interested in film. He was half German; I am half Turkish. And, fourteen years after graduating from high school, I found myself united around people with common interests who metaphorically spoke my language.

Phillips didn’t just change my world; he made the most fantastic aspirations seem plausible. And, assuredly, he played that role in the lives of many other students who had the pleasure of having him in the classroom. He was, indeed, our very own Mr. Chips.

— Atilla F. “Tilly” Gokbudak M.A. ’05 (excerpted from editorials/commentary, www.roanoke.com, 10/22/11).

There’s one word that defines Klaus Phillips: deal.

It seemed like every minute I was with Klaus our time was spent either searching for, or talking about, the latest deal he’d found. Whether it was a lunch special at a local restaurant, an obscure DVD online, or a flight to his beloved Germany, Klaus was all about The Deal.

Teaching screenwriting for Klaus in the graduate film program at Hollins is the best deal I’ve ever received. Klaus’ unexpected death was, and always will be, a bum deal. But we’ll deal with it the best we can. And I’m confident, that wherever Klaus is, he’s madly searching out, and sharing, the best deals he can find.

—Tim Albaugh, who has been appointed the director of the graduate program in screenwriting and film studies.

I was fortunate to meet Klaus in 2005, when I was hired as a visiting filmmaker for the summer graduate program. I knew it was going to be a good summer when I brought a troupe of Flamenco dancers on campus for a video exercise. He was 100 percent supportive of all my efforts, no matter how bizarre at times. That summer I realized at once that Klaus had a gift for bringing amazing film people together from all over the world, including Germany, Finland, Canada, the Czech Republic, and of course New York and Los Angeles. You can see evidence of this today where faculty and students from afar have traveled here for this service.

It was only a few years later, thanks mostly to Klaus, that I was hired as full-time faculty. Thus began my wonderful adventure of teaching film at Hollins with him. We did form an instant kinship on many levels, first perhaps because of our German-American backgrounds. Klaus would always bring back Gummi Bears from his Germany trips. He knew of my weakness for Asbach Uralt brandy candies. He would slip them in my office when I wasn’t looking. I’ll never forget joining him on one of his famous trips to Berlin. It was two or three degrees Fahrenheit the whole time, but Klaus’ spirits were always high. I was amazed by his energy and enthusiasm.

I think my fondest memories are when Klaus would pay a visit to my office and talk about his daughter, Nicole [’03]. He would always give me an update about her film career and the progress she was making in L.A. He would ask me advice about what Nicole’s next move should be. He would worry about her. But behind that fatherly concern was a sparkle. He was so incredibly proud of her.

Our strongest bond was our love of film. Just a week before he died he was telling me how excited he was about finding new ways to use Blackboard, how to post films to enhance his lectures, and how to create film forums. He was regularly giddy when showing me his latest DVD discoveries, especially from the Criterion Collection. Teaching film was his way of life, and he lived this life fully.

—Amy Gerber-Stroh, assistant professor of film.

New award pays tribute to “joyous spirit” of Phillips

Hal Ackerman, cochair of the graduate screenwriting program at UCLA, and Tim Albaugh, a member of the UCLA screenwriting faculty (see above), have created the Klaus Phillips/UCLA Screenwriting Award at Hollins. Said Albaugh, “Each year, a $1,000 award will be made to a student participating in the summer M.A. or M.F.A. program who writes a screenplay that best exemplifies the joyous, courageous, independent spirit that emanated from Klaus Phillips.”

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