Naperville native snares scares in B-horror flicks
The titles of her movies speak for themselves:
"The Leaf Blower Massacre 2." "Movie of the Dead." "Ovulation." "Howling Moon." "Dr. Spine." "Walk, Zombie, Walk."
"I guess I found my niche," horror actress Colleen Elizabeth Miller said. "For some reason there's a huge B-horror subculture and zombie subculture in Chicago. A lot of the independent movies in Chicago are horror movies."
Miller grew up in Naperville, moved to Oklahoma at the age of 9, then returned to graduate from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb where she majored in theater.
After that, she planned to take Los Angeles by proverbial storm. She arranged to move in with a cousin in L.A. during her senior year spring break. But then ...
"I got off the plane," she said. "An hour later I said, There's no way I'm moving here! I didn't know how to explain it, but nope! I do not like it."
So she moved to Chicago close to Wrigley Field and snagged a job as a hostess in a nearby restaurant. She began auditioning for theater and film roles.
"I have never wanted to be anything but that, a performer!" she burbled with enthusiasm. "When I was a kid, I never wanted to be a nurse or a lawyer. My dad told me, he knew I was going to be an actress when I was 5 years old and for Halloween I dressed up as Charlie Chaplin instead of a princess."
"I love being the center of attention," Miller added. "I can't sit still that long. I would never work at a desk. It's like it was meant to be. Being a performer has always been at the back of my head. And the front of my head!"
Miller loved movies so much, she branched out into creating her own special effects makeup.
So, we asked Miller to describe some of her recent contributions to the world of horror cinema:
"The Leaf Blower Massacre 2" (2014): "I'm in the opening murder scene. I had to be tied to a chair with duct tape in a funeral home right next to an incinerator. It was quite creepy, The leaf blower comes at me and I act like I'm suffocating as it blows my lungs full of air, bursting them."
"Ovulation" (2013): "It's about a woman who has trouble getting pregnant with her husband, who already has a child with his first wife, who I play. Then she (the second wife) goes crazy. She flips out and searches for random guys at bars and tries to get pregnant, then kills them afterward."
"Movie of the Dead" (?): "It's not finished and I don't know if it ever will be. We started out playing ourselves at a Halloween party where things start going wrong. The actual movie is that actors go to a movie theater to watch the horror film they made, then get involved in a real horror film."
"Baby Alligators" (2010): "Originally, I was hired to do special effects makeup on that, but they put a part in just for me. It's a film highly influenced by 'Eraserhead' and avant-garde movies like that. We had trouble getting it into festivals because nobody knew what genre to plug it into. It's one of the best movies I've made."
Miller is hoping a change of address will help her make a lot more movies.
"Actually," she said, somewhat sheepishly, "I just moved to L.A. two months ago. I know! The place I said I was never going to live! But there's so much more opportunity out here. For every one movie shot in Chicago, there are 200 shot out here.
"In Chicago, you get maybe three or four auditions you can go to every week or two. Here, every day there are 20 things I can audition for."
Miller said her move to the West Coast was "a complete leap of faith." She sold most of her stuff, packed up her car and headed out on a three-week road trip to seek her performance destiny in the City of Angels.
Staying with a high school friend helps out with the budget.
But she misses a number of things about Chicago.
"Chicago has neighborhoods, places where you can go and do things," she replied. "There aren't any neighborhoods in L.A. There's no place where you can go and feel a sense of community and camaraderie.
"No one wants to talk to you. They're all stuck in their own little bubbles. In Chicago, you can make friends. You can go to a bar or to a store and strike up a conversation with strangers. I really miss this about Chicago."
As for identifying her best performance asset, she confidently told us, "I know that I'm fun to be around. I know if I go to a place and things are pretty dull and boring, I can be the life of a party.
"And I do like my curly hair, too."
-- Dann Gire
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are looking for suburbanites working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make a great column, email them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Film vs. stage?Ask Naperville native Colleen Miller about acting for stage and movies, and you'll find out she strongly prefers the latter.
"Acting for live theater is amazing because you can feel the excitement onstage in the moment," she said.
"But when it's over, it's over, It's sad and depressing. That's why I like film. You have an actual film in your hand when it's over. You can keep playing it. Show it to other people. It can grow and go off on the festival circuit. It lasts forever."
-- Dann Gire