Michael Miller, Film Head of Department at SAE Creative Media Institute


29 Aug 2016




Michael Miller, Film Head of Department at SAE Creative Media Institute

29 Aug 2016


SAE Creative Media Institute has appointed a new film head of department, academic and filmmaker Michael Miller, who will head up the Institute’s Bachelor of Film Arts Degree and Diploma in Film Arts.


Michael, who originally hails from Utah in the US, first came to New Zealand in 2002 as a fresh-faced 23 year old, backpacking and hitchhiking his way around the country.


“I really enjoyed the warmth of the people here. I actually ended up helping out biological research in Kaikoura, carrying camera equipment around for a crew that was filming the dolphins there,” says Michael.


After going home to the US, Michael’s kiwi experience stayed etched on his heart, and he returned in 2003 with a view to staying permanently. And apart from a stint in Japan at Tokyo’s Waseda University to study film and television for a year, he’s been here ever since.


Michael 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,” says Michael. “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. Michael became head of department for the multimedia school there, and also spent a period as program development manager, devising new diplomas for the college.


That’s when SAE came knocking with the opportunity to head up the film school there.


Michael took up the role of film head of department at SAE in August. Alongside his work, Michael continues to indulge his passion for filmmaking, recently traveling 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.


“This last film [Parasites] has matured me as a filmmaker – 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!”


In his less commercial projects Michael will often take on multiple roles, shooting, directing and editing them himself.


“My philosophy is on small stuff, you want to be hands-on exercising your creative vision. I’ll often direct and shoot these projects. We call it ‘Soderberghing’ after the director Steven Soderbergh who does the same on his films. When you work like this, you can pull together a crew of talented people who really believe in the project. On commercial projects it’s different, it’s about working with a professional team with a shared goal.”


Michael is now 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 the best degree on offer.”


Dr Suzette Major, campus manager at SAE, says the staff are 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 head of department,” says Dr Major.