Editor’s Note: “The Reel Black List” is our annual spotlight of brothers and sisters in the worlds of advertising, film, TV, music, radio and media who are making a difference through their contributions and creativity on a daily basis. For the next 29 days, you will be able to celebrate wonderful human beings, like Wondros Director Tamika Miller with us.
Tamika Miller is a Los Angeles-based commercial and film Director who began her career as a Line Producer for high-profile music videos and television commercials including major brands such as Bank of America, Target, Verizon, Toyota, American Express and Old Navy.
With directing as her true passion, Tamika’s recent commercial directorial work includes spots for Dove for Ogilvy UK and Schwartzkopf/Walmart for Viacom.
In addition to commercials, Tamika directed the television film, Back to the Goode Life for BET.
A multi-faceted filmmaker, Miller was selected as one of six directors for the prestigious DGA/AICP’s Commercial Directors Diversity Program — an initiative created to increase the representation of women and under-represented Directors in commercial advertising.
Miller was also selected by “SHOOT” Magazine as a Director to watch during its 2019 “New Director Showcase,” whereby Tamika’s work was presented at the Directors Guild of America in New York.
Tamika, what is your origin story?
When I reflect on it, I think my love for storytelling started through Hollywood musicals. When I was a little girl, my Mom would make me sit and watch old musicals like The King and I and Show Boat. I developed a love of musical theatre and its ability to make me feel something through song, dance and story.
As a storyteller I always want the audience to feel something – to laugh or be moved to tears. I’m more partial to the latter, but in the end… feel something. I want the journey to be worth it.
How did you get into film?
Years ago at my college convocation a fellow classmate came up to me and asked what my plans were after graduation. I told her I wanted to work in the entertainment industry.
I wanted to be a studio executive. Since I was graduating a year early from college, in my mind I told myself I had another year to figure out how I would make it to ‘Hollywood.’ So in the meantime I planned to make my way to Palo Alto, California and spend the year with my best friend who was attending college there.
At graduation, this fellow classmate, who I barely knew says, “Well, my sister is here and she works at Propaganda Films in Hollywood. Come find me after the ceremony. I’ll introduce you to her and she’ll give you a job.” I was skeptical to say the least. Here’s a woman who didn’t know me and her sister is going to give me a job? Yeah, right.
Well, after the ceremony, before I can even decide if I’m going to seek the woman out, she sought me out. She introduces me to her sister, who tells me… “Okay kid, if you make your way to LA, I’ll guarantee you work for three months, then you’re on your own.” She was true to her word, and three months turned into many months thereafter.
My first job in Hollywood was working as a production assistant on a Toyota commercial, directed by Antione Fuqua and starring Christian Slater. The rest is history.
Who were your mentors?
When I first arrived in Los Angeles, the person who gave me my first job was definitely my mentor. She taught me tools that were beneficial to helping me sustain work as a freelancer in the industry. For this, I’m grateful.
While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
I’ve had some wonderful professional and personal achievements in my life. Professionally, my work has resonated with people and won awards and this validation is great. My biggest achievements, however, is being present for others coming up in the industry.
I don’t think of myself as a mentor per se, but I get great satisfaction when I’m able to encourage and empower someone else to do what they’re being called to do in this industry. Anyway I can help them achieve this, I will.
How about your biggest disappointment?
I regret not seeing Mariam Makeba in concert, when I had the opportunity. As for ‘life,’ I honestly can’t think of something that disappoints me to this day. Of course I’ve been disappointed in my life, but the disappointment leaves with time.
I have great faith in my ability to manifest the things, the opportunities, I want in my life. And so, while I may be affected for a time, I tend to have great resolve when it appears on the surface I’m not getting what I want. I have no doubt that something else – something for me – is on the horizon.
How has having the superpower of your Blackness helped you?
Despite all the hardship, oppression and suffering my Ancestors have endured over centuries, what allowed us to survive and many of us to flourish is love, care and compassion for one another.
The suffering we’ve experienced, and continue to experience in many forms, has made me an open-hearted person. I always look for myself in others, and with this comes compassion. Because of this, I love to tell stories where historically marginalized people are at the center.
I love to tell stories that move people, where there’s a heart-connection to ourselves and to others.
If Black culture is your superpower, what is your kryptonite?
White supremacy and fine dining!
How did last year’s BLM movements affect you personally?
Like so many of us, I was deeply affected. I was pained, encouraged and pained some more. Decades-long friendships changed, and even ended.
Personally, last year’s BLM movements were definitely a time of excavation and realizations. For me, as a Black woman, the movement is on-going. My freedom quest is never-ending.
What can the industry do better to promote true inclusion?
It’s really simple to me… Give BIPOC creatives the freedom and license to tell the stories we want to tell without the white gaze. Empower by giving us the stage and/or having us at the table and then stepping away.
If you’re Batman, who’s Robin?
I’ll be Nu’Bia – Wonder Woman’s twin sister. And my ‘ride-or-die’ is my wife.
What drives you to create?
I want to see myself – Black people and our beautiful complexity – reflected back to me through storytelling. And, I want to have ownership and complete creative control over my stories.