Catch Up: Miles Jay

If there’s anything I’ve learned from chatting with Miles Jay, it’s that every one of the filmmaker’s shoots is an adventure. Last time we spoke in 2010, he recounted getting thrown in a van by the Ghanaian military for filming on their property; this time he off-handedly mentioned getting Kentucky Fried Chicken Fed-exed to the Moroccan desert during a shoot (don’t ask).

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From igniting CGI fires in a Young Empires music video to exploding technicolor cakes for Autoerotique, Jay’s films are eye candy injected with vitamins—bold, electric, and packed with substance. Since graduating Ryerson University’s film program, he has been racking up no-small-feat trophies including a Silver Lion and a Young Director Award at the Cannes Lions for autism-awareness project Carly’s Café. He globe-trots between the three international production houses he’s signed with while cultivating his own crop of new films, the latest being a script he adapted from McSweeney’s article for Vice.

I caught up with him post-meeting in London, England after he’d settled back into his Queen West digs (or as he describes it, his “not-so-sexy studio”).

CB: It’s been awhile—what have you been up to lately? I heard you’ve had a big year.
MJ: It’s been a great year. I’ve had some massive projects collapse, but I’ve also been very lucky. I’ve been working on personal projects recently. Suddenly all your work starts becoming other people’s and I want to focus more on storytelling, the narrative.

miles7CB: What’s a day-in-the-life like these days?
MJ: It revolves around coffee, CrossFit computers and lots of writing. I’m generate a lot of my own work, instead of waiting for it to come to me. But basically I’m trying to get in shape and be healthy now, because when you get busy and all that goes out the window. (Laughs) And then you become pudgy and pale again.

CB: Can you describe the production process of Carly’s Café?
MJ: It was something that hadn’t been done before, we had to put blinders on and go forward. Carly has such a profound personal story with so much emotional weight, being chosen to tell it was a very high-pressure experience. I wanted to make it beautiful and emotionally hard-hitting as the book…I was just thinking, ‘I hope this is right’ and moved forward.

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CB: What was it like working with Carly Fleischmann?
MJ: It was pretty wild. I’d read her and her father’s book and started to work with john st. on the project, but I hadn’t met [Carly] yet. I met her on the day of the shoot. When I was working with her, I still felt myself having a stigma towards autism, even after how much I now knew about it. Then she went home and wrote this long post on Facebook about the filming process down to every last little detail. It definitely broke my stigma against autism for good—it completely changed my perspective. We all sat around after the shoot and drank a beer as we read her post. It was one of those moments when we all realized we had just participated in something really special.

CB: Any great recent moments or stories that you can share?
MJ: My sister [Natalie Rae Robison] moved to Toronto, and she was nominated for three MMVAs and I was nominated for two, so we went to the awards on Father’s Day. She won one, I didn’t win any (laughs). But I loved that we were the first siblings nominated for awards.

CB: When we last spoke you were a year away from graduation—how has your film style evolved over the past three years?
MJ: In school you’re always doing projects for people to take you more seriously, or to make you seem older. After two years of working steadily straight from school, I’m not insecure about whether I’ll ever become a ‘Director.’ I want to tell stories that relate to what I feel now, at 24.

Miles1The photos above, by Sarah Elisabeth Blais & Hannah Sider, were originally published in our Winter 2010 Issue: Raw