Interview Series: Jason Miller

Halloween gets me and I lust to see horror scenes laced together. I am seldom frightened and I don’t seek scary movies for the sake of being terrified. Rather, a suspenseful plot and excellent musical accompaniment is all that is needed to turn me on. For these reasons, I believe it is a necessity for me to introduce our readers to Jason Miller. He recently released a short horror film titled “The Strange” featuring Live FAST favorites Harry Hains and Leore Hayon. Within the first 30 seconds, I was hooked. In honor of Hallow’s Eve, we found it fitting to have Jason answer a few questions about himself, his creativity, and that one time he rode in RiFF RAFF’s car.

Q&A

LF: For starters, when and how did you first pick up a film camera?

JM: I had a period of artistic curiosity as a child, but it never translated into photography or film. I bought a point-and-shoot freshman year at the University of Georgia and starting getting into photography and design. A year later I heard about a student film festival that gave out cameras and laptops and allowed students one week to shoot and edit a five minute film.

LF: What was the first short film you directed?

JM: Technically, it was that five minute film that was in retrospect, insanely ambitious and accidentally pretentious … it was a four way split screen in which each quarter of the composition was a different character and each shot was a single five-minute take. You were supposed to see the characters interacting at various points, but we were only shooting with a single camera so we were attempting to have the characters do the same action at the same exact time within the five minute shot. I’m even confusing myself trying to write this and, as you can imagine, it was a disaster. It did not get shown at the festival, but I went on to win the fest a few years later with a campy short film-noir.

LF: How did you develop the concept for The Strange?

JM: I was introduced to Steven Harrington‘s work by my friend and mentor Dan Donahue (an amazing artist and musician) while I was still living in Athens, GA. When I moved to LA, I reached out to Steven, really not expecting him to reply. Based on his work, I had envisioned an older dude living in the woods, surviving on chia seeds and DMT, but he got back to me and it turned out he was a really chill, down to earth guy and also owned a design studio, National Forest, which he cofounded with Justin Krietemeyer. I documented his last gallery show in LA, “Inside Out” and we’ve all been friends ever since. All of that is to say that “The Strange” concept was mostly from the minds of Steve and Justin. They had a sense of what they wanted and I was able to add to it a bit and then we all executed it together.

LF: In some aspects, The Strange gave me a sense of nostalgia for the 80’s horror flicks I grew up on. What would you consider to be your largest influence for this project?

JM: I think the location was the real inspiration – Pasadena, CA. Tons of movies are shot in that area. Countless classic horror films that many of us grew up watching. It’s amazing to me that it’s so close to LA and can feel like such a different world. I was really stoked to have a reason to turn a camera on those insanely beautiful, but haunting streets.

LF: When was the last time you were genuinely terrified?

 JM: Probably when I was riding in RiFF RAFF’s car.

LF: How do you maintain a sense of creativity that is true to yourself when approaching commercial work?

JM: It’s really tough. Oftentimes you end up having to fight a lot, but sometimes you realize you’re just going to have to give your client what they want and be okay with the idea of doing a director’s cut later for yourself. I’m also learning what types of projects are prone to going down that path and which ones are more likely to be a healthy collaboration with the client. I did a commercial for AG Jeans through Bold LA recently and, with a few minor exceptions, we all had the same goals with the project, which was really nice.

LF: Music can make or break a film – how do you choose the audio accompaniment to your visual creations?

JM: I started out directing a lot of music videos so picking music wasn’t part of the equation. After that I made a feature documentary about the band, of Montreal, so I had their entire catalogue at my disposal. You don’t realize how lucky you are in those situations. Music is always a struggle now, but it’s also really exciting because in that situation you’re able to make more of a statement and be really intentional about the vibe you’re creating. I also love having the chance to involve my friends who are musicians or lesser-known bands that I want people to pay attention to.

LF: Favorite project you’ve created thus far?

JM: The feature documentary, I mentioned above, “The Past Is a Grotesque Animal“. It’s a project I started on when I was still in college and finished about a year ago–around 7 years total. I learned a lot about myself as I was trying to tell the story of Kevin Barnes, the singer of the band. It was also crucial to work on a project for that long and to learn patience. Most projects are a race against the clock.

LF: How fast do you live?

JM: I spent my last spring break in college in jail for all the speeding tickets I’d racked up … so I guess too fast?

L’Agent Goodies…