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To draw the impossible: that is what Maryland artist Billy Pappas set out to do in the early '90s. His self-imposed Sisyphean task was to capture what is normally unseen in portraiture-each pore, each individual strand of hair. He used a 20x magnifying glass while standing in front of his easel, seven hours a day for the next eight and a half years, painstakingly doing just that. He became something of a hermit, all the while convinced that he was pushing art to new heights. After four years, he created a sling system to hold his aching arms in place while drawing. After five years, his family and friends feared for his sanity. His obsessive pursuit of excellence was matched only by his obsessive pursuit of an audience with fabulously successful modern artist David Hockney once his opus was complete. Director Julie Checkoway fleshes out an amazing story of both the determination of one inspired individual and the unforgiving machinery of the art world. The refreshingly frank interviews with unguarded and lovable Billy are rounded out by old home videos and kitschy vintage footage. Checkoway makes the most of Billy's bizarre entourage of supporters who travel with him as he makes his way toward the nailbiting conclusion of his 10-year journey, most notably his anxiety-ridden but unwaveringly adoring mother. Stakes are high-and audiences will find themselves desperately hoping that Billy can pull one off for the little guys.


Co-hosted with Independent Feature Project (IFP) .
Film Information
Year: 2008
Length: 78 minutes
Language: English
Country: USA
Premiere: World
Cast & Credits
Principal Cast: Billy Pappas
Producers: Neal Checkoway, Geralyn Dreyfous, Jana Edelbaum, Rachel Cohen
Editor: Chris Peterson
Director of Photography: Richard Chisolm
Assistant Director: Steve Lickteig
About the Director(s)
Julie Checkoway the author of Little Sister: Searching for the Shadow World of Chinese Women and the editor of the best-selling Creating Fiction. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times,, and numerous anthologies. In 2001, she gave up tenure at the University of Houston (where she had been a professor and director of the creative writing program), and while producing and reporting radio stories for NPR's "Morning Edition" and PRI's "This American Life," she came across the story of artist Billy Pappas. With the encouragement of her older brother, she set out to make Waiting for Hockney, her first film. She lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and two daughters.


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