Sharon Miller (writer)

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Sharon Miller (writer)
Born September 1956
Residence United Kingdon
Education University of Bristol
Occupation producer, writer, script editor, voice director
Years active 1982–present
Known for Thomas & Friends
Lily's Driftwood Bay
Bob the Builder

Sharon Fiona Miller (born September 1956) is a British television producer, writer and script editor who is best known for working on various works in drama, serials and children's television including the later series of Thomas & Friends which she is more specifically known for.

Education

Miller studied at the University of Bristol where she graduated with honors and received her bachelor's degree in English and Drama. It is also during this time that she became a fluent speaker in French and Spanish. She graduated with the goal of working in television.[1]

Career

Miller started her career as a director for television in 1982 working for the BBC. She directed several adult drama programs and worked with actors such as Bill Nighy, Bob Peck, John Sessions, Lynn Redgrave, Janet McTeer, Brena Blethyn and Sadie Frost. During her time as producer and director, Miller has worked on various British serials, drama and children's shows (which her main focus was making children's television) including her tenure at the BBC and ITV such as The Bill, Casualty, Dangerfield, All Good Things, Tracy Beaker, The Lodge, Play School, Pie in the Sky, Take Hart, Count Me In, Les Girls and Making News as well some American dramas including Madison Heights and Chicken Soup for the Soul and a German remake of Casualty called Notaufnahme. In 1990, Miller officially became a freelance director.

When asked about how to approach children's television, Miller has said, "Confidence, friendliness, fun, ease, spontaneity, relaxation and focus. The child at home – the audience – wants to enjoy being with the presenter, much in the way they would enjoy being with an older cousin. They want to be amused, entertained, engaged and informed. They sense stress or awkwardness – or any kind of overt effort to be kid-friendly." [2]

While working as a freelance director with the BBC directing various television serials and two drama specials, Miller also worked as a freelance writer on children's television shows including Bob the Builder, Magic Grandad, Dibo the Gift Dragon and Fun Song Factory. In 2004, Miller joined HIT Entertainment as a creative producer for Thomas & Friends.

2004 marked an important year in the history of Thomas & Friends. It was the eighth season and HIT Entertainment made drastic changes to the format and style of the show. Originally, the show was shot with the episodes being four to five minutes long with the classic theme song being played at the beginning and end. With these large changes, however, the show became geared more towards pre-school students than ever before. HIT Entertainment during its early years at the show decided to make interactive play segments in which Thomas and his friends are put in various situations and it is up the viewer to solve those problems. The show demonstrated more of a rhyming scheme and adopted a more simplistic writing style. The producers sacrificed the realism of the locomotives for a more kid-friendly environment. Many older fans of the show criticized this change of the show, making the so-called "new series" of Thomas & Friends a departure from the old style.

In 2005, Miller became the script editor for the show when it was in its ninth season. During the ninth season, she was also credited with writing five different episodes. Miller is also credited with writing a Thomas & Friends special starring Pierce Brosnan as the narrator called The Great Discovery which became the very last in the Thomas trilogy to have everything made from plastic figurine humans and live action models. This began a trend of 60-minute Thomas & Friends specials being released annually. When the series returned for a twelfth season, Brosnan was originally going to be the current narrator for both UK and USA audiences but left and the previous narrators Michael Angelis (UK narrator since 1991) and Michael Brandon (USA narrator since 2004) returned and kept working on Thomas until 2012 around the same time when Miller stepped down as writer and head writer.

In 2008, Miller became the head writer for the series and brought major changes as well as adopting a new role. In the show's twelfth season, major budget cuts and a need for the engines to be more expressive in their actions forced the production crew to eliminate the use of live-action models and instead utilize CGI animation technology. In the twelfth season, the live action models were used while the people and faces of the engines were completely CGI. It wasn’t until the thirteenth season in which the models were completely done away with and everything was CGI. Instead of using the single narrator of the show like the original series to provide the voices of the engines and the humans, they added a voice cast with each individual engine and human getting its own voice. Miller then adopted the role of voice director with the new cast changes as well as retained her title as head writer.

With her duty as head writer, Miller continued the tradition of writing annual 60-minute specials for the series. After The Great Discovery, Miller wrote four other specials (all four of them were animated by Vancouver based animation studio Nitrogen Studios) including Hero of the Rails, Misty Island Rescue, Day of the Diesels and Blue Mountain Mystery. All of these specials were also musicals, had several musical numbers as well as interactive learning segments and were narrated by Michael Angelis (UK version) and Michael Brandon (USA version). Apart from writing the specials, Miller also wrote over 80 episodes of Thomas & Friends during her tenure as head writer. Just like the new series, older fans of the show criticized Miller's writing style, saying that it made the show too child-like and unrealistic.

In 2011, Ben Small, the original voice actor of several characters on the show such as Thomas (UK), Toby (UK), Ferdinand (UK), Rheneas (UK), Owen (UK), the Troublesome Trucks (UK/USA), Flynn (UK/USA, season 13 only), Charlie (USA) and Stanley (USA) defended criticism centering around Miller which he has praised her for her writing and voice directing. Small later closed his YouTube channel after speaking about voicing his opinion on the decline of Season 15.

In 2010, Miller stepped down as head writer and was replaced by veteran animation writer Andrew Brenner (who has written stories of Thomas & Friends for several magazines at Marvel Comics and previously worked as script editor for Blue Mountain Mystery). Although she longer writes, she continued working on the show as voice director and has been doing the job since Misty Island Rescue taking over the previous voice director Dave Peacock.

Miller has also worked on Lily's Driftwood Bay, Wissper and Mike the Knight and is also a co-creator and showrunner of a new animated series in China.

Other works

Aside from working on Thomas & Friends Miller was also involved with The Children's Media Conference, a non-profit group designed to provide the best possible media for children living in the United Kingdom.[3] On top of being actively involved with this non-profit, Miller also has her own production company entitled Right on Track Ltd which she founded in 2003 and retains the title as director.[4] The headquarters are located in Middlesex, England.

When asked on the future of children's media and online content, Miller has stated "Working online is, above everything else, the way new presenters should go. It is so easy to write, record and upload yourself presenting a show. It is by far the best way to sell and introduce yourself. Producers will watch things on YouTube whereas they can let a DVD lie around for months if not years. Make your own show for the internet. It costs next to nothing and is the way all programming is going. Programs now are multi-platform. So to look to CITV, CBBC or other channels as the only route in is not to be where TV is now. Online there are a lot of possibilities – so the future is good." [2] 

References