Private Project

Service Road

A hard-nosed female federal marshal is escorting a male felon across the desert when their car breaks down, resulting in a day of unexpected conversations and confrontations.

  • Carly Miller
    Mongrels, Hitcoin, The Bechdel Test
  • Carly Miller
    Mongrels, Hitcoin, The Bechdel Test
  • Sonora Rowan
  • Carly Miller
    Mongrels, Hitcoin, The Bechdel Test
  • Sonora Rowan
  • Sarah Navratil
    Key Cast
    “Georgia Stevenson”
    Stargate Origins, Nothing Like the Sun, In the Mind's Eye
  • Colton Apodaca
    Key Cast
    “Chase Collins”
    Mongrels, Hitcoin, The Bechdel Test
  • Derik Rosario
    Key Cast
    “Officer Mackenzie ”
  • Tim Tembreull
    Key Cast
    “Sergeant Wallace”
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, Comedy
  • Runtime:
    30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    October 31, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    20,000 USD
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Sony A7Sii
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Show Low ​​International Film Festival
    Show Low /Pinetop
    United States
    October 18, 2019
    Best Director Feature/Featurette – Winner
  • Idyllwild International Film Festival
    United States
    March 8, 2019
    North American Premiere
    Mary Austin Award for Excellence in Screenwriting, Directing, Producing – Nominated
Director Biography - Carly Miller

An award-winning director, Carly Miller graduated from the University of Southern California, at the age of twenty, with a degree in film and television production. She's written, directed, and produced four short films, including the 30-minute dramedy "Service Road," featuring Sarah Navratil of "Stargate Origins."

She's the co-founder of Eagle and Child Productions.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Service Road was born during pub trivia conversations between myself and my co-writer/producer Sonora Rowan. After a whiskey or beer (or two), we’d chat about our week for approximately two minutes before excitedly steering things back to Service Road. We knew a few items for certain. 1) We wanted the story to be funny, despite the premise of a female federal marshal being stuck alone with a male prisoner. 2) We wanted it to feature strong characters – especially a strong female lead in Georgia. 3) We wanted it to take place in the middle-of-nowhere desert (the kind you blaze through on your way someplace else). 4) And, lastly, but most importantly, we wanted the story to be about the beginning of a new and...complicated friendship.

The script's concept was problematic from a filmmaker’s perspective. How do you strand two characters in the desert, for twenty minutes of run time, and keep things interesting? We solved this dilemma by injecting the plot with an engaging balance of tension, comedy, and conflict. Georgia and Collins begin as complete strangers. He’s a hacktivist felon with wealthy parents, she’s a latchkey kid from Texas with a strict moral compass. They bond for a little while, passing the time with crossword puzzles and tossing pebbles into Pringles cans, but their conversation grows tense when Collins launches into a defense of his hacktivism and Georgia won’t have it. They throw sharp barbs and stereotype each other. No one really wins and they stop talking. The ice breaks when corrections officer Mackenzie arrives and gets lost, prompting them to chase down his car. Mackenzie mistakes Collins for a prisoner on the run and fires a shot, grazing his shoulder. In all the chaos, Collins tries to protect Georgia – a demonstration of sacrifice she doesn’t forget.

In the end, neither Georgia nor Collins are the same people they were at the beginning. They’ve evolved to see each other as more than stereotypes, more than their professions, incomes, and backgrounds. They may not have changed each others’ minds, but they have changed each other’s attitudes.

Every bit as important as the theme was the location. Sonora and I both grew up taking road trips to the Sierra Nevadas and Arizona and absolutely loved the dramatic vistas we encountered along the way, which is why Joshua Tree popped up on our radar as an option. After an eventful location scout to Joshua Tree and Twenty-Nine Palms (a hilarious story for another day), we zeroed in on a cool campground only ten minutes from town and with a gorgeous, 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains.

Originally, the story took place during warm weather, but due to scheduling conflicts, we moved production to January. We tweaked the plot to suit the new season and crossed our fingers it wouldn’t rain or snow. Of course, Murphy’s law prevails. We enjoyed fair skies our first two days before a winter storm hit on our third. Temperatures plummeted to the 30s and 40s. Torrential downpour in the morning gave way to clear skies...and 30-mph winds in the afternoon, which rendered most of our afternoon footage unusable.

Though this was the most extreme weather most of us had ever experienced on a film shoot, that stormy day remains my favorite of the whole production. We salvaged those brutal twelve hours for all they were worth, improvising, re-arranging shot lists and blocking, and bundling up under as many jackets as possible. True, we were forced to reshoot a lot of what we filmed, but I’ll never forget the grit and determination our cast and crew displayed that fateful day.

We hiked back up to Joshua Tree for pickups in March, then filmed our final two scenes in north San Diego in April, clocking in at eight-days of production for our thirty-minute short.

Service Road wouldn’t be half of what it is without our highly talented leads Sarah Navratil and Colton Apodaca. We called her in to audition for Georgia and knew, almost from the moment she walked in the room, that she was made for the part.

We loved her fearlessness in trying out ideas, her insights into the character and smart suggestions in terms of blocking, line reading, wardrobe, makeup, and everything else in between. Her on screen choices make for a complex and intelligent Georgia and she elevates everyone she works with – her scene partners, writers, and director – to a higher caliber. She can be seen on Stargate Origins as the role of Eva Reinhardt.

I’ve collaborated with Colton on all four of my last short films. He’s an accomplished stage actor from the San Diego theater and a skilled artist behind the scenes. I love the integrity he brings to his performances. He’s understated – a great listener and solid improviser. His wit and physical comedy inject energy into our montage and he totally sticks the landing during his argument with Georgia, turning on a dime from arrogant to remorseful.

Then there’s Derik Rosario, whom I can’t thank enough. He plays Mackenzie, a corrections officer, and he also happens to be a former corrections officer in real life. He served as our fact checker and advisor during the writing process and delivers a laugh-out-loud, scene-stealing performance.

Tim Tembruell plays Sergeant Wallace with deadpan wit. He’s also the scintillating host of the pub trivia night where Sonora and I first discussed all our brilliant ideas. My good friend Avalon Roberts delivers some hilarious one-liners as his even more deadpan assistant, Patty.

Our cinematographer Rik Satoru did a heroic job keeping his rigs from blowing away during the desert windstorms. He lent Service Road his great eye for lighting and god-like camera operating skills. He did a bang-up job coloring the film, as well.

Our first AD Amanda Chang kept us on schedule and kept us optimistic behind the scenes, personally talking Sonora and me down from the ledge after stressful days of shooting!

Other members of our crew were indispensable: grip Andrew McCarty, gaffer Haneul Kim, sound mixers Destiny Farrant, Austin Bledsoe, and Michael Packmore, our makeup artist Solana Rehne, our PAs Bekah Rowan, Edwin Noriega, and Greg Tokics. Our poster designer Ryan Davis did a phenomenal job, as did our behind the scenes videographer and photographer Jared Richard.

Thank you to our extras and/or extra hands: Courtney, Casey, Tom, Doug, Leah, Bryson, Brie, Ian, Olivia, Paige, and my dad David Miller. Thank you to the Miller and Rowan families, the Rowan electric office in Carlsbad, the Joshua Tree Saloon, the Hopton family, who let us film on their campground, Enterprise Rental...the list goes on and on!

Most of all, I must thank my good friend and collaborator Sonora Rowan. When I sent her the first draft Service Road, she gingerly asked if she could make a few notes. I said OK, and what she sent back just about floored me. She sharpened the dialogue with her clever and authentic voice and dreamed up some of the most hilarious ideas and dramatic moments. Her enthusiasm never flagged for a second and this film could never have been made without her. She worked tirelessly as a co-producer and one woman art department/production designer. Her creative art direction, set design, and props shaped the look of Service Road and she even lent her house and lovely dog Eros to the final scene of the film!

Winter transforms Joshua Tree into a magical place. When audiences watch Service Road, I hope they feel transported, as we did, into the striking beauty of the high desert and the company of new friends.