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Student Profile: Elaine Miller, Film & Media Studies

Thursday, January 25, 2018


I guess my hometown would be Ottawa, Kan., where my family lives. We moved there when I was around 14. Before that we lived in  Overland Park.


I am a Film and Media Major with minors in Expanded Media and History.

What brought you to KU?

I was originally going to Johnson County Community College for a Graphic Design degree and got about 3/4 the way to finishing, but realized that I didn't really want to do that for my career. I wanted to work on movies and animations, but a lot of people told me that I wouldn't have any job options doing that. I had made videos in high school and really liked the filming and editing aspect of making films. JCCC didn't have a film program when I was attending. I wanted to be able to continue living in Lawrence, and after looking at different film schools, KU was the right choice for me. It had a good film department and would let me live in the town I loved.

When did you know you wanted to pursue film and media studies?

I made my first short film in high school. I saved up money to buy a small camcorder and some editing software. I made about 10 to 15 short films while I was in high school and one that was 50 minutes long. I loved filming and editing those movies, thinking about the story to tell, the best way to tell it and planning out how to film it. I started thinking about doing that for my job, so I started looking at options.

Which of your projects has had the most profound impact on you or others?

Out of everything I've made up to this point, I would have to say that the documentary I'm currently working on is really important to me. It's a feature length experimental documentary about Dungeons and Dragons, the people who play it and the ways it has been beneficial to their lives. At least that's all it started out as. I found a wonderful group of people who helped to change the narrative to something much more. It now tells stories of friendship, self-discovery, learning and acceptance. I've been able to explore how Dungeons and Dragons has helped us express ourselves and work through complex issues like gender, sexuality, identity and self-acceptance.

How do the arts have an impact on your daily life outside of the classroom?

Art is still very important to me even outside the classroom. I am currently starting my own freelance business called Wandering Mushroom LLC. Through this company, I will sell virtual reality art packs and work on various virtual reality video games with other companies. I also struggle with depression and anxiety, and my art is my way to explore and come to terms with these issues.

Who is your biggest inspiration either personally, professionally or both?

Several years ago, right as I was deciding what I wanted to do career-wise, I discovered a YouTube channel called Bethberad. Beth is an illustrator and artist who works in L.A. She is extremely talented and has worked very hard to get to where she is now. Her Youtube and Twitch channel are very interesting and inspiring. As she works in the same field that I want to, her advice is very helpful too.

Why do you think the arts are important?

Art is important because it the unique ability to give people a voice to tell stories and express feelings that they could not otherwise. It can help people recover from terrible trauma or simply relax after a long day. In short, I think art is important because it is an innate part to us all, enjoying and creating art is simply part of being human. It’s part of who we are.

What is your creative process like?

Very haphazard. I usually get inspired by something or have an idea, and then I write it down in one of my notebooks to let it sit for a while. If I find myself continuing to think about it, then I'll start devising a way to take the idea and turn it into something. Usually my work takes the form of a film or picture. However, the time in which I get my project finished varies, sometimes I know exactly what I want to do, sometimes I start and then go in a different direction several times before it’s finished.

What message do you hope to communicate through your work?

My work tends to be based in personal issues. It can then branch out to include other things, such as issues with self-expression, depression, anxiety, family differences and just things that I find interesting. I'll take these and use them as a base for my work, and then other things and people will be incorporated over time. Recently, I have been working with ways to work through my worsening depression and ways that my self-expression impacts my life.

What advice would you give to students just starting their path to an arts degree?

Never be afraid to make art for yourself. Understand that you will continue to grow and evolve. Take this time to learn and explore yourself. Listen to and keep in touch with teachers you admire. Take classes about things you find interesting.

If you could invite five people, living or deceased, to a dinner party, who would you invite? 

Edgar Allen Poe, P!nk, Bela Lugosi, Lady Gaga and Albert Einstein.

If your life had a theme song, what would it be and why?

“United We Stand-Divided We Fall” by Two Steps from Hell. It’s funny, but that song has played in the background for many important moments of my life, and I have listened to it for years for encouragement and comfort. It is an extremely emotional song with many highs and lows. It has always made me think of all the things I have gone through and done in my life