Five minutes with Michael Miller

Michael Miller

The SAE Creative Media Institute has appointed a new film department coordinator — academic and film-maker Michael Miller, who will head the institute’s Bachelor of Film Arts degree and Diploma in Film Arts.

Miller, who hails from Utah in the US, first came to New Zealand in 2002 as a 23-year-old, backpacking and hitchhiking his way around the country. His Kiwi experience stayed etched in his heart, and he returned in 2003 with a view to staying permanently. Apart from a stint in Japan at Tokyo’s Waseda University to study film and television for a year (where he met his wife-to-be, fellow American Lisa), he’s been in New Zealand ever since.

Miller completed the final aspects of his bachelor’s degree in film and television at the University of Auckland, and quickly followed it up with a diploma in TV production at Natcoll Design Technology (now ACG Yoobee).

“I wanted to jump into TV and was hired at TV3. I ended up scoring a job as a promo producer for shows like Seven Days and Campbell Live,” Miller said. “I was the main promo producer for Campbell Live for two years, and I still miss working with that team.”

Following the end of Campbell Live, Yoobee asked him to return to the fold to teach. He became head of department for the multimedia school there and also spent a period as programme development manager, devising new diplomas for the college. That’s when SAE came knocking with the opportunity to head its film school. 

Miller took up the role of film department coordinator at SAE in August. Alongside his work, he continues to indulge his passion for film-making, recently travelling to China to film a documentary about tattoo artists in Beijing, entitled Inked in Tradition. He also completed his master’s thesis, a short film titled Parasites, which screened in Auckland in August.

On his film, he said: “[Parasites] has matured me as a film-maker – it’s a film about the pressure society puts on women to have children. Ironically, I had a daughter in the middle of all this, and I absolutely love being a dad!” 

Michael is looking forward to aiding his students’ vision in his new role at SAE.

“What I’m most excited about is that SAE is in a moment of evolution. We are creating an excellent bachelor’s degree through creative practice. The students coming through the degree now are not only creative; they are business-savvy and really focused on what they can do past graduation. I don’t see a lot of places offering that — no one does film the way we do film; it’s so unique here. We have the best facilities, in the best location and [with] the best degree on offer,” he said. 

Dr Suzette Major, campus manager at SAE, said the staff is thrilled with the addition of Michael to the institute.

“Michael really enriches our team with the wealth of academic knowledge and film industry experience that he is bringing with him as our new film department coordinator,” she said. 

For more information about SAE Creative Media Institute, head to auckland.sae.edu.