When Daniel Millican visited UT Arlington for three weeks in 2009, he brought quite an entourage with him—camera operators, sound and lighting technicians, actors, and a makeup artist.
The 1989 graduate and filmmaker shot his latest production, Rising Stars, on campus last summer. The film is set at the mythical Joliet University of the Performing Arts and deals with students competing in a prestigious talent competition.
"Think School of Rock meets American Idol," says Millican, who wrote the script and directed the film.
He had visited the campus over the years since his graduation, lecturing for film and video Professor Bart Weiss' classes, but hadn't really toured the place until preparing for the film. Millican says he owes a lot to UT Arlington (for one thing, he met his wife, Jill, here) and thought it would be great to shoot on campus and give students some hands-on experience in filmmaking.
"I was blown away by the beauty of the campus," he says. "It has really changed since I was here. I was elated when I got permission to film."
Rising Stars is set almost entirely on the campus, utilizing spaces like the School of Architecture courtyard, Texas Hall, and the fountain at the center bridge over Cooper Street.Millican graduated with a communication degree, majoring in radio and television with a double minor in English and drama. He has won more than 30 international awards for writing, directing, editing, and producing films, television shows, music videos, commercials, and corporate films. He made the leap from commercials and music videos to films in 2000.
"Dan has made several features his own way, working outside of the Hollywood systems and even outside of the classic indie film world," Weiss says. "He is very talented, and he has always been willing to share his time with my students. He has been a great help to them."
Millican continued his commitment to aspiring Maverick filmmakers by returning to campus this year to teach a film class.
Several film students worked on Rising Stars, including senior Grant Phillips, who happened to be walking by the site one day. He approached assistant director Stewart Young to ask what was going on.
"A few minutes later, I was working as a PA," Phillips says. A PA—production assistant—works with the second assistant director, blocking sites for shooting, driving cast members to sites, or doing whatever needs to be done.
"It was an awesome learning experience, one you could never get in a classroom," Phillips continues. "Now I really know what it's like to make a film."
Millican's film credits include The Keyman: Finding Redemption (2002) starring Adam Baldwin. His second film, A Promise Kept (2004) with Sean Patrick Flanery and Mimi Rogers, was released on video and premiered on the Lifetime Movie Network in January 2005. Then came Striking Range (2006), starring his UT Arlington classmate Lou Diamond Phillips.
The Imposter (2009) is Millican's most recent film and his first to be targeted for a Christian audience, although Christian themes find their way into all of his movies.
"I was blown away by the beauty of the campus. It has really changed since I was here. I was elated when I got permission to film."