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Meet the 2014 Tribeca Filmmakers #17: Keith Miller Engages the Space Outside the Frame with ‘Five Star’

Meet the 2014 Tribeca Filmmakers #17: Keith Miller Engages the Space Outside the Frame with 'Five Star'

Keith Miller has been crafting shorts, documentaries, and features since 2005 (including last year’s “Welcome to Pine Hill” with Jaiden Kaine). Exploring gang life, urbanity, and manhood, Miller brings “Five Star” to Tribeca, the story of a gang leader’s relationship to a young man caught at a crossroad. 

Tell us about yourself: I began my creative work as a painter, which I still feel integral to my thinking. Over the course of that practice, my work got more narrative and I began to edit video and start to think about film. As I developed my film-making practice, over the past 7 or 8 years, I saw the potential to push the narrative work to a more active engagement with social and personal issues. This goal is one of the central things that lead me to FIVE STAR. I have always been interested in the 19th century ideas around Realism and the challenge of making creative production interact with the so-called real world. Along those lines, I also try to make work that sees the task of film-making as the creation of a story, whether documentary, narrative or experimental film. The distinction between the three seems often arbitrary and mostly unhelpful. It is my hope that disregarding this distinction (between documentary and narrative) activates the space within the frame of the movie (what is on the screen) and charges it to engage the space outside the frame of the movie (the ‘real’ world). In the case of “Five Star,” it is at once the specifics of the lives of John and Primo as well as the personal, social and historical context within which the story takes place.

Biggest challenge in completing this project? When I wrote the scenes on the beach at night, I didn’t realize I had hardly ever seen a scene on the beach at night, and now I know why. It’s dark, expansive and nowhere to bounce the light off. Add to that it’s windy, sandy and hard to move things on a beach. Luckily, the crew was tireless and pulled it off, even if we had sand in everything. It turned out to be so much fun we did it twice.

What films have inspired you? “Still Life,” Jia Zhang-ke, “Winter’s Bone,” Debra Granik, “Close Up,” Abbas Kiarostami, “Old Joy,” Kelly Reichardt, “The Dardennes Bros” Tarkovsky,  “1,2,3,” Billy Wilder, and a lot of Romanian movies from the last 5 years, etc etc. 

What’s in the works? I am working on a comedy about a search for love. With a serial killer. And a drama that looks at sanity, creativity, and ideas of so-called normal.

Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about
their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and
what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up
to the 2014 festival. Go HERE to read all the entries.

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