Nate Milliner, Illustrator
Copyright 2016 - Checker Car Club of America
All Illustrations are the copyright of Nate Miller
Taxi Driver T-Shirt design is the copyright of Rotten Cotton
Editor's Note: Serendipity can be be a wonderful thing. While doing research on Checker Cabs in movies, the design of a "Taxi Driver" t-shirt popped up on my computer screen.
Photo courtesy rottencotton.com web site
A link to the Deviant Art web site allowed me to identify the artist, Nate Milliner, who designed the shirt. This led to an e-mail exchange that resulted in the following interview. Nate, by the way, is an accomplished illustrator from Louisville, Kentucky who has never, ever, been in a taxi.
If you like the t-shirt, it is available for sale on the Rotten Cotton web site.
George Laszlo, Editor
Q. How did this design come about?
A. It's been a long time since I did anything for Rotten Cotton. I didn't do too much for them but usually they would ask if I was interested in doing a tee shirt design and they'd either have a design in mind or would ask for me to design something. The Taxi Driver shirt came from my own suggestion. I noticed the Taxi Driver shirt they had was rather dull. There really weren't that many decent Taxi Driver shirts around for fans. Being my favorite film, that bummed me out. So I offered to design one for them if they would print tee shirts for my first film, "Girl Number Three." Yeah, normally I would never tell a company what they put out previously was not very good. But they kind of felt that way themselves. As for getting work, ever since landing the gig with Scream Factory doing blu ray covers, the high profile work has been a snowball effect in that work usually just comes my way. I never really seek out work. I've been pretty lucky that it comes to me.
Q. How would you describe the type of art you create and what led you to doing it?
A. I would define my art as illustration. Mostly commercial. I am best known in the horror art world. I have designed nearly 50 blu ray covers for films like Halloween 2-8, The Exterminator, The Howling, Day of the Dead, Motel Hell, The Crow, Shocker, Village of the Damned and Sleepaway Camp 1-3. Countless tee shirts, books covers, magazine covers, action figure packaging artwork, etc. I'm also a writer/director of independent films. I have been drawing since I was five years old and it was all I ever wanted to do. As a teen I really took an interest in comic books and that was kind of the focus of my study in art for a good 20 years. I ended up publishing about 15 comic books before falling into the horror movie industry. Q. Why is Taxi Driver your favorite movie?
A. Apart from it being just a masterpiece of filmmaking from three amazing talents coming together like the perfect storm--Scorsese, Schrader and DeNiro--I think in a scary kind of way, I related to the film. The film is very much about loneliness and when I was a young man like Travis, I was very backwards, introverted, angry at the world and very alone. I wanted to fit in but felt I just didn't. I recognized myself in Travis. As frightening as that seems. Now I was not homicidal or racist or any of the really bad things he was, but I related to that alienation that Travis felt. That isolation that inspired Schrader to write the film. It is the kind of film I hope to some day even come close to making. The character development. The slow burn. The tension. It is just masterful. When you see Taxi Driver, it hits you like a punch to the gut. I've also have this weird personal connection that could be called fishing for a connection but Travis keeps his journal in the film and the date of his first entry is May 10th. My birthday. Not only is May 10th my birthday but the film was released the year I was born, 1976. It's almost as if the film begins on the day I was born.
Q. How does the work you do commercially differ from the work that you would just do for yourself? A. The work I do professionally requires very strict craftsmanship. It has to be a certain way or to the expectations of the client. When I draw for me, I usually like to drop the precision and be free. A lot looser. I rarely get to draw for myself. I also prefer to work in black and white and commercial art requires me to always use color which I don't truly enjoy as much. So when I do work for me, it is always just black and white drawings.
Q. Can you give/show examples of your favorite work and explain why?
A. Not sure I have any favorites to narrow down to. There are the black and white drawing of Travis Bickle that I like. A lot of negative space used. Deciding what not to draw.
Same on The Crow portrait.
The Reservoir Dogs poster as it is my second favorite film. I like the Friday the 13th Part 4 poster as I chose to turn the camera on Jason in his famous kills that were not shown on screen. My tribute to Gunnar Hansen the day he died. The Jason Lives screen print as it was black and white on grey paper. The Jaws cover as it is one of my favorite films. The Kylo Ren drawing--one of my latest. And the Never Sleep Again book cover as A Nightmare On Elm Street is my favorite horror film and getting to homage Wes Craven's film like that was a dream come true.
Reservoir Dogs Poster
Friday the 13th Poster
Gunnar Hansen Tribute
Jason Live Screen Print
Never Sleep Again Book Cover
Q. What’s the transition to film from static art like? Do you see more of the former in your future?
A. The transition to film was kind of inevitable. Since I was little, movies have been a major influence on me. Movies inspired me more than anything. I grew up in that Spielberg/Lucas era with Star Wars and Indiana Jones. While I took an interest in drawing comics it was actually the 1989 Batman film that caused that. So it was always about film for me. I became a serious film fanatic in college. I think comics really helped me transition to film fairly easily. While the two formats are very different they are very much the same. It is all about visual storytelling. Sequential storytelling. As a comic book creator I was the writer, director, actor, casting agent, cinematographer, editor, costume designer, art director, effects and make-up artist, lighting department and so on. I will definitely be making more films. I am about to shoot my fifth film this March and planning on another feature film this Fall.
Nate Milliner, Illustrator
Q. Have you ever seen or been in a Checker car/taxi? If so, have they had any visceral impact on you?
A. Ya know I have NEVER been in a taxi. I have never been to New York either. Living in Louisville, I never really needed a taxi. I mean, we have them--it's a fairly large city but living in suburbia I always had a car. And I haven't really travelled to places where I wasn't with my car. If I am ever flown in to be a guest somewhere, someone working for the promoter usually picks me up at the airport. I don't think I have ever even seen a checker taxi. But I would certainly geek out if I ever did. I think it would be really surreal to see one. With my love for this film.