Student short film draws from real life

By Elizabeth Kanzeg

For Paul Miller, a senior majoring in broadcasting, digital media and journalism, writing and directing a short film for his senior capstone project has been a passionate and personal experience. 

Miller wrote his film, titled “SSHL,” in the summer of 2022, during a period of great loneliness in his life. It follows the story of Tim, a college student who experiences Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL). Tim struggles to navigate friendships and relationships in his new soundless reality. 

Miller drew inspiration for Tim’s experiences from his own emotional wrestling. 

He said, “This summer, I’ll be completely honest, I did struggle a lot with loneliness.” Miller worked in Cedarville, Ohio, a 9-hour drive from his close-knit family in Iowa. He went for months without seeing them. In the film, Tim feels isolated and hopeless, unable to connect with those around him. “I wanted to call attention to the things we take for granted in life,” said Miller. 

In one scene, Tim’s sister uses sign language to say “I love you” during a facetime call in a busy room. Miller explained that this scene was taken directly from his life. “That was actually something my mom did for me one time while I was on the phone with her,” he said. “I’m a mama’s boy for sure.” 

Paul Miller in his director’s hat.

Miller was reunited with his family when they came to campus in October, spending a weekend helping him with the filmmaking process. His mom blocked traffic while his dad held the boom mike. Even his little sister got a job holding the slate card. “It was great. They got to see me in action!” 

The film’s star, Cade Moses, also used his personal life to inform his performance. “I used to be really sick when I was younger and I couldn’t do a lot of normal things,” he said. “In Tim’s case, you know, he can’t hear and he can’t do things normally anymore. I can relate in some way.”

Moses hopes “SSHL” will inspire people to grateful for what God has given them. “Being able to hear, that’s something we take for granted. It’s really a blessing just to be able to hear.” 

After working tirelessly to bring his vision into reality, Miller is excited to show the film to audiences. “The beauty of filmmaking is when someone can tell a story and it’s going to mean something completely different to someone else and they can still appreciate it for what it is,” he said. 

Miller gives all the glory to God. He believes God used his season of loneliness to prepare him to write genuine emotion into the film’s script. “There is still beauty in life, even through the trial, even through the struggle. God is taking everything and making it beautiful.”

“SSHL” will premiere on December 11 at 7:30 in the Devries Theatre. The event is open to the public, and a talkback with the producer and lead actor will occur afterward. 

Elizabeth Kanzeg is a Professional Writing and Information Design Major from Columbus, Ohio. She is a fanatic tea drinker who enjoys live theatre and gossiping with her sister. 

Images courtesy of Elizabeth Kanzeg and Dawson Strong.

2 Replies to "Student short film draws from real life"

  • comment-avatar
    Tom T November 30, 2022 (5:16 pm)

    Good luck Paul sounds interesting!

  • comment-avatar
    Gary Gross November 30, 2022 (11:46 pm)

    In 2018 I was blindsided by SSHL, misdiagnosed by an ER doctor and then a primary care physician, and lost the chance to find out if a correct diagnosis and treatment could have saved more of my hearing. I’m interested in seeing the film, and know all too well that hearing is something that we all take for granted until it is lost or impaired. SSHL usually only affects one ear, as happened with me, and I still have all my hearing in one ear, and about 50% in the affected ear. So, my hearing loss could have been worse.

    Please let me know how I might view the film. I think it might be helpful for my friends and/or family to have more insight into the isolation I now experience. Thanks for doing this project, and I hope it provides insight to those who don’t understand or realize how much our hearing impacts so many facets of our world.

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