Double Digits is a new documentary film about a Wichita man who's been making films inside his studio apartment for some time now. KMUW's Jedd Beaudoin caught up with the man at the center of the story recently and has more.
Richard “RG” Miller has been making films since 1979. If you haven’t heard of pictures such as The Mask Man or Rio Comanche, it’s probably because Miller’s films have been poorly distributed and mostly seen by his close friends and family.
Miller grew up in Wichita, watching late-night classics with his grandmother and visiting the drive-in with his family. His greatest influences were probably movie trailers—which explains the short, plot-driven nature of his own films—and he watched a lot of adventure films. And one adventure film in particular.
“The first time I ever went to a movie theater, inside, by myself was when I saw Raiders Of The Lost Ark. It blew me away! I was, like, ‘Oh my God!’ I love adventure movies anyway. I saw it 23 times; I couldn’t get enough of it,” Miller says.
By the time he saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, Miller was already a veteran filmmaker himself. His first movie, The Murderer, was inspired by an episode of The Twilight Zone.
“It was about this doll that’s talking to this guy who’s a ventriloquist,” he says. “You didn’t really know if the doll was really talking to him or if the doll was in his mind. But the doll, in Twilight Zone, could talk. My grandmother had bought me this doll called Willy Talk. So I wanted to put him in a movie.
"The gear I had was Super 8 film gear. Silent movie gear. I bought it at the pawn shop, somewhere around Moler’s Camera. Somewhere in that area. I bought it for, I think, $49. Back then [around 1979] three minutes of film would cost about $10. I had about three cartridges. I think I got three minutes out of it. The rest of it was no good because I didn’t know how to edit. I made a lot of mistakes. That was the gear I was using. I didn’t have any sound at all. I made a film about a doll chasing me around the house, outside with a knife.”
Miller’s ability to tell stories is remarkable, and they are often tales of epic scale, no matter that most of his pictures clock in around the 30-minute mark. Miller’s ability to tell stories isn’t learned; it’s the kind of ability that comes naturally only to a few, and he says that he has some idea of where it may have come from.
Miller is the subject of a new documentary, Double Digits: The Story of a Neighborhood Movie Star, directed by Justin Johnson, which arrives at the Tallgrass Film Festival this week. How did a filmmaker who creates films inside a tiny apartment somewhere around the city’s McAdams neighborhood winds up the subject of a documentary? Kind of by chance.
“At the time I was creating RG Studios. I’d been having this problem for years: distribution. I wanted my movies to be seen or have the chance to be seen. The site was Indy Mogul. So, I do a little research on it and realized that they specialize in do it your self-filmmaking techniques,” he says. “And they show other filmmakers’ films. So, they had this thing: You just load your film up on this site, they’ll review it and then they’ll show it. I said, ‘Wow! That’s distribution! And it’s free! There’s no cost or nothin’!’ That fits RG Studios. You know, non-profit.”
“So, I’m trying to load this film up, and it’s not working for some reason," he says. "It just must be fate. Everybody else’s stuff is working. But not mine. So I said, ‘OK. I’ll pack this thing up. I’ll put it on the DVD, and I’ll send it to ‘em. It’s their software; they’ll know how to load it up.' That’s my thinking. Next think I know, I’m getting a call from Justin. Two different ways: phone call and email. This goes on for about a year and a half, us talking. He’s interested in my films. I’m, like, ‘OK! But I’m trying to get my film loaded on Indy Mogul!’”
Miller says that when Johnson told him he wanted to make a film about Miller and his work at RG Studios, he had one reaction: “I said, ‘What are you talking about? Are you sure? Because I can only see me in this, and it doesn’t look good. I couldn’t see the story that he’s talking about. I don’t know what he meant.”
Miller is characteristically calm about his work finding an even larger audience.
Beaudoin: “You’re going to have these filmmakers from all over the world looking at your work.”
Miller: “Oh, that’s right.”
Beaudoin: “You haven’t thought about that yet.”
Miller: “No, I haven’t. You just brought it to my thoughts. I was only seeing me and Justin sitting up there, maybe a few people. That’s about it. It’s going to be great. It’s going to be an experience by itself.”
Want to find out more? Check out a supplemental feature that takes a look at Double Digits: The Story of a Neighborhood Movie Star director Justin Johnson.
Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.
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