Ringling College Film Student Makes Heartfelt Tribute During Quarantine

Arts & Culture

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY NOV 13, 2020

For better or worse, many found themselves spending more time with family following the shutdowns this past Spring. For Ringling College film major Amanda Miller, it was for the better. Over the years, her father’s war stories intrigued her with their harrowing, larger-than-life exploits—a near fall out of a helicopter, the gore of jungle warfare, a search for normalcy upon returning—but she just never had the time or space to pick her father’s brain about them. “On top of working and being a student, you never have enough time to talk to people you care about,” she says. That changed in the Spring.

When Ringling College sent out the email officially shutting down the campus, Miller was knee-deep in both a cinematography and a directing class. The courses saw her and her peers collaborate on projects, with assigned roles assuring that each student got an opportunity to learn a different skill. Now, her course work would require each student to do it all themselves. “We switched to more of a monologue project where we had to tell a story about us,” she says, “and we now had to shoot it, produce it, direct it; all on our own.” While the task seemed daunting, Miller at least knew where to start. “I’ve wanted to tell my dad’s story for a long time,” she says.

She set out to make a mini-doc about her father’s life, and as part of the project, her father dusted off the old 8 mm films he had stowed away from his time in Vietnam. They sent the films to a company in California that digitizes old media and then sat down to rehash the footage. “He actually hadn’t seen these since he filmed them,” she says, “and every image was a new story.” His reactions to and commentary on the footage formed a vital part of Miller’s film, drawing out some raw, compelling emotion from the man that lived through a hellscape halfway around the world. “Being behind the camera was so rewarding,” says Miller.

But life in front of the camera yields heartfelt moments too, even when the subject also has to set up the shot. “I got super frustrated setting up the lighting and stuff,” she says, “and my dad was very supportive, but once it was my turn in front of the camera, I got so emotional.” In her speaking segments, she celebrates her father’s impact in her life and the way his example of perseverance has been a source of inspiration to her—hence the film’s title, “My Father’s Daughter.”

“I just talked like I was talking to my future self,” she says, “and when I hit cut, I thought, ‘whoa.’ I’m really glad I got this out.”

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