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Breaking into the Entertainment Industry through Chinese Flagship

May 10, 2019

Martin Miller with his fellow interns during his summer at Pearl Studio in Shanghai, China.

Martin Miller with his fellow interns during his summer at Pearl Studio in Shanghai, China.
Martin Miller with his fellow interns during his summer at Pearl Studio in Shanghai, China.

Martin Miller with his fellow interns during his summer at Pearl Studio in Shanghai, China.  

Have you ever wanted to study abroad, but were afraid it would set you back in your academic career goals? Recent graduate Martin Miller found the perfect balance by filling his time abroad with courses that fueled his future, all while improving his Chinese proficiency. With a major in Asian Languages and Literatures and aspirations to break into the entertainment industry, the Chinese Flagship program led him to the ideal combination.

An Unexpected Start

Miller began his academic journey as a mathematics major but soon realized it wasn’t the path he wanted to take. He had a high proficiency level in French and Spanish, so he chose Chinese as his next language to learn. As an increasingly important world language, Miller knew that Chinese would benefit him career-wise while providing a healthy challenge. Eventually, he decided that an Asian Languages and Literatures major felt like the right fit for him.

The Chinese Flagship program allowed him to explore one of his passions that didn’t originally fit into his academic journey: entertainment. He had the opportunity to study abroad at Nanjing University, taking courses related to television production and screenwriting. Completing an internship is a requirement of the Chinese Flagship program, and through a stroke of luck, a series of unanticipated events, and a generous scholarship from CLA donors Jim and Mary Lawrence, Miller gained one of his most cherished experiences. 

From Internship to Industry 

During his time abroad, Miller interned with Pearl Studio, formerly Oriental DreamWorks, a Chinese film production company and Chinese-American joint venture by DreamWorks Animation and a few Chinese investment companies. Their films include Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, and Abominable, which is set to release in September 2019. Miller joined their team after connecting with a former Chinese Flagship member who previously interned at the studio. After initially being turned down, he received a call from Pearl over a month later with an offer.

For four months, Miller worked in their Shanghai office, reading through scripts, analyzing narratives, providing recommendations, and completing administrative tasks, such as financial travel reports for reimbursement. These responsibilities paved the way for his career plans. It was “an opportunity to learn from the business itself, straight from the gate, by being thrown directly into the brunt of it.” He has been working on his own TV show for three years now, and his experience in the program provided insight for his work. Immersion in the company’s scripts helped him develop and improve his own. His background in Chinese was a critical guide because he often had to take notes, write coverage, and participate in video conferences. His time abroad both in the classroom and in Pearl’s office gave him a boost into the entertainment industry. 

His show follows a hot-tempered, fatherless, college sophomore with a deep fear of rejection. After being struck by lightning, Darton Piller finds himself with superpowers and a new obligation to protect his city from a sadistic secret society—all while keeping his identity hidden. Miller summarizes it as “an existential superhero dramedy and the love child of Rick and Morty and Young Justice.” 

The Search for the Right Person

Currently, Miller is located in Los Angeles and in the process of creating materials to pitch his show to directors and producers. His time with Pearl Studio put Miller in the middle of the entertainment industry, and with a handful of contacts, he has high hopes that the right pair of eyes will see his pitch.

On the side, Miller often translates Chinese and has found that the language is a significant way to connect with others. Whenever he notices people speaking or reading Chinese, he initiates a conversation with them. Their faces instantly reflect the shock and then joy of finding another Chinese speaker. “Those spontaneous interactions, no matter the length, are some of my most cherished memories because of their delighted surprise to be understood by another,” explains Miller. 

Chinese language learning in ALL and the Flagship program have shaped not only Miller’s career but also his worldview. Both have taught him the importance of connection and the ability to identify with people across all walks of life. “The Chinese Flagship program is amazing, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking to continue their Chinese language education seriously,” he says. “If I could do it again, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

This story was written by an undergraduate student in CLAgency. Meet the team.