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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


2011 Oscar-winning director visits UA to talk filmmaking

Janice Biancavilla
Janice Biancavilla/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Oscar winning filmmaker Mark Mills speaks to Media Arts students during a workshop in the Marshall Building on Thursday, March 1.

Christopher Plummer’s mention of Mike Mills in his acceptance speech on Sunday could have gone unnoticed, but Tucson’s film community met the man behind the Oscar.

In partnership with the Loft Cinema and Film Forward, the writer and director of the 2011 film “Beginners” led a storytelling workshop for students in the School of Theatre, Film and Television.

“You make a ton of mistakes as a director,” Mills said. “The trick is learning how to recover.”

A graduate from the School of Art at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City, Mills seeks ways to connect visual images with an audience. After designing some album covers for Sonic Youth and The Beastie Boys, Mills had the opportunity to direct a music video for the band Air. It was through this experience that Mills discovered what he wanted to do, he said.

“The ability to communicate with people … that’s what a director really does and it’s what I love to do,” he said.

During the workshop, Mills screened a collection of commercials he directed in the past, identifying certain technical and artistic challenges that arose in the production process. Mills said the role of a director is “the blend of being a cocktail party host and a psychiatrist.” Students need to be prepared to handle any kind of dilemma with the utmost confidence and calmness, he said.

“It’s very vulnerable to step in front of the camera,” Mills said. “And I fall in love with anybody who steps in front of my camera.”

Mills told students who want to become directors that they must constantly be kind, because it allows the actors to relax into their characters.

“After hearing him talk, I want to work with him now,” said Bryn Booth, a theater arts freshman. “His good character is so awe-inspiring.”

As an acting student, Booth said she hopes to work with a director like Mills who can easily articulate what he wants the actors to do.

“We put an emphasis on personal voice,” said Lisanne Skyler, an assistant professor in the School of Theatre, Film and Television, “and our students want to find a voice that is similar to Mike Mills.”

In addition to the workshop, Mills attended a free screening of his film the night before at the Loft Cinema. During a question and answer session that followed, he told attendees that seeing parallels to his life in the film was both therapeutic and honest.

“Every way of making a film is different,” Mills said. “But first you have to figure out who you are before you can begin.”

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