Miles Doleac is an actor, writer, director, producer and teacher. A native of Hattiesburg, Doleac divides his time between working on films in the greater Hattiesburg area and as an assistant professor of film at Loyola University in New Orleans. He most recently directed, wrote, produced and had a featured role in Demigod, a horror film shot entirely in Mississippi. It was released to theaters and streaming platforms on Oct. 15 by Historia Films, a Mississippi production company Doleac founded. Doleac can also be seen in a supporting role in Vanquish, an action film shot in Biloxi starring Morgan Freeman and Ruby Rose. It was released by Lionsgate in April.
Where are you from originally, and where did you go to school?
I’m originally from Hattiesburg. I attended Hattiesburg High School, which had a thriving drama and debate program at the time. I went to college at the North Carolina School of the Arts, and got a degree in drama from that program. And then I went to New York and to L.A. and wound up taking some classes at UCLA, primarily in ancient history and early Christianity, and that ultimately led me to go to graduate school at Tulane University, where I got a Ph.D. in ancient history.
When did you develop an interest in working on films?
I had the dream of being an actor much of my life, but while I was at Tulane, the film industry really took off in South Louisiana. This was right after Hurricane Katrina. I had sort of put it on the back burner, my acting, film and theater stuff, simply because nothing much was happening for me in New York and L.A.
I mean, I had done enough to get into the unions, but not enough to pay the bills. So, I was sort of looking for something else and academia became that thing. But then at that same time all these opportunities came up. I did some movies for SyFy Channel, some HBO shows, I did an episode of Treme, I did an episode of the A&E series Breakout Kings, and things sort of started to snowball.
And then, ultimately, it was working with some fantastic indie directors here in Louisiana that inspired me to start making my own films.
When did you realize you could do what you wanted to do in the film industry in Mississippi?
I think that the industry has been trending away from centralization in L.A. and New York for quite some time. And then, of course, with the states developing attractive cash rebate programs, incentive programs to draw production.
That’s been a game-changer. Of course, Mississippi has one, a very good one. I think productions of all shapes and sizes began to realize that maybe it was more cost effective to shoot films away from those big media centers.
I think the big realization for me was that I had to take control of my own destiny and that I couldn’t wait for someone to provide an opportunity for me. I had to make opportunities for myself. And I saw other independent filmmakers doing that. They were casting me in their movies. I saw what they were able to do with comparatively small budgets. I said, “I could be doing this.”
So, about 2012 or so, I began writing my first film The Historian, which we ultimately shot in Hattiesburg. I very quickly realized that there was an opportunity to build relationships here and not only to make one film, but to continue to make films by cultivating not only relationships with crew, but with investors and businesses who were willing to support our work. And then Mississippi has this very attractive rebate program.
It just became clear to me that not only could I be an actor anywhere and live anywhere, but I could also make films most anywhere. Down here, there’s a lot of people that when you walk up and you say you’re making a film, they’re still excited and they still think it’s this really cool, shiny thing. And it’s a very cool thing. And to our great fortune, they’re willing to help, especially for an indie production.
What are your current and recent projects?
In December 2020, we shot our latest film Demigod which released on October 15. It had a small theatrical release and day-and-date streaming, and we had an event in Hattiesburg for that. It’s currently got a 64 percent positive critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is really good for that site. But even better, we got an 80 percent plus audience score. The DVD/Blu-ray release is Dec. 14.
And then I was recently a production partner/producer on a film called Mindreader that primarily shot in Laurel and Ellisville, Mississippi. So that was my first experience, just producing one that I had not created, that I had not written and sort of built from the ground up. It was a very interesting experience for me and opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities for the future, for my production company Historia Films and the types of things we might be able to do to branch out and generate more revenue, and to provide more opportunities for the crew that has been loyal to us and the communities that have been loyal to us.
And then I have a couple of projects in the pipeline, one that that my wife and my producing partner Lindsay Williams and I co-wrote called Open. And we’ve got Jeremy London attached to that one and hope to be shooting it in and around Hattiesburg in in May or June.
So, a lot of things in the pipeline. I truly feel like the more opportunities you can create, the more opportunities come to you. It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It really has been the case for me. I get more acting offers when I’m knee-deep in my own thing.
Do you think that being from Mississippi helps you stand out in the industry in any way?
I think there’s some strange, mystical quality about Mississippi that breeds artistry and creative power. In some ways, I feel like I stand on the shoulders of giants–Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Leontyne Price, Elvis Presley, Muddy Waters, B.B. King. The creative prowess of the state of Mississippi is really unparalleled. You could argue that the greatest American playwright, the greatest American novelist, the greatest American writer of short stories, certainly the greatest blues artist, the greatest rock and roll singer and the greatest operatic soprano, are all from the state of Mississippi. That’s kind of crazy town when you think about it.
I’ve had actors who have been working on my movies that will say to me, “Well, at first I was really reluctant to come to Mississippi.” Then they see this creative energy, and they see all these motivated people who are talented and know their jobs and see that the industry is supported, and they’re always glad they came. That’s a testament to the production landscape of the state of Mississippi, right?
What would you say to encourage somebody to bring a project to Mississippi?
I believe that Mississippi, quite literally, has the best cash rebate program in the country for motion pictures, and for smaller projects in particular. And I’m so, so absolutely thrilled that we got the nonresident payroll rebate back.
I know there was some consternation that somehow all that money was going to big Hollywood entities, but it’s not. I mean, it’s going to help Mississippi born-and-bred filmmakers like Miles Doleac. I can safely say there is no way we would have made six features in the state of Mississippi without that rebate program.
And people don’t have to just take my word on this. Take Rich Christiano. I was happy to be a production partner on his film Mindreader. He’s from L.A. and has shot films in lots of different states. And he said Mississippi’s got the best incentive program.
I think one of the concerns too is, will I be able to find my location in Mississippi?
Mississippi has almost everything that you could possibly want. if you want sort of the resort vibe, you’ve got the coast with the casinos and the beaches and if you want rural, we certainly have that. If you want sort of cityscape urban kind of thing, we’ve got that in Jackson. Even in downtown Hattiesburg, you can fake that sort of stuff. We’ve got the rivers, the Delta and we’ve got red hills, we’ve got piney woods.
Take it from somebody who’s been there and made films because of the incentive program and benefited from it, and has been able to provide jobs for more local cast and local crew. It’s not about this mysterious entity called Hollywood. It’s about local indie filmmakers and what we’ve been able to do because of that program. And, you know, those times when Hollywood comes and they’re infusing millions of dollars into the economy of the state of Mississippi, that’s great, right? That’s a benefit of the incentive program as well. But it’s also been huge for a lot of local indie filmmakers. I know that for a fact.
What was your first job in the industry?
I did a very tiny role as a hospital intern on All My Children shortly after I got out of school, and I had like one line. Just being able to speak at all was really cool. I think my line wound up getting cut from the episode, but I can’t remember. And that that job allowed me to join AFTRA. And then AFTRA and SAG merged and I think that’s how I got into SAG. But yeah, it was a soap in New York.
Who has been an influence on your career?
Certainly Steven Spielberg. Jaws and Raiders are the reasons I wanted to make movies in the first place. I love the visual aesthetic of Michael Mann. I grew up in the ‘80s watching Miami Vice. And his films in the ‘80s, Thief and Manhunter, and then Heat in the ’90s, which is just an absolute masterpiece, in my opinion. Scorsese, Goodfellas has been a huge influence. But I also really love character drama. I really love relationship films. I love the Before trilogy of Richard Linklater. It’s either that or Lord of the Rings for the best all time film trilogy.
What’s a memorable moment for you working on a film?
I think my most memorable moment is probably very early on during shooting my first movie, The Historian. The first couple of days of that shoot were all these scenes between William Sadler and the wonderful John Cullum of Broadway fame, Northern Exposure and Law and Order. I learned so much as a filmmaker and an actor because both of those guys are veterans of the game. So, one of the days we had a little break, and I stepped outside on the porch of this house that we were shooting at out in downtown Hattiesburg. John Cullum was sitting there. I just said something like, “John, I’m loving what you’re doing in this film, and I’m so grateful that you could be a part of this.” And he was like, “Well, that’s a testament to your work, Miles, it’s your script. I read that script and I said, ‘It looks like I’m going to Mississippi,’ and let me tell you, Miles, I never leave New York anymore for anything.”
That was just a huge moment, and it gave me the confidence that, hey, you know, you can accomplish anything.
What do you do when you’re not making films?
When I’m not working on making movies, I’m talking about movies and teaching filmmaking at Loyola University in New Orleans, which is the greatest day job in the world. And I’m also a huge NFL fan and huge Saints fan, so my wife Linds and I spend a lot of time at Saints game in the fall and winter. And dogs–hanging out with our pack of rescue dogs.
What are your hopes for the future of the film industry in Mississippi?
I just hope that it continues to grow, and hope that larger projects are willing to take a chance on Mississippi and come and see what we have to offer the filmmaking community. And I hope that I can in some way be a conduit for that to happen. People are beginning to reach out to me about production partnerships. They want to talk about the rebate, they want to talk about what we have to offer, what Mississippi has to offer in terms of locations and crew and equipment rentals and all these kinds of things.
And as a as a filmmaker myself, I’m seeing the fruits of our considerable labor over the last eight years or so as we see what our films are doing and the profile that they’re gaining and allowing us to continue to make films. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone in Mississippi and beyond who has supported us along the way. There’s a possibility that this film we shoot next year could be the first Historia self-financed film. That would be an enormous step for us.
I hope that Mississippi continues to be a place that fosters the growth and development of independent film production and independent artists and gives those independent artists a platform not only to make their work, but to screen their work and to get it seen and get people talking about it. Because I think that’s where that’s where it all begins.
How can people contact you?
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also private message me on Instagram at @miles_doleac. And check out our website at historiafilmsms.com.