Article by Julie Lake

She's just a typical 17-year-old, fun-loving girl, but Melody C. Miller is also the creator of award-winning films and the youngest filmmaker with works at the 2009 Riverside Saginaw Film Festival.

Miller became interested in filmmaking when she moved with her mother to Turkey and began attending an art high school.  Miller decided to try her hand at cinema studies.  She loved it!  When she returned back to the United States, her mother thought that going into nursing would be a more lucrative career.  Miller agreed with her but didn't want to give up learning all she could about filmmaking, so she began attending the multimedia academy at San Leandro High School in Oakland, CA, where she now lives.  She also enrolled in college courses and learned even more video production techniques.

Miller won her first award in 2008 when she entered her work into a film festival. Her biggest award came when she sent a few different films to KCSM TV station in San Mateo, CA.  One of those films, Permanent Marker, a documentary about battered women, won first place in Best Editing, Best Script Writing, and Best of Show categories. She also won a scholarship, cash, and computer editing software.  She used the money to purchase her own video camera, light kit, tripod, and microphone. 

"I think a lot.  I listen to people. I watch people in their normal daily life" is what Miller says about where she gets the inspiration for her films. "I have decided that from now on, I only want to make films that will help or inspire someone." This is exactly what she has done.  Miller's The Date is a short film about a young man and his failed attempts to meet up with his girlfriend for a date and was one of many that she submitted to the Riverside Saginaw Film Festival.  It will be shown during the presentation of short films.

Miller also worked on two other films that were accepted as part of the short film presentation. She met Faiza Ali, director of The Many Faces of Islam, while taking a college-level music video production class.  When her instructor handed her a flier about a film contest for Link TV, Miller had already been working with Ali on a project and thought that working with her would prove to be a good match. It did. Miller and Ali began script writing and videotaping the experiences of Muslims who live in the United States. Together they wrote the script, while Miller edited together all the video and sent the film into the contest. "I spent hours at her (Ali's) house discussing what to use because we had so much footage, and the piece could only be five minutes long for the contest," says Miller about her experience.

"When I was preparing to send my film to you (Saginaw Riverside Film Festival), I decided to send this film too," says Miller about a second film that has her name in the credits.  Directed by Iyabo Kwayana, Gentel’s Wings, will also be shown during the short film presentation. This film about a young girl who copes with a demanding aunt by escaping into magical dreams involved rallying together friends who were willing to act. "It was fun and stressful at some points, but we got it done in time," recalls Miller.

Miller knows that the career path she has chosen will involve lots of hard work.  She is constantly working on her next video project and often refers to her notebook, where she has written down many ideas for future projects. Along with working on her own films, she also works for a film production company in San Francisco, CA, that creates documentaries about environmental issues and social injustices. She explains, "I want people to be more aware and motivate them in ways on how they can help the world and make it a better place. I believe I can do that through media."

Miller offers this advice to others aspiring to go into video or film production, "You can always do other activities that you like, but film will be your main (activity).  If you ever reach that part when you feel you are going somewhere with this career, you should use your abilities to help other people around the world and motivate them to follow their dreams." Coming from someone so young, this statement begs the question of how far Miller will go with her make-a-difference approach to her creative passion.

The Saginaw Riverside Film Festival takes place August 20-23, 2009.  Films will be shown at many different venues in Saginaw, MI.  For more information and a schedule of film times, visit the website:

© Julie Lake, 2009