Randall Miller – Independent Films
MARILYN HOTCHKISS BALLROOM DANCING & CHARM SCHOOL
Frustrated with the types of films he was being offered as a director, Randall and Jody wrote, produced and Randall directed a feature length version of the short film of the same name. Randall and Jody took a loan against their house and with two small children at home, they put their money into the film.
The film cost 2M and was cobbled together with money from friends and family and a small group of investors. Randall made a deal with AFI to buy the rights back to his film to incorporate that original 16mm footage into the feature film as a flashback. The original film’s negative was scanned and repaired using digital clean-up to be incorporated in the larger film.
The current day part of the film was populated with an all-star cast who responded to the screenplay and the fact that these filmmakers had so much on the line. The cast included: Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei, Robert Carlyle, John Goodman, Danny DeVito, Donnie Wahlberg, a now grown-up Elden Henson (who also starred in the short film years earlier), Octavia Spencer, Academy Award winner Mary Steenburgen, Sean Astin, David Paymer, Miguel Sandoval, Camryn Manheim, Adam Arkin and Ernie Hudson. The film premiered in 2005 at the Sundance Film Festival to standing ovations.
Off the success of MARILYN HOTCHKISS BALLROOM DANCING AND CHARM SCHOOL, Randall and Jody teamed with many of the same investors as well as new investors to make the 4M dollar budgeted film in Los Angeles. Randall and Jody wrote, produced and Randall directed Nobel Son, a dark comedic tale of the son of a Nobel Prize winning scientist.
Maybe the best moment of Randall and Jody’s careers as writers was the phone message on their machine left by Alan Rickman after he read the screenplay, “Thank you for being real writers, but unfortunately I don’t see how I can fit the film into my schedule.” He left his phone number. So Randall and Jody called Alan Rickman and proceeded to change the film’s schedule to fit Alan’s. It was the start of a great collaboration and friendship. In addition to Alan Rickman, the film starred Mary Steenburgen, Bill Pullman, Ernie Hudson, Danny DeVito, Sean Hatosy, Eliza Dushku, Ted Danson, Tracy Walters and Bryan Greenberg. NOBEL SON premiered at the Tribeca Film festival in 2007 and was released theatrically in 2008.
Drawing on his days at UC Davis studying enology, Randall next directed BOTTLE SHOCK about the birth of the Napa wine scene in 1976 following the Judgement of Paris in which the Napa wines defeated their French counterparts in a blind taste testing. Randall and Jody rewrote the screenplay and approached Alan Rickman to play the lead role of wine connoisseur Steven Spurrier in the film and Bill Pullman to play the vintner Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena. The strong cast included Freddy Rodriguez, Bradley Whitford, Dennis Farina, Racheal Taylor, Eliza Dushku, and Miguel Sandoval. To play the young lead, they discovered another great talent, Chris Pine. After seeing Chris Pine in BOTTLE SHOCK, JJ Abrams cast Chris in STAR TREK as Captain Kirk.
BOTTLE SHOCK was filmed entirely on location in Sonoma and Napa Counties, with an old vineyard doubling for the French countryside. BOTTLE SHOCK was a tremendous success at Sundance when it premiered in 2008. BOTTLE SHOCK went on to win awards at the Seattle International Film Festival and the Maui Film Festival amongst others. Unhappy with the offers being held out at Sundance, Randall and Jody choose to self-release the feature film. They raised additional capital, hired the marketing team from Roadside Attractions and sold the home video to Fox. They were involved in creating television ads and billboards and bought the internet banners. They sold the airline rights separately, and many of the foreign markets one by one. To this day the way Randall and Jody released BOTTLE SHOCK is often studied as a case-study in self-release.
Off the success of BOTTLE SHOCK, several other filmmakers approached Randall and Jody about producing and releasing their features. One person that approached Randall and Jody was Annette Haywood Carter who had served as the script supervisor on Randall’s CLASS ACT years before. Randall brought many members of the crew who had worked with him on the prior films including his DP Mike Ozier, Designer Craig Stearns, the camera team and the line producer to work on the movie SAVANNAH. Randall and Jody met and made a deal with Nick Gant and his Meddin Studios in Savannah to provide all the necessary physical production. Randall stood behind Annette and helped her put together a tremendous cast: Jim Caviezel, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jaimie Alexander, Bradley Whitford, Jack McBrayer, Sam Shepard, and Hal Holbrook.
Randall and Jody successfully secured the rights from the family of the late Hilly Kristal who started the legendary rock ‘n’ roll club in NYC on the Bowery called CBGB: Country Blue Grass and Blues. The club was the home to Blondie, the Talking Heads, the Ramones and was the first place the Police played in America. It was a hotbed of music and art and culture in a time of unrest and malaise in the 70’s in NYC. Alan Rickman agreed to play the title role of Hilly Kristal, the owner and founder of CBGB. They decided to build the club on the sound stages at Meddin Studios in Savannah. They recreated the downtown Bowery on a small street in downtown Savannah next to Lady and Sons owned by Paula Deen.
The film starred an amazing supporting cast: Malin Akerman, Justin Bartha, Richard DeKlerk, Kyle Gallner, Johnny Galecki, Ashley Greene, Taylor Hawkins, Ryan Hurst, Stana Katic, Joel David Moore, Ahna O’Reilly, Freddy Rodriguez, Bradley Whitford, Mickey Sumner and Josh Zuckerman. CBGB opened the CBGB Music Festival and was released by Xlrator Media theatrically and Direct TV in 2013.