Keith Miller talks about new film “Five Star”

After almost a decade as a short-film maker, director Keith Miller hit pay dirt in 2012 when his first feature film, “Welcome to Pine Hill,” was either chosen, or nominated, as Best Narrative Feature at film festivals from Atlanta to Tribeca. With that history behind him, fans were ready for his next film, the gang drama “Five Star,” which again earned Miller acclaim both behind the camera and for his editing. Not to be outdone, he also wrote the screenplay!

Currently playing in New York City, the film opens today (July 31st) in Los Angeles and will be available on VOD and iTunes beginning August 4th. While promoting the upcoming release, Mr. Miller took time out to talk about “Five Star.”

Mike Smith: How did you conceive the story of “Five Star?”
Keith Miller: I wanted to tell a story about manhood, and what it means to be a man. I met Primo (Primo Grant, the star of “Five Star,” is a former member of the Bloods street gang) and we did a one-hour, on-camera conversation. We hung out a bunch of times and got close so I decided to tell a story and use a lot of the details from his stories. So that was the origination of setting the story in that locale and with those specific figures.

MS: A majority of the cast, Primo among them, are not professional actors. Was that something you looked for when casting…trying to gain more realism?
KM: Yes, definitely. There are a couple people in the film who are actors but the goal of the movie, and an important part of the decisions I make to heighten the realism, is my shooting style. The lighting…the choice of locations…and definitely casting. I want it to feel like the audience is actually visiting the places I’ve imagined and are being introduced to them and the people there.

MS: Because of Primo’s past was there ever a time he felt he needed to correct something in the script…maybe disagree with a line or a situation?
KM: Rarely. There was one point where we talked about him getting mad and mentioning his work with his family around and he said he wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t talk about work at all in front of his kids. There were also small things in other scenes that, to him, didn’t feel right, but it was really no different than working with any other actor.

MS: You mentioned trying to achieve realism. The film almost has a documentary feel to it. Was that an intentional decision on your part?
KM: Yes. The inspiration for the movie is a lot of what I would consider “realist” movies from the past five years or so and also a lot of observational documentaries. Movies that really made you feel like you were experiencing something from the inside. I wanted the camera and the look of the movie to feel as non-judgmental and intimate as possible. I thought that if it were locked down on sticks…on a tripod…it might be more cinematically recognizable but also that it would feel more staged. And I didn’t want that. Also, two of the four camera operators I used shoot mostly documentaries and I really wanted to work with them.

MS: What else do you have coming up?
KM: I’m working on a comic web-series that was written by a friend of mine, Chris Poindexter. And I’m working on the script of my next feature, which is still in the early stages. I’ve got a long way to go!


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American Fangs’ Micah Miller talks about band’s first full-length album

Micah Miller is the drummer for the Houston, TX band American Fangs. The group released their first full-length album titled “American Fangs” in March of 2013 and will be performing during this year’s South by South West Musical Festival. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Micah recently about the group’s formation, the creation of the album and the group’s recent appearance at Ship Rocked.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about the formation of the band?
Micah Miller: Our singer Gabe and our guitarist Kenyon were actually in a previous band together. When that band stopped there was some time between projects. We had friends from around the Houston music scene who also were without bands and we would all get together from time to time and drink beer and play music. From there things just sort of ended up sticking with all of us forming this band.

AL: Can you tell us about the band’s debut album?
MM: It was sort of a roller coaster to get this album out. We started out just being a band in 2007 for fun really. In 2008 is when we started to make the band a consistent thing. We released an EP on our own and picked up some management. We had a few record label offers at this time as we were out on the road touring. We ended up signing with a label and went in and recorded an entire album. Within 2 weeks of turning that in the label went under. We decided to just continue on with touring in hopes another label would pick us up. We put around 150,000 miles on our van and just couldn’t get a deal. When it looked like we were going to hang it up Sony came along and offered to work with us. They didn’t know our label had gone under and were really big fans of the band. That rejuvenated us. This album is a culmination of songs we were playing in our live set that we love so much.

AL: How did working on this album compare to the work you did on the “Pomona” EP?
MM: It was very different. When we were working on “Pomona” we were all living together in a house while playing gigs on the weekend and working day jobs. A friend of ours built a studio in the dining room of the house and that’s where we recorded things. We would get home from work and record our ideas. It was a very slow process as we didn’t have any real time table. We wanted to come up with a small collection of songs that we were really proud of. With the LP we flew out to Long Island and worked with Mike Watts. There was a time line this time and a lot of other stuff. We went in with about 30 songs. From there we narrowed it down to about 11 and started working with Mike to make various parts better. Some songs were ones that had been around longer than others and we re-worked parts of those as well. I think we were more focused with the full length.

AL: The band just got back from performing on this year’s Ship Rocked cruise. Can you tell us about that experience?
MM: It was pretty crazy but exciting at the same time. There was a really good line up that featured well known bands and newer acts like us. We weren’t sure if anyone would come and see us as our first set was at the same time as Three Days Grace. It ended up being really cool. Jacoby and Jerry from Papa Roach came out and as the set went on the room filled in more and more. We got a great response and it was really fun. Each set we did after that got bigger and bigger. A lot of the other bands would come out and watch us which was great because we grew up idolizing a lot of those guys. It was pretty surreal. If only the water had been warmer. (Laughs)

AL: What other plans does the band have for this year?
MM: We are doing a few local shows in Houston but until the South by South West festival were going to be off the radar. That’s going to be kind of odd because last year we did around 120 shows. It just feels odd but it’s nice to be at home. We have a few offers on the table to head back over to the UK in the spring but we are still working out all of those details.


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Summer Glau talks about her role on Syfy’s “Alphas”

Summer Glau is known best for her role in TV series like “Firefly” and “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”.  Last year, Summer appeared on Syfy’s series “Alphas”, playing the role of Skylar.  She returned again for this second season and hopes to continue in the third season as well.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Summer about her role in the show and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: Last season when you were asked to guest star on “Alphas”, did you ever think that it was ever going to be on this scale that it’s developed now through this season?
Summer Glau:  Well I was hopeful. I love doing TV and I really like sticking with a character and getting to watch them evolve and contribute to a story line that continues week after week. So I was hopeful. This season I have been so blessed to come back as much as I have. I have love where Skyler has gone and I would be very excited to come back again next season.

MG: What was it specifically about Skylar that was so fascinating and that attracted to you to the role?
SG: The first thing that attracted me about Skylar was the fact that she was a mother. I’ve talked to Bruce about this before too. It was really exciting for me. I hadn’t – I had not played a mother before. One of the most challenging things about Skylar is that she is a mother but it doesn’t come naturally to her. She – in my mind, in the back story that I’ve created, she’s been on her own for a long time. And she’s used to just fending for herself. When it comes to her child she’s very conflicted because she has all of these new feelings that she’s probably never experienced before about loving something so much more than she loves herself. And caring for something and protecting someone else and making unselfish decisions. For me as an actor it just was a very, very fertile story line for me creatively.

MG: Playing a character that is very handy with gadgets, how has that been for you as an actor?
SG: Well I think I’m a pretty good actor because I really can barely program my garage remote. I’m very gadget challenged. So it’s really fun for me when I put on my Skylar clothes and I go on set, I really pretend like I’m in control and like I know what I’m talking about. The man who puts together most of my props is named (Skylar) too. I spend a lot of time under his supervision and guidance so that he can help me get really comfortable with my inventions so that I can really feel like I have a relationship with them. Because they’re always amazing but it doesn’t always come naturally to me. I’m always amazed. Like I’m on set and they hand it to me and say so this is what you built. And then I always take it apart so I know how to put it together and then we’re practicing that over and over again.

MG: After working on series like “Firefly”, “Terminator” and now Alphas, what really draws you back to the sci-fi genre?
SG: I have always found in sci-fi that the roles for women are really exciting and dynamic and outside the box. In the finale of Alphas is a perfect example. I remember in – Bruce was there too. We were sitting and discussing a scene that involved every – all the girls. I was sitting there looking at the girls and it was so cool to get to do a scene that involved all of us. And I was looking at the girls and we were all four different and our characters are I feel complicated and fleshed out and dynamic and just it made me realize, I’m really happy to be here. I’m really happy to be in a story that creates this opportunity for all four of us actresses.  That’s why I keep coming back to it. I go for the character that I like.

MG: I really liked how Zoe on the show asked you if you were a Terminator in the second to last episode. I thought that was pretty funny.
SG: Yeah, I know. I looked at her and I’m like she doesn’t even know what she’s asking [laughs].

MG: During Comic-Con, Nathan Fillion joked about a possible animated revival of Firefly as a TV series, can you reflect?
SG: Absolutely. I would take any opportunity to get back together with my whole fam and keep telling the story. I think we’d all love that.

MG: Tell us what other projects you have in the works next?
SG: Well I just finished a Christmas movie. That’s the only other thing that I have that is about to come out. Oh and also “Knights of Badassdom”. So I have “Knights of Badassdom” and “Help for the Holidays”, which is going to be on the Hallmark Channel during the 12 Days of Christmas. So that was really, really fun. Yeah. I definitely enjoyed that one.