Lots of kids have big dreams, but not many dream as big as 16-year-old Evergreen filmmaker Ian Miller.
“I want to make a James Bond movie,” says Ian, an engaging young man who positively hums with creative energy and fresh ideas. “I think I could really contribute to that franchise.”
On the other hand, taking on 007 could be child’s play compared with another of Ian’s self-appointed goals.
“I want to re-make the entire Star Wars prequel series, because what they did was an abomination. I plan to talk to Disney about it by the time I’m 22.”
Now that’s dreaming big. Thing is, Ian Miller is just bright enough, just motivated enough and just talented enough to have a fighting chance at making those dreams come true.
Ian was four years old when his family moved north from Santa Fe and came to rest on the banks of Little Cub Creek. Enrolled in Gifted and Talented (GT) programs almost from the start, Ian attended Wilmot Elementary School for two years before moving to Parmalee and, in due course, to Evergreen Middle School.
The Millers are a musical clan, and when Ian’s free hours weren’t filled with bassoon and tenor saxophone lessons, he could often be found making short films with a user-friendly, if creatively limiting, one-touch Kodak PlaySport video camera. His cinematic interest only deepened when he caught a screening of “Super 8.”
“The film just spoke to me,” Ian smiles. “I really related to the kids in the story.”
It wasn’t long after that 12-year-old Ian produced his first feature-length motion picture, “World War II Trench-diggers.”
“Technically it should have been called ‘World War I Trench-diggers’,” he grins. “I probably should have done a little more research.”
A couple of years ago, Ian made a bold move that would change the course of his life. “I had friends who were in the GT program at Wheat Ridge High School, and I really liked the sound of it,” he explains. “They have a film class, and I’ve always liked film making because it combines all of the creative areas – visual, musical and intellectual. At Wheat Ridge the GT program really pushes you to develop your natural talents. Two years later I’m still there and still enjoying myself.”
Ian created his second war epic as an eighth-grade class project. It was a fairly thorough recounting of the historic Battle of Fort Stedman. “It was actually ‘Mulan’ set in the Civil War, but it was pretty well researched, better edited and I wrote the soundtrack myself.”
Cinematically, Ian was on his way. He up-graded to a more versatile Schweitzer video camera and started his own production company. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial attitude, and I wanted to have a logo for film-class projects. In ninth grade I formed ‘Dark Minds Think Alike.’” He’d soon have plenty of opportunities to use both camera and logo. Another school project, “One Argument”, was very well received at last year’s Jefferson County GT Technical Challenge.
“It compared racist arguments with homophobic arguments, both what they argue and how they argue it. ‘One Argument’ won a finalist award, and that gave me the confidence to try another full feature.”
Released earlier this year, that feature is “CDAI: Virtual Prisoner”, a 45-minute science fiction thriller exploring the frightening possibilities of cybernetic defense artificial intelligence. Ian and his small crew poured their hearts and souls into the picture, which debuted at Wheat Ridge High School’s popular GT Movie Night, and were justly gratified when it was selected to screen at the Bug Theatre’s prestigious Emerging Filmmakers Project Film Festival.
“I was worried it would be the worst one at the festival, but our film received universal praise,” says Ian, still visibly relieved all these months later. “It was the best feeling in the world to know that all that hard work paid off.”
Ian’s hard work has paid off in other ways, too. His short documentary “Kittredge Park: A Place to Gather” was instrumental in raising the funds necessary for the recent improvements to Kittredge’s lovely centerpiece. And when he’s not busy making digital art, he’s often busy making it live. A talented actor, gifted tenor and enthusiastic intern with the Evergreen Chorale, young Ian has played Friedrich in “The Sound of Music”, Rooster in “Annie”, Jafar in “Aladdin” and Ponyboy in “The Outsiders.” Still, film is his first love, and his next feature is already in post-production.
“It’s sort of a zombie-romance-comedy,” Ian laughs. “It’s going to be good, though.”
Undoubtedly. For one thing, he has a new Zoom Q8 video camera. For another, Ian’s learned essential lessons as he’s sharpened his craft, among them the importance of choosing capable team members and knowing when to defer to their individual strengths.
“You can’t do it alone. Filmmaking is a collaborative process, and my crew is the best.”
Just as importantly, Ian has learned to trust his storytelling instincts.
“You can’t abandon your ideas just because somebody else doesn’t like them. If you believe in an idea, the key to everything is to just do it.”
And someday, after he’s gone head to head with James Bond and re-imagined the opening chapters of the world’s most successful science fiction movie franchise, Ian dreams of making a motion picture that is, quite literally, out of this world.
“I look up at the moon at night and think how pretty it must be up there,” says Ian, in perfect seriousness. “I want to make the first fictional feature film on the moon.”
You can’t dream much bigger than that. Then again, Ian’s journey into filmmaking is well and truly launched, and technology seems to improve faster every year. It makes one wonder how such a lunar entertainment might unfold on the silvered screen.
“Think ‘National Treasure’ meets ‘Mad Max’ in low gravity,” Ian smiles. “The possibilities are incredible.”