Page last updated at 09:38 GMT, Wednesday, 2 July 2008 10:38 UK

'My time as a Breakthrough Brit'

Kara Miller was one of 13 black and Asian film-makers honoured by the UK Film Council's Breakthrough Brits scheme, which celebrates new talent behind the camera.

As part of the scheme, they were honoured at a special showcase event in Los Angeles, and were guests of the Hollywood Black Film Festival. Miller kept a diary of her experience for BBC News.

Kara Miller
Kara Miller was shortlisted for the BBC's new film-maker award
I bet they could hear me as far as Australia when I found out that I'd been chosen to be a Breakthrough Brit!

That meant a preparation week with the brightest and the best of the UK film industry and then a trip to Los Angeles to be presented to the industry there.

I have spent my whole adult life working in drama and I'm crazy about film. I've won awards and my films have screened in competition at festivals like Sundance and Berlin, but this was the biggest opportunity I'd won so far. And by heck was I going to make the most of it!

It meant I needed to end up with a practical understanding of how the film industry works in LA, and getting US representation.

I've got two projects that I love - Boobs, a coming of age comedy drama, and Killer Miller, an action movie set in Jamaica and the US.


On the first night we had dinner with Antwone Fisher. He's an award winning screenwriter who overcame an extremely tough childhood (so tough it was made into a film starring Denzel Washington) and started out as a security guard at a studio.

He was wonderful - the kind of person who could turn a Lada into a Ferrari. He inspired the hell out of me. Now when I hear film-makers complaining about this or that that's not being handed to them on a plate, I remember Antwone!


Chevy Chase
Dinner guest: Chevy Chase
We had a very useful breakfast meeting with agents and managers giving us the lowdown on how the industry in LA works (cast is key), current trends (cast is still key) and with nuggets of useful advice for me as a first time feature director (did I mention cast was key?)

And there was dinner with great bunch of Hollywood Brits at the famous House of Blues. There was a rowdy posse nearby and we were about to ask them to be a bit quieter (we were working after all!), but then we found it was Chevy Chase and his friends.

One of the Brits at the expat dinner was Barry Spikings - producer of The Deer Hunter, one of my favourite films.

He spoke about how the studio had been looking to bury The Deer Hunter - because it didn't think a film like this would sell - and how he took drastic action to make sure it saw the light of day.

This 68-year-old Hollywood veteran showed me that even though this town isn't always smiles and sunshine, if you put your heart and soul into what you do, if you keep good people around you, and never give up, there's nothing you can't do.

We Breakthrough Brits had three of the most talented casting directors in Hollywood in front of us - David Rubin (Hairspray, The English Patient, Men in Black), Twinkie Byrd (Notorious BIG, Stomp The Yard, King's Ransom) and Janet Hirshenson (Da Vinci Code, When Harry Met Sally and one of my favourite films, Stand By Me).

It was darned useful to chat with Janet about the ins and outs of Stand By Me and about casting a film with a young ensemble cast (especially because of my film Boobs).

We had a Diversity in Hollywood panel discussion. Honest to goodness, I'd never been in a room with so many senior film execs that were black, Asian and Latino - all in one room, all at the same time!

There were black vice presidents from Warner Bros (Sheila Sparks), Universal (Kelly Edwards) and Fox (Ron Taylor) as well as representatives from the directors', writers', actors' and producers' guilds.

They said it was becoming clear that TV shows that reflect the diversity of the US were better able to connect with audiences and actually did better than shows that didn't.

Gordon Ramsay
Hotel chef: Gordon Ramsay
I haven't mentioned that our hotel has Gordon Ramsay as its chef.

Gordon opened his new restaurant when we were there and our hotel became a madhouse of stars and paparazzi.

I can't say I recognised everyone, but David Beckham rang a bell as did Gordon Ramsay himself along with Will & Grace's Eric McCormack. Oh, and the food was tasty.


At our Breakthrough Brits gala, master of ceremonies Nigel Lythgoe bigged us all up so superbly that even our mums would be proud! We were presented with awards - the ladies got beautiful silver bangles, the men got debonair silver cufflinks.

The UK Film Council provided us with such an amazing platform - all us 13 Breakthrough Brits were approached by studios, independent producers, agents and managers.

We also had gaps in the schedule where we were able to have our own meetings, which helped me to understand how different the LA industry is to our own in Britain. They make more films and need more talent (including first-time directing talent) and more good projects. Money isn't necessarily the limiting factor.

But where do I go from here? I intend to make movies that connect with millions of people around the world. After this trip I know I will.

I signed with a brilliant US manager and I'm in the process of setting up my two features in LA. This award has caused a warp speed acceleration of my career, and I'll never forget it.

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