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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Reaching for the Stars: Derek Miller

This is Derek Miller's fourth season working behind the scenes of the NBC-TV primetime hit
This is Derek Miller's fourth season working behind the scenes of the NBC-TV primetime hit "Law & Order: SVU." As Location Coordinator, he says he has gotten to know New York City as well as the cast members (shown here with actress Mariska Hargitay).

From Acting to Television

By ANGELA WAMPLER | A! MAGAZINE | February 22, 2010

Derek Miller, 33, grew up in Kansas, Wisconsin and Indiana, before becoming involved with the Kingsport Theatre Guild while attending East Tennessee State University (ETSU), where he earned a B.A. in Communications with a Theatre Concentration and a minor in Broadcasting in 2000. Now he's living in New York City, working as the site coordinator for NBC-TV's primetime series Law and Order: SVU.

He says, "I consider Tennessee my "home' state. My parents live in Cleveland and I have a brother in Johnson City. My wife's family is in Rogersville and Greeneville."

Derek credits his father as the one who first got him interested in theatre. "Dad is an amazing guy. He is a doctor by profession, but he also plays the organ, does community theatre, and is a gourmet cook. One of the first plays I ever did, I played my Dad's son — it was a real character stretch!" he laughs.

When Derek graduated from ETSU, he moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. He did not have a job lined up, but was able to sub-let an apartment from people he met while working one summer at Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va.

He did "temp work" for awhile and eventually got assigned to the American Museum of Natural History where he found work with television and film shooting at the museum.

Derek recalls, "I worked on the set of Men in Black II when they filmed outside New York's Rose Center for Earth and Space. That was short-lived and I needed to find full-time employment. I was then hired in the Retail & Licensing Office at the museum. I'd started working full-time at the museum in August 2001, the museum was able to keep the majority of their staff past 9/11, but by 2003 they needed to reduce staff. I worked there almost two years but was eventually laid off."

He continues, "When I was temping at the museum, one of my supervisors had developed a friendship with the Location Manager of Law & Order: SVU, so when I was laid off, she made a call on my behalf. It was perfect timing as SVU was on a summer break and was looking to hire more staff. I had next to no "location experience' — my only prior work was on Men in Black II. I called the Location Manager who gave me some names and numbers of location scouts she worked with for me to "shadow' to learn the trade. I wound up connecting with her brother, who was one of her full-time scouts; he taught me how to scout out locations. I put together a scout folder for my interview with the Location Manager and apparently showed enough promise that I was hired. I started as a Location Assistant on the sets of Season 5 and part of Season 6, then was promoted to Scout/Assistant (Seasons 6 and 7), then promoted again to my current position of Location Coordinator (Season 8)."

According to Derek, in order to film a property, the director needs to know what the place looks like. "That's where a scout comes in," he says. "We get the script and work with the director and the designer to determine what sets will be built on our soundstage and what sets need to be filmed "on location.' After that, the scouts go out into the city to try and find those sets. Once the scout finds a possible location, they take photographs of the property — inside and outside — and shows the pictures to the director and designer to see if they agree that it works for the intended scene. The photographs are printed together to create a panorama of the space so the director and designer can get a sense of how the location looks overall."

Derek continues, "The scout's job is not only to find the locations, but also to make first contact with property owners to get permission to film. They also need to determine the access for crew and equipment, and often will need to find support space — a place to use as a holding area, catering for background actors, etc."

Derek says his experience on the show has been amazing. "I've gotten to know the cast, I've REALLY gotten to know the city — places I'd love to go back to and places I never want to see again. I've been in places the public never gets a chance to see."

Working on SVU also got Derek interested in taking photography and he is continuing to develop that. He even has a website:


Reaching for the Stars

Topics: Theatre