Mills Allison lives the bi-coastal life. Right now, he’s in Los Angeles. But in September he’ll be back in Charleston, starting production of his suspense/thriller film, Dig. One of three productions awarded a grant by the Indie Grants program of the South Carolina Film Commission this year, Dig will also receive production and creative support from film professionals and students at Trident Technical College in Charleston. For Allison, this is one step closer to what he envisions as a gratifying career trajectory: bringing it all back home.
Planting roots. A business major in college, Allison recognizes the value of building a career like any other business — from the ground up, one step at a time. “Starting my career in Charleston allowed me to get into the independent filmmaking market, to study acting intensively. A lot of people get out of school and go straight to Los Angeles. But they’re not armed with anything. … They don’t have the portfolio and experience that I was able to get in South Carolina after I left school. You need to pay your dues and learn what you need to learn. Get armed with the right things. In Charleston, I worked with Coastal Talent. So when I did go out to L.A., I had that base of credits to get me in some other doors.”
Career on the move. Allison admits that his lifestyle is “kind of all over. But that’s the life. In the entertainment business, you need to go where the work is.” Even so, “It was a structured plan that I had with my agent in South Carolina. Making sure I had the right things in place before I went off blindly.”
Proving ground. Allison didn’t just start his career in Charleston; he’s also hoping to move another agenda forward by making his film here. “I want to show that we can do really good things here. We don’t want to lose out to Georgia, North Carolina, or Oklahoma. My part in this is to create the best product we can so that people outside South Carolina can see not just the beauty of the locations but also that we’re able to provide a talented and savvy core crew for other, big-budget projects, that might want to come to the state.” Allison is thrilled that his director of photography for Dig is John Barnhardt, who taught at Trident Tech for seven years, and whose own company, Barnfly Productions, is based in Mt. Pleasant.
It’s not all about LaLaLand. “I definitely want to promote the artistic community in Charleston and South Carolina, because there are a lot of talented people here. It’s not that I got what I needed and moved out to L.A. All my family is here. It’s home to me.” In the last year, Allison has shifted his focus from acting to writing and directing. “Right now, in order for me to learn what I need to learn, it behooves me to be in Los Angeles so that I can bring that knowledge and experience back with me to South Carolina.”
Cherry. “The dream at the end of it all,” says Allison, “is to get to the point where you have the credits and clout to live where you like and be able to do projects: acting, writing, or directing. That for me would be the cherry at the end.” He laughs. “We have some time before we get to that point.” By filming Dig in Charleston, Allison is definitely getting one step closer to realizing that long-held ambition.