The film community in Lane County has a young new contender. Miles Dixon, a 19-year-old who graduated early from Churchill High School in 2018, won Best Editing at the virtual All American High School Film Festival in early October for his short film The Days are Just Packed and was nominated for three other awards, Best Screenplay, Best Direction and Best Overall.
Dixon’s 10-minute film follows the story of a socially awkward high-schooler who, when faced with the daunting realization that his family is moving to Michigan, attempts to capture on video one last summer in Eugene with his best friend.
The film is partly based on a real life experience; during his sophomore year, Dixon’s best friend told him he was moving across the country. It was the first moment, Dixon says, that he realized, “Time is passing. Things don’t stay the same forever.”
The film is hilarious and tender, carried by the anxious narration of the main character Xander, played by Christian Broeker, a senior at Sheldon High School. The best friend, Toby, who is seemingly oblivious to the duo’s looming expiration date, is played by Keshawn Abraham, Dixon’s real life roommate.
“I was really lucky to work with the most patient people on the planet,” Dixon says. “We had to figure it out as we went along.”
The Days Are Just Packed was shot over the course of six weeks during summer 2019, using mostly borrowed equipment. Dixon’s friend Nik Gradisnik, whom he met at a New York Film Academy summer camp, flew all the way from Slovenia to complete the project. Although the pair initially planned on creating a full feature-length film, time and budget constraints led to them making a short instead.
Despite the ambition of his work, Dixon became interested in creating films only in the last two years. He grew up watching movies every evening after school with his father, and at age 17 watched Fruitvale Station, a film based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young man in Oakland killed by a BART police officer in 2009. “It made me cry, and made me really think about this idea of telling a story,” he says.
From then on, Dixon started working on short documentaries, one of which posed the question, “Is college worth it?” by interviewing local high school and University of Oregon students. The documentary was never published, and the central question is still unanswered for Dixon, who has no concrete plans to pursue higher education for his filmmaking.
For now, Dixon is using his free time to fine tune his writing skills and has a script in the works for a future film. He says his completion of The Days are Just Packed, and its success at the All American High School Film Festival, has inspired him to continue creating.
“There was a moment right before I started [the film] that I almost quit, and I’m so glad I didn’t,” Dixon says. “I think the freedom in being a young filmmaker is that the stakes are low, and there’s so much room to grow.”
The full list of AAHSFF winners and nominees is available at the film fest’s website, HSFilmfest.com, and The Days are Just Packed is free to watch at Collab.Sundance.org.