RIPLEY - Sometimes, home is where the heart truly is. Cottageville native and filmmaker Josh Miller had a choice to make when deciding where to premier his documentary Made in the USA: The 30 Day Journey.
Miller could have chosen the windy city of Chicago or the hip independent film community of New York City. In the end, Miller went with his instincts.
"I knew that it had to be in Jackson County and the Alpine Theater was the most logical choice," said Miller, who grew up a few miles away in Cottageville and graduated from Ravenswood High in 2003. He later attended West Virginia State College on a baseball scholarship.
The athletic centerfielder was chosen as a first team Division II All American his senior year for the Yellowjackets and locally, among the circle of baseball purists, is considered one of the Red Devils' best ever players. Miller had a reputation for diving into walls and playing with an overall controlled wreckless style.
"Here is a nice baseball-related scar," as he proudly pointed to his wrist, just a few inches away from the College World Series ring that still shines like a new penny.
Obviously, there is more to the man than baseball yesteryear. He was inspired to make the film after Century Aluminum closed in Ravenswood and he saw the effect on the community. Aluminum production began at the site in 1957. Century Aluminum eliminated the aluminum production operation in 2009 due to the low demand and over 650 jobs were eliminated in the blink of an eye.
Miller took his idea to the internet and through the web site www.indiegogo.com set a goal of five thousand dollars to be raised through donations to the project from various contributors.
"I knew that we were on to something special when our 30-day campaign ended. We had raised nearly fifteen thousand dollars," added Miller.
The documentary focuses on Miller as he travels the country using only USA made products to the best of the ability as he speaks with economists, politicians and business owners about jobs in America as they explore the rise and fall of USA made products.
Joining the road trip across America was Director/Producer Justin Moe and his father, Associate Producer Tony Moe. Director of Photography Philip Keller was also along for the 30-day journey.
Miller took a leave of absence from his job at the West Virginia State Treasurer's office without a guarantee that his position in records management would be waiting for him when he returned.
Miller's wife Lori was on board with the project and was encouraging.
"My wife sacrificed a lot for me to be able to make this a reality. Money was tight for a while."
Miller found that making appointments for interviews along the way required some creative scheduling but for the most part it was a smooth sailing from a planning perspective.
Page 2 of 2 - "There are a lot of side stories in this film. You find yourself bonding with the people that you meet and you find yourself appreciating their perspectives," said Miller.
Miller credits producer Ron Newcomb with making the project come to life. Newcomb was able to assist in putting together a talented crew of talent to bring the project to life.
The film takes no political slant. It deals with the facts and the real emotion of a country struggling with its own manufacturing identity.
The current Charleston resident hopes to take the film and transform it into a tour across America. There has been talk of this coming together but the creator is understandably tight lipped at this point about the possibilities.
Tyler Courts of Ripley is bankrolling the premier festivities at the historic Alpine Theater, which coincidentally is across the street from Courts' State Farm agency. Main Street Ripley has been a tremendous help to the premier's success.
"My parents (Mark and Sandy) and my family have always supported me in whatever I do. I can't thank them enough for all the times they have been there for me."
Alpine Theater manager Adam Stover thinks that the film is perfect for the intimate surroundings of the 110-seat venue.
"Josh could have had this premier in a much larger venue in a much larger city and he chose to have it here and I think that says a lot about him as a person and this community. I think it is very important for the premier to be here."
Jackson County reciprocated Miller's love for the area when the premier was officially sold out in less than two days.
With the dust Miller has stirred with the film, the talented and creative 28-year old has met many important people in the entertainment industry that could help to define his next project.
As Stover assisted with the hanging of the official movie posters outside the venue, Miller added one last thought about his future.
"I am always writing and working on something. I like to stay busy."
Spoken like a proud American.