Thursday, July 30, 2009

And the the winner is....After the Headlines

Hello all,

Some of you may have read the tweets, others may have seen my facebook thread, but for those of you who haven't I'm hear to share that After the Headlines won the award for 'Best Dramatic Scene' at the 2009 Action on Film (AOF) International Film Festival, I think I mentioned before that AOF was my first acceptance into a major film festival.

The way they gave the award was pretty cool. They read the names and titles of the nominees and the winner would come to the podium once they heard their script being read out loud. It was exciting to hear my name among the nominees and I felt like a winner for being in the company of the festivals best screenwriters, but when I heard the words from my script being read, I almost didn't believe it. I ran to the podium and was handed a mic to give a thank you speech. Tears of joy ran down my face and I cried as I accepted my award! I sort of wish I didn't break down in tears, but people came up to me after and said I was cute and that they were moved by my speech. I was somewhat relieved, but still embarrassed. I forget how emotional I can get when I'm happy or sad.

I thanked the AOF Festival coordinators, Del Weston (AOF creator), Josh Neufeld (AOF Festival director), and John Hogan (AOF Festival senior director). John presented me my framed certificate. I gave him a big hug as he whispered another congratulations in my ear. It was my first Oscar like moment and I'm so grateful to have been apart of this festival. If you're a screenwriter, actor, or director and you do the numbers game, you get used to rejection. The fact is, you get more of those than acceptance letters. It's a necessary evil in the business of entertainment. I've learned to develop a thick skin and to brush off the rejections as part of my screenwriter's journey. I think that's what makes my win feel so sweet. I'm going to enjoy it whle it lasts. I don't know when I will be here again. Thanks AOF!!!!!

Although this win feels great, I know I still have my work cut out for me as a writer. I have to continue to hone my craft. I can't allow myself to think that because After the Headlines won the AOF award for 'Best Dramatic Scene' that my work is done. I know it's not. AOF has given me a great opportunity to further myself and I plan to capitalize on it. I'm so glad I came out to Pasadena to attend this festival. The AOF staff go out of their way to make the filmmakers and screenwriters they accept feel at home. I'm glad to be part of the AOF family. The pressure is on....I can't wait to submit again next year.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An Update from the Action on Film (AOF) International Film Festival

I've been really enjoying the California sun since I arrived in Seirra Madre and have been attending the Action on Film (AOF) International Film Festival, I think I enjoy the weather even more as I hear about the on and off rain back east. A big thank you goes out to Pauline for letting me crash at her place.

I flew in late Friday night and missed the showing of my taped scene from After the Headlines. I'm a little bummed by that because it would have been cool to see the audiences reaction to the scene. Before they screen the films, screenwriters who have been nominated have a scene from their script performed by actors and recorded for the audience. After the Headlines has been nominated for 'Best Dramatic Scene.'

So far, I've been enjoying (AOF) International Film Festival. I've seen some interesting short and feature length films. Not all of them have been to my liking, but I have to credit all the filmmakers who have been accepted.

Last night, the screening series I attended kicked-off with a writer's scene, then Secret, a music video directed by Alex Gimenez, and Eyeborg, a feature film directed by Richard Clabaugh. Both projects were pretty impressive. Secret was a video of a Swedish rock band and Eyeborg, was a dystopic film that examines a future where everyone is under constant surveillance by mobile robot cameras known as Eyeborgs. An agent (Adrian Paul) begins to suspect a plot to assassinate the president.

When I think about the numbers of screenwriters and filmmakers out there and the chances of finding success based on the Hollywood studio system, it is enough to make you say, "Why bother?" The odds are so stacked against me. However, I continue to write and recently finished post on After the Headlines because I believe I have a calling for this work. The AOF fest and filmmakers Gimenze and Clabaugh reaffirmed that you can get a film good story out there on your own. It won't be easy, but it can be done, with the help of friends who are willing to take a chance.

Clabaugh made Eyeborg in his home state of North Carolina and got friends and family members to invest in the film. The film took about 3 years to complete, but he did it without the help of a Hollywood studio. That is amazing to me, because most industry people will tell you indie films can't be made that way today. Eyeborg needs distribution and that is what film festivals like AOF are about for directors and producers. I think the film will find an audience and will be on Netflix, Blockbuster online, or in a Redbox in due time.

Even if a bad film gets made, it's a miracle, especially considering the state of financial affairs in this country and in the global market. As I think about my upcoming screening for After the Headlines, I can tell you that I think I could have made a better film, but attending AOF has allowed me to appreciate my gift as a screenwriter. I'm proud to say I finished a film, because film making is not an easy feat.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gearing up for the Action on Film Festival

In two days, I'll be flying out to Pasadena, California to attend the Action on Film (AOF) International Film Festival. Part of me still can't believe that After the Headlines was selected for 'Best Dramatic' scene. It feels surreal, probably because I've submitted to countless screenwriting competitions and film festivals. Getting in is a make-good to the rejection letters I've received earlier. I'm a person who saves the rejection letters and emails, I do it because I looking at them every so often reminds me that I still have a long way in becoming a viable screenwriter in the industry.

The acceptance into AOF reaffirms that I'm getting better as a writer, I'm making progress. AOF is my first acceptance into a major film festival. In 2006, Moonshine, an indie feature I worked on as a production coordinator was accepted into Sundance. Theo, an actor from the film and I flew out to Park City to attend the screening and enjoy the thrill of the moment. It was great to be part of the magic of Sundance, but it wasn't my moment. I regret not staying long enough to go to other screenings, panel discussions, and workshops.

This time it is different. I'm the contender, an even if I don't win my category, the fact that I'm at the festival is a personal win for me. I will be in Pasadena for the whole festival. Unfortunately, I won't be able to see the scene from After the Headlines acted out. I'll be in transit, hopefully I can get a copy. I think all the networking I'll get to do and the films I'll get to see will make up for it (as a nominee I get a free all-access pass, but it doesn't include the VIP parties).

Even though I'm all about AOF, I realize my work as a screenwriter and filmmaker continues. This week I've been working with Jeff, the editor and Mike, audio engineer on finishing the final cut for After the Headlines. They're helping me enhance what I've shot. It's amazing what goes on behind the scenes in post-production. Kudos to those who do this work for a living, it's a real art form. When I get back from California, there will be a screening for the film on August 4, 2009 at Western Connecticut State University (thanks Brian) Student Theatre. The program begins at 7 p.m.

I really feel like I'm in a good place and this opportunity can open other doors for me. It hasn't been an easy road to get this far, but I see the fruit on the trees and that makes all the difference for me. I will try to post a blog when out west. Thanks for reading and take care til then.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

For Immediate Release: After the Headlines Becomes Official Selection for the 2009 Action on Film International Film Festival

For Immediate Release: Contact: Aaliyah Miller
(203) 232-3712 or

Waterbury Screenwriter’s Script After the Headlines Becomes Official Selection for the 2009 Action on Film International Film Festival

JULY 21, 2009, WATERBURY, CT – After the Headlines, a short screenplay written by Aaliyah Miller, resident of Waterbury, Connecticut, has been chosen as an official selection for the 2009 AOF International Film Festival. Her screenplay was selected from thousands of entries. The 2009 Action on Film (AOF) International Film Festival announced their line-up of film and scripts selected from a record number of submissions submitted nationally and internationally.

AOF Screenwriter's Series' is the only festival to take the written word submissions and create short scenes that will be showcased at the festival on the big screens at various theatres in Pasadena. After the Headlines is one of more than 50 scripts nominated.

The screenplay follows Clara Dumont, a guilt-ridden mother who struggles to stop blaming herself for the death of daughter Alexis. The poignant script takes the reader on Clara’s emotional journey as she seeks personal redemption.

“I’m ecstatic about my acceptance into Action on Film International Festival. I consider it a real privilege,” says Miller. “MovieMaker Magazine 2009 names AOF “One of the Top 25 Festivals worth the Fees.”

A premier showcase for the world’s independent filmmakers and screenwriters, AOF provides industry professionals and audiences with an opportunity to discover new and innovative films. AOF will award nominated filmmakers and screenwriters more than
$75, 000 in cash and prizes. The festival runs from July 24 to 31, 2009, in Pasadena, California. The complete list of films and scripts can be found at

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Man in the Mirror: My Thoughts on Michael

Hello all,

I did not think I would be writing a blog entry about Michael Jackson (MJ), but with his public viewing on CNN all day, the many facebook (fb) postings, and the tweets, MJ is on my mind and has been for a few days. I know it probably may seem like a cliche at this point, but that is not my purpose.

I'm a fan of MJ, have been since childhood. I remember when I could do the Thriller and Beat It routine from beginning to end. I don't think I can move that quick these days. Although I'm a fan of his music, I did have some personal grievances with him, like his transition from being what I defined as a black man to the way he looked at the end. They way I feel about what Michael did to himself throughout the years doesn't matter, or does it?

He was a profound individual. Many words, both exemplary and not so have described the King of Pop. However, when I think of all the pressing issues in the world, I wonder if so much media attention should have been paid to him. Do I really need to be writing a blog on MJ? But then I have to admit that Michael is a global phenomenon. Like Princess Diana, he touched the lives of individual in a multitude of ways. Michael's music will be his legacy and future generations will be inspired my his musical genius.

Despite the greatness Michael encompassed, I feel it was also a curse. The very thing that made him a celebrity to the world, destroyed him in the end. Like many celebrities, MJ showed us that all the glitters isn't gold. I believe that is the true tragedy in his death. MJ's tribute today, reminded me of his goodness, his skill, his lost innocence, and the ability to touch so many people through his music. I'm a believer in the power of words and MJ was a great illustration of how one can use words to change the world. Unfortunately, it is not enough just to say powerful and meaningful phrases in a song. I believe it was Ghandi who said, "We have to be the change, we want to become." I wonder if Michael knew of that quote when he sang the song, Man in the Mirror.

Man in the Mirror is one of my favorite MJ songs. Below are my favorite verses in the song.

I've been a victim of A selfish kinda love It's time that I realize There are some with no home Not a nickel to loan Could it be really pretending that they're not alone A willow deeply scarred Somebody's broken heart And a washed out dream (Washed out dream) They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see 'Cause they got no place to be That's why I'm starting with me I'm starting with the man in the mirror I'm asking him to change his ways And no message could have been any clearer If you wanna make the world a better place Take a look at yourself and then make a change

MJ's life and death will mean many things to many people. Whatever his legacy is to be, I take comfort in the fact that he wanted to make people happy through music. He made mistakes along the way, but most of us have also make mistakes in life. So many of us dream and don't end up achieving the goals we set for ourselves. I think Michael achieved many of his dreams and goals, that is not easily done in this world. I pay tribute to that accomplishment. After the media on Michael fades, I will still be working on me and trying to change the girl, I mean woman in the mirror.

In loving memory of Michael Jackson, rest in peace.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My Reflections After a Long and Hectic Weekend

Last week was like a flash of lightening for me. I was on the go until Sunday afternoon when the youth conference I worked concluded. The American Black Film Festival was great (wish I could have experienced more), but my main reason for being there was to attend the Nickelodeon Script Writer's Review and that alone made the 1.5 days in Miami, Florida a worthwhile trip. I'm pleased to report that the youth conference was also a good event. The lack of sleep paid off in the end.

The highlight of the weekend was the evening performance from Young Legends. Young Legends is a group of foster care youth with my agency's Bridgeport Division who write, dance. produce, and perform songs that reflect their thoughts and feelings on growing up in foster care. The four songs they sang were profound and inspirational.

I find Young Legends so inspiring because they are wonderful storytellers. They let me and an audience of about 100 people into their world. While their tales are heartbreaking at times, the fact that can "spit it out" aka rap in a confident manner illustrates that they will not let their hardships and struggles hold them down. They still see their opportunities. I admire their perseverance.

I began with this story about the Young Legends because reinforces how much effort is needed to maintain in this crazy and sometimes unfair world. I think most of us want to be successful and have good lives, but how do were get there if the odds are always stacked against us? For me I can say it takes countless hours or work, staying consistent, believing in yourself, and having a strong support system. In achieving my goals and dreams, I've always had a support system. It's been my mom, sis, family, friends, my finance, and some of my coworkers. When one group may have their doubts another is there to say yeah you can do this.

I think the support is so crucial to success. Keen advice and having people around you who look out for your best interest is also needed. I can't help but think of Michael Jackson. As talented as he was, who really had his best interest at heart. I think that is one of the tragedies in his death as well as other celebrities. It is so easy to slip and if you don't have the supports in order to catch you, the world can be a very mean and lonely place.

As I strive for my goals, I realize I still have such a long way to go in cracking the door or opportunity as a screenwriter. The competition is fierce. It's not just about being good. My writing needs to be exceptional. That's a lot of pressure, but in the grand scheme of things I know I can deal with it. Young Legends reminds me that people in this world have other pressures in life, some gut wrenching hardships that they may or may not be overcome. Their stories are just as important as the celebrity deaths that have bombarded mainstream media lately. More so, because they are still here among the living.