Westport native stars in new indie film
Published 12:00 am, Monday, June 13, 2016
WESTPORT—"Paradise, FL," an independent film about the intricacies of family dynamics is set to premiere Tuesday in New York City, starring Jon-Michael Miller, who grew up in Westport.
Miller, who started performing at the Westport Country Playhouse and attended Coleytown Middle School, studied acting at Ithaca College and at the FSU/ Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training in Sarasota, Florida. It was at school in Sarasota where he met friend Tony Stopperan, who wrote the script for "Paradise, FL."
"A good friend of mine from grad school wanted to do a film based off of his real-life experiences," Miller said.
The movie tells the story of Tommy (Miller), a struggling oyster fisherman who moves into his best friend Sean’s house to care for Sean’s two young children. Tommy, someone who has never had a family before, struggles with his personal demons while caring for a family that is not his.
Excited to act and produce his first feature length movie, Miller said he enjoyed the process of putting the movie together.
"I helped develop the script with him (Stopperan) while he finished edits to the script. We worked together to get some backers of the film who invested in it and then got casting director, Adrienne Stern, to get actors from LA to play the big roles in the script," Miller said.
Filmed in Sarasota, Miller said that there was a lot of support in the community for the production.
"We had a lot of backers in that community and they were enthusiastic. Sarasota has a very rich community of artists," Miller said. "For us to bring back filmmaking to that community was a big draw for the community to support us and support what we’re doing."
Playing a complex character like Tommy and working with experienced actors from Los Angeles was "surreal," "daunting," and "exhilarating" for Miller
"This particular character is rather dark and going through an addiction to alcohol and drugs. For me, I can imagine what those addictions are like and it was cool to explore what it would be like to go through those addictions," Miller said.
"Tommy doesn’t have any real relationships other than his best friend Sean. My character is asked by Sean to take care of his kids because of his problems with his ex-girlfriend and girlfriend. Tommy grapples with what it means to have a family and being a dad."
As for the finished product, Miller is pleased by the way it has been received. It has been selected to the Sarasota, Gasparilla, Iphias, Skyway and Virginia Film Festivals.
"I’m very excited and very proud of everything. After seeing it at the Sarasota film festival and just hearing people’s reactions and how they were touched by different characters and the family dynamics of those characters," Miller said.
"The different personal journeys that characters were going through throughout this movie—in Tommy’s case he wants to have a family. What I love about this movie is that it explores the question of should I help myself right now in my own life? Or should I help others out when I’m hurting within?"
The screening is June 14 at 7 p.m. at E-Walk Stadium 13 located at 247 W. 42nd Street New York, NY 10036 Auditorium #6.