Acclaimed commercial and fine art still photographer Sandro Miller--winner of assorted International Photography Awards, One Show, D&AD, London International Awards and Communication Arts honors--made his first foray into film directing with the 2011 release “Butterflies,” a deep dive into ageism which examined the alienation experienced by a recent retiree (portrayed by John Malkovich). The short made its mark on the festival circuit, underscoring that master visualist Miller could also--as he had done in his portrait photography--shed light on what characters feel as much as how they look. Among other accolades, “Butterflies” earned Miller a slot in the 2011 Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase.

Fast forward to today and Miller has a string of successes--and awards such as Cannes Lions--attesting to his filmmaking chops spanning commercials, shorts and other varied content. In 2014 he joined the directorial roster of production house Bottle Rocket, which became Bottle Rocket 360 in 2017. Via Bottle Rocket 360, Miller’s work has recently been recognized in assorted competitions, last year topping the AICP Post Awards’ Best of Midwest, and edited by Craig Lewandowski of Utopic: Cause/Marketing PSA category on the strength of the Black Lives Matter/Truth Hope and Just Initiative’s “Mothers,” providing a  haunting look at the damage social injustice and violence leave behind.

Also in 2021, the Miller-directed University of Chicago Medicine spot “Relentless”--extolling the superhuman efforts of doctors and healthcare workers--won a Chicago/Midwest Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

“Relentless” came out of Shafer Condon Carter. That Chicago ad agency’s executive director of production, Dennis Bannon, said, “I’ve primarily worked with Sandro as a live-action director and find him to be among the best I’ve worked with. He’s able to pull the rich, impactful tonality of his stills work into live action where the results are emotionally charged, vibrant or exotic. Sandro always gets to a remarkable piece of film. Locations, lighting, performance, casting--Sandro delivers.”

Another high-profile collaborator, Susan Credle, global chief creative officer at FCB, shared, “If you can’t begin a sentence with ‘I’ll never forget the time we were shooting with Sandro Miller,’ you’re missing out. Sandro is an artist that takes creative ideas to original places that become unforgettable. If you only know him for his photography, you should experience what he brings to moving images.

Miller, who continues to be active in his still work, recalled what drove him to diversify into moving pictures. “I have always loved making the powerful storytelling image but I really needed to go further in my process. Motion was a natural format for me. My life has been full of emotional times, empathy, victories and real-life experiences. I  needed to convey these experiences in a way that felt true and relatable. Motion allowed me to present my inner feelings to the masses in a way that I couldn’t with the still image.”

Miller’s film directorial endeavors span numerous clients, including Southern Comfort, Nivea, Blue Cross and Squarespace. For the latter, he directed “Psychogenic Fugue,” a 20-minute film starring the aforementioned Malkovich in which the actor plays seven characters in scenes recreated from some of David Lynch’s most iconic films and TV shows including The Log Lady, Special Agent Dale Cooper, and even Lynch himself as narrator of the film. This project was part of a charity project called Playing Lynch that benefited the David Lynch Foundation, which seeks to introduce at-risk populations affected by trauma to transcendental meditation.

Malkovich explained why he’s quick to work with Miller. “I’ve always liked his ideas, they are like little plays. In my life there are a few people and Sandro is one of them that I work with over, over and over. It’s always been easy, it’s always been fun, it’s always been worthwhile. I love working with Sandro. I’ve always enjoyed the strange things we’ve done. He has a great team and is always well prepared.”

Underscoring how Miller has evolved, Tom Sullivan, group creative director at TBWA, said that the artist is “no longer a photographer who shoots video” but rather “a director who happens to be a world-class photographer.”