“I wanted to make something that truly reflects the wonders of SST.”

And after spending three months abroad, third-year film production major, Eric Miller, did just that after being inspired to create a two-part documentary conveying his memorable trip to Ecuador.

“I remember before embarking on this journey, I knew next to nothing about what you actually do on SST,” Miller said. “There were some videos, but it’s mostly just people talking about it, rather than showing it.” 

Titled ‘El Refugio de Ecuador’, Miller’s first documentary captures the chaos that ensued as the coronavirus swept across the globe. 

The third act of this film displays Miller’s group attempting to escape the country in mid-March while more than 2,000 U.S. citizens were trying to do the same.

The students were forced to return to the capital, hunker down at a camp while their leader found them tickets, and escape on planes. 

Translated to, “The Refuge,” El Refugio was purposefully named after the retreat camp that the group stayed at for a week before they were finally able to escape Ecuador, and Miller wanted to tie that theme of refuge into the documentary.

“It’s a rare look into the chaos of that entire week,” says Miller.

The film also gives viewers a week-by-week look at exactly what Miller’s SST group did and features interviews from students while they were still in Ecuador.

Viewers get to see the whereabouts of Miller’s group, students explaining their host family dynamic and an insight on their service. 

Miller shines light on the culture shock that took place when returning to the U.S. in his second documentary, ‘Global Citizens: Returning to a New World.’

“I was inspired to create my second documentary over the summer, when all of us were going through SST withdrawal,” Miller said. “I wanted to make a film about what happens to students after they return from a three month study abroad trip while also dealing with a global pandemic. It’s such a fascinating topic that’s just as important as the actual trip.”

Miller took the time to sit down with students and faculty to talk about what they did in quarantine, and how they readjusted to a different United States than the one they had left in January. 

They also discussed the challenges of returning to school and getting reacquainted with that setting.

Lastly, the group takes a look into how Ecuador has been doing since the pandemic started.

Miller has recently submitted his first documentary, ‘El Refugio de Ecuador’ into the BEA Festival of Arts, a digital media competition for broadcast/communication students.

However, Miller believes the sequel could still use some work.

“I have not yet submitted my follow up, ‘Global Citizens: Returning to a New World.’ It’s still quite new, and I may want to polish a thing or two still,” Miller said.

Miller will be taking a long break from documentary filmmaking, but still has other projects planned.

“Making two 40 minute documentaries within one year is quite exhausting. That doesn’t mean I’m slowing down making movies,” He said. “I still plan on doing a scripted short film project this spring, but I won’t get into that right now.”

Both films have been made available on Youtube and the SST website.

“I want both of these documentaries to be sort of time capsules. I want them to serve as entertaining nostalgia for people in my group, and serve as informative stories to those thinking about going on SST,” Miller said.