Author of ‘Friday the 13th’ movie to speak about his Hollywood
Morgan Hill – Victor Miller has made millions of people around the world scream with terror. Now watch out, Morgan Hill! He’s scheduled to come to town next month.
As the keynote speaker at this year’s Poppy Jasper Film Festival running Nov. 10-12, the 66-year-old creator of the original “Friday the 13th” movie will discuss his successful Hollywood and TV career. Besides authoring the famous flick where unlucky teenagers get slaughtered, Miller has also written films such as “Jury Duty” and “A Stranger is Watching” and has worked as a writer on many day-time soap opera series.
“We’re really excited to have him here,” said Kim Bush, chair of the festival. “He’s got quite a fan following.”
Gary Whiteaker, the festival’s sponsorship chairman, said Miller’s clout as a screenwriter will help the Poppy Jasper event increase its prestige as an independent film festival drawing top Hollywood talent to encourage budding film-makers. “I know he’s a celebrity and someone nice to have from the film industry come to our community,” Whiteaker said. “I haven’t seen his horror movie, though. I’m afraid of scary movies. I’m a chick-flick person myself.”
Earlier this year, Morgan Hill Times society columnist Mary Anne McCarthy met Miller while at a Segway scooter polo match game in Sunnyvale. She asked him if he’d be interested serving as a Poppy Jasper festival speaker. Miller, who moved to Alameda from Connecticut in 2001, said he was “tickled” at the chance to participate and couldn’t let pass the opportunity to visit the South Valley community famous for its mushroom and film festivals. “I’m going to love Morgan Hill,” he said. “You guys are really great, and I look forward to coming down and seeing the town.”
Miller was born in New Orleans on May 14, 1940. As a child, he moved around the United States with his family. While attending the Milton Academy in Milton, Mass., he developed a “life-long love affair” with language and started writing imaginative stories to express his teenage emotions. In Yale College in New Haven, Conn., he took every creative writing course offered to develop his craft.
After graduating from Yale in 1962, he married a woman named Elizabeth Couzens Thurston and also joined the Benton & Bowles Advertising agency where he worked on TV programming. During the 1960s, Miller also worked in the theater business, making a living by writing plays as well as well as penning the novelizations of TV shows such as “Kojak.”
In the mid-1970s, he wrote the screenplays for films “The Black Pearl” and “Here Come the Tigers,” low-budget family films that lost money for the producers. While working on these films, he met producer Sean Cunningham who noticed the huge financial success of director John Carpenter’s original “Halloween” movie thriller.
“‘Halloween’ is raking the money,” Miller recalled Cunningham saying. “Let’s rip it off.”
Although he isn’t an afficionado of the horror genre – Miller said he would prefer to write comedies – the screenwriter took on the challenge. He saw a screening of “Halloween” and realized that scary stories tap the primal terrors people bury deep inside their psyche. The best scary stories create a rollercoaster ride of mounting tension and put unexpected twists in the plot to surprise the audience, he said.
In the first “Friday the 13th” movie, Miller tried to build the tension without resorting to too much blood and guts. “We were trying in our own neophyte way to be (Alfred) ‘Hitchcockian’ in that sense,” he said. “The gore for itself wasn’t important. We were going for suspense.”
Although most people associate the “Friday the 13th” series with the monster hockey-mask wearing character “Jason,” Miller’s original story focused on Jason’s mother as the evil villain. The woman become psychotic after her son “Jason” drowns in Crystal Lake due to the negligence of summer camp counselors, and she starts killing the counselors off in horrendous ways, Miller said.
“One of the things I learned from watching ‘Halloween’ is that there has to be some prior evil before the real carnage beings,” Miller said. “I created this über-mom, this mother who is so hell-bent about defending her son that she kills of all the camp counselors so that no child would ever die again.”
Opening in theaters on May 1980, the movie hit a nerve with audiences between 13 to 24 years. Its huge success with movie goers astonished Miller. “I had never in my wildest dreams intended to write a horror movie, much less a successful one,” he admitted. “If I had my druthers, I would have much rather have written (the comedy) ‘Airplane.'”
Six months before the opening, Miller and his wife were “flat broke,” he said. To make some cash, the creator of the blood-splattered film series had, ironically, attempted to sell his blood for $30 from a Bridgeport, Conn., drug research firm. The company refused to buy it, however,, saying it didn’t have enough antibodies.
After the success of “Friday the 13th,” Miller wrote several more film scripts before getting into the day-time soap opera business. For two decades he wrote for the shows “All My Children,” “Another World,” “General Hospital,” “Guiding Light,” and “One Life to Live.” He won three Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series Writing as well as several Writers Guild awards.
He retired from soap opera work in 2002 but keeps busy on various writing projects. As for creating more frightening flicks like “Friday the 13th,” Miller said he would prefer to make people laugh than scream. “I thought of writing another horror movie, but my heart’s never been in it,” he said. “I’ll go anywhere to see a comedy. I don’t really go to horror movies.”
For more information on Victor Miller, visit the Website: