Chris Mills - Producer
Producer and Location Scout: A Talk with Chris Mills
ATLANTA, Ga. — Serving as one of the producers for Santa’s Boot Camp is none other than Chris Mills.
Aron Seigel, the sound mixer for the film, had worked with director, writer, and producer Ken Feinberg before on another project and thought Mills and Feinberg would work well together. He introduced them in late October or early November 2012. After Mills met Feinberg, he watched a short version of the film that had already been made and read the script.
“I thought it was charming and that the kids did a good job in the part that I’d seen,” he said.
Having seen the short version, he trusted Feinberg to direct the full film. As far as the script is concerned, he thought it was up to date and cute. He liked how the bad kids took responsibility for the messes they’d caused and improved their lives. The script also had some funny, laugh-out-loud moments.
As producer, his responsibilities included figuring out the method to achieve Feinberg’s vision from the pages, how much money it would take and how the money would be allocated. The less money one has, the harder it is to fulfill the vision of those who have the script in their hands. It was Feinberg’s responsibility to raise the money and Mills’ to allocate it. Mills spoke with Feinberg and the cinematographer, writers, and editor to see how they wanted to film the pieces needed to complete the story. He discussed with Feinberg the relative complexity of the scenes, to see which ones needed the most time.
“That’s a collaboration that I do with the director,” he said.
Mills also sought quotes on the costs of labor, materials, and locations. Due to the low budget, Mills had to negotiate for everything and the answers he got shaped what was possible to film. For example, a barn building large enough to have the kids working and house Santa’s sleigh was needed. The larger barns were so far away it would require more days of filming, which could not be paid for. The Decimal Place Farm, however, would need only two filming days, while a site on the Tennessee border would have required three. The farm looked god on camera, but the number of hours needed for photography was the dominant concern.
Another location Mills found was the Cobb Galleria Center’s mall. He had scouted malls for a comedy project a year and a half ago and wanted a mall with an escalator inside. He remembered the site was a mall often overlooked due to its traffic being seasonal, since it is an accessory to a convention center rather than a destination mall. He planned around the conventions and holidays to find out when traffic was least.
“They have good architecture and a flexible schedule,” he said.
Overall, Mills enjoyed his experience on SBC. He wanted to make a film kids would enjoy that would be watched over and over during the holidays. He’d done some general-audience movies in the past and wanted to add another to his resume. He enjoyed working on a movie that’s suitable for all ages, especially one that had humor in it.