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NIGHTMARE NATE: An Interview with Nathan Thomas Milliner

DRC - NATEInterviewee Nathan Thomas Milliner (above right). / Milliner’s artwork for Scream Factory titles Halloween II, Halloween III, The Burning, The Howling (bottom left). / Artwork for Volumes of Blood (above left). / Image rights belong to respective owners and not DRC.

Nathan Thomas Milliner is giving back to the world that so inspired him as a child. As a writer, director, and artist, Milliner’s work can now be seen around the world. Though Nate is most known for his recurring work with Shout!/Scream Factory — in designing newly-commissioned artwork for DVD/Blu-ray releases –, his work in the independent horror scene is also picking up massive momentum. Milliner’s debut directorial feature, A Wish for the Dead, was shot in 2011, and is finally being released this year. Along with the debut, Milliner is also behind the critically-acclaimed short fan film The Confession of Fred Krueger, as well as segments in Volumes of Blood and its upcoming sequel, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories.
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Milliner’s original artwork for the Halloween 4 cast reunion at HorrorHound Weekend Cincinnati 2010. Find more of his brilliant work here.
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In between his busy work load, Milliner had the time to chat with DRC writer Tyler Keeton on the importance of the horror genre, the genre fandom, and the future/current state of horror cinema. Check out the interview below!
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interview
DRCAs someone so well-versed in the realm of horror, what is the importance of the genre, to you? What initially drew you to the genre?
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MILLINERThe importance of the horror genre is essentially to make the audience apprehensive before they walk into that theater to sit down.  Keep them nervous and uncomfortable–scare them a lot, if you can–make sure they laugh a few times and, ultimately, walk out feeling they just had a very fun time.  That was what drew me to the genre.  It was fear at first, and then that undeniable sense of fun you get in watching.
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DRCYour artwork is breathtaking. Your originality shines through with each creation. As you have served on commission for Scream Factory’s releases of Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, The Funhouse, Terror Train, Deadly Blessing, The Burning, and The Howling, what has been your proudest artistic accomplishment to date? What release was the most challenging, in terms of wanting to please the horror fandom?
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MILLINERI’m not sure what my proudest artistic accomplishment has been, as I have been very fortunate to have several.  I would say maybe a tie between the cover to the Never Sleep Again: The Making of a Nightmare on Elm Street coffee table book, the blu-ray cover of Halloween II (my first), or one of my films.  Either Encyclopedia Satanica or The Confession of Fred Krueger.  Each cover is a challenge, although some come easier than others.  But the responsibility to the fans is in every job.  I have to show my respect not only to the film, but to those who love it.  I need to understand the film and understand why those fans are so obsessed.
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DRCAlong with your original artwork, you are also a writer, director, actor, and producer. Tell us a little about the 2009 film Girl Number Three. Was it difficult transferring  pieces from your own graphic novel into someone else’s hands for a screenplay and feature film?
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MILLINERI had written Girl Number Three to be a short film for me to one day direct.  So yeah, it was hard turning it over to another artist to direct.  Luckily, I was asked to write the screenplay — although the director had some requested changes.  It was tough, but he said to me one day, “You have to let me make it.”  So, from that day on, I did my very best to keep out of his way.  Let him take the reigns. It is important that the director has that freedom and single vision.  I think Herschel felt more pressure to please me than I had letting him take it.
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DRC2015’s Volumes of Blood was met with acclaim from fans nationwide. As an attached director, what was it like collaborating with other filmmakers to form a cohesive genre film? Tell us about your own individual contributions.
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MILLINEROn the original Volumes of Blood, I was asked to direct a segment.  I was sent three scripts and the only one I cared for was “The Encyclopedia Satanica, which had been written by a guy named Todd Martin.  While I liked the story, I felt the script needed a major overhaul.  It had potential, but really needed changes and additions or subtractions.  They allowed me to basically rewrite it to fit my vision.  Again, very important that it be the director’s vision.  I did art direction, storyboards and cast the lead actress.  The rest of the cast was assigned.  I had a great time–despite the lack of time–making the film and worked with some of the most talented and hard working people around.  The same crew and half my cast reunited very soon to make Confession of Fred Krueger.  On the sequel, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories–I am writing two segments, acting in one and directing one I wrote, titled, “Fear, For Sinners Here, which I am currently editing.  My first time as the editor.  Once again, I cast, storyboarded and did art direction on the film.
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DRCAs you directed a short fan film, The Confession of Fred Krueger, it is obvious you have strong devotion and respect for Wes Craven’s original masterpiece. It is very important to note your own fan film was met with acclaim, as many hailed it to be more than a mere “fan film,” and worthy of its own merit and credibility. This had to be exciting for you.
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MILLINERI had wanted to make that film since I was twelve.  It was rewarding in itself just to make it.  Having the fans react so positively and accept it and call it more than just a fan film, or “the best fan film,” and all of those wonderful things, was very nice to see.  I knew many fans would reject it, but the response was definitely more on the positive side.  It was my love letter to Wes.  Sadly, he passed two weeks before it premiered.  But that film is my thank you to him.
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DRCYou recently completed your own feature film, A Wish for the Dead. How has the film translated with the horror fandom, and did you meet your own expectations for the film? It is an extremely admirable feat to touch on so many areas of the entertainment industry and extended independent film community.
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MILLINERWell, the info going around on A Wish for the Dead is false.  It isn’t my new film.  I shot Wish in 2011.  It is just now getting released. But it has been done a very long time.  It was my first time directing, and I was very green.  I was not really prepared to direct that film, and while it is a decent film, it was a very collaborative effort between myself and the director of Girl Number Three.  Making a feature is a tough thing to pull off.  I am excited for those who worked on it to be able to see and share it, but I was a little worried about it being called my new film — as it was made 5 years ago, and I have made three other films since it and have learned and grown so much since.  It is a good film — for a first film, I would say.
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DRCYou have support from so many fans worldwide. How has it been for your wife, Brenda, and daughter, Lily? Are they also fans of the genre? It has to be a creative and inspiring household.
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MILLINERMy wife loves horror.  My daughter is curious.  She is artistic and has grown up on sets and at horror conventions.  Brenda and Lily get recognized and called out to by strangers at cons.  I am sure it can be as surreal for them as it is for me.  The horror community has been good to me.  I love these people.
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DRCWhat and who are some of your own favorite films or filmmakers? Every film lover has his or her own inspirations and idols.
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MILLINERMy top five films are Taxi Driver, Reservoir Dogs, Dazed and Confused, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Favorite filmmakers are Tarantino, Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, The Coen Brothers and really too many to name.  I have had a lot of inspirations and idols.
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DRCIf someone were to ask you how to get started in the writing or film industry, what would be your piece of advice?
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MILLINERDo it every day.  Learn something every day. Work hard, never stop — despite rejection or self-doubt.  Don’t be in a hurry to get success or respect, and enjoy any and all opportunities and successes no matter how small.
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DRCOriginality is key when it comes to creative genius. As so many modern horror films recycle old tropes and cliches, how do you approach your own work?
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MILLINERWe are all essentially recycling the same stories over and over.  It comes down to how you tell it, your vision, your style, your personal voice, and your execution.  I always try to make left turns.  Hemingway said great writing is leading the reader down the same path they know and then when they know where they are going, go the other way.  Paraphrasing, but it has always worked for me.
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DRCWhat is the importance of the horror fandom, to you?
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MILLINERFans need to lighten up and remember that this genre is about having fun.  I fear the community has turned on itself a lot.  Cannibalizing itself.  The elitist and so-called “true fans” are making the genre a sour place to hang out.  Remember what it was like renting that crappy b-movie with your friends over pizza and soda and just having a blast with a scary movie?
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DRCLastly, let’s say you are cast in a reality series documenting your own life and work. What would your tagline be?
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MILLINERWake up every day and make something.
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Be sure to follow Milliner’s brilliant work on his website, as well as IMDB, Facebook, and Twitter.

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