Jay Miles spends his days teaching kids at East Haven High School how to make videos. For the past two years, he has spent his “nights, weekends and snow days” writing a video how-to book -- just released this week -- for the rest of us.
Miles, 41, has been head of the school’s Technical Education/Media Department since 2008. He came to East Haven, where he now resides, by way of New York City and Hollywood. Given his strong professional background, he reworked the program’s course offerings to reflect his experience, then looked around for other ways to use his expertise.
“I thought it would be amazing if teachers could have a written guide to help them become more comfortable filming video for use in the classroom,” he said. He said he approached a publisher he knew with the idea, but it was turned down. What the publisher wanted was something much bigger; a how-to book that could be used by everyone, not just teachers, he said.
“Conquering YouTube: 101 Pro Video Tips to Take You to the Top” was the result. Miles' book will hit cyber-shelves this week. On April 12, the teacher/author is to do a book signing at Barnes & Noble in North Haven.
Learning the ropes
When Miles graduated from the University of Virginia in 1992, he took his degree in technical theater to New York City with its vibrant music and coffee-bar scene. A drummer, he joined bands and played the club circuit.
Meanwhile, he said, friends from New Haven were urging him to move out their way.
“(They) kept telling me I ought to come out here to live,” he said. “I’d say, ‘I live in Manhattan, why would I want to go to Connecticut?’ Then one autumn day I didn’t have anything to do, so I jumped on a train and came out. That did it.”
Then he turned 30 and said he decided to get a graduate degree. He left New Haven for upstate New York, where he eventually earned a master’s in TV, radio and film at Syracuse University. By now it was 2002, and Miles' eyes were on Los Angeles with its dozens of TV and movie jobs.
Once in California, he said he worked on commercials for companies like Honda; became an assistant director on movie sets and TV programs such as “Dancing with the Stars;” wrote a screenplay; and formed valuable relationships within the industry.
Three years later, in 2005, things started to fall apart.
“Over the course of two months, several of the series I’d worked on shut down. A number of friends left town. Two or three bands I played with broke up. And (my) screenplay didn’t get produced. It was clearly time for me to leave and I felt pulled back to the New Haven area,” Miles said.
He became a field producer for HGTV, traveling around New England with a cameraman filming segments for a show called “I Want That!” About this time, he also began his teaching career as a part-time instructor at Gibbs College in Norwalk.
East Haven High School
“A friend called me one day to tell me about this amazing job East Haven High School had offered him. He couldn’t accept it, but had given the school my name. I was surprised when they called but, eventually, I turned down a job teaching at Southern for this,” said Miles.
“As soon as I walked into the (high school) studio, I was intrigued by the potential for the program,” he said. “The equipment here is really special. I have guys who visit schools throughout the state tell me that this is the about the best they’ve seen.”
With the "really special" equipment, Miles teaches students how to create websites, flash animation and basic audio and video. Since every student must take one technology class as a graduation requirement, the video and media department is a busy place.
“This age group is bombarded with information from various media sources," said Miles. "The vision I have of my job as their teacher is to empower them, to teach them good critical thinking skills that will allow them to intelligently manage that flow of information."
Miles thinks video technology has unlimited potential not only for communication but also for teaching.
“Right now, you can find 100 videos online to teach you how to play the guitar," he said. "Imagine the impact that is having as more and more people learn from the internet. Kids in Alaska can learn to surf, even if they’ve never seen an ocean.
“Internet-based media is changing the world. Look at the impact Facebook is having carrying messages around the Middle East. Look at that woman in California who found her family alive after the earthquake in Japan when she saw them on an internet news video. We’re just beginning to see the potential reach of this technology."
Barnes & Noble Booksellers at 470 Universal Drive in North Haven will host a book-signing by author Jay Miles on April 12 at 6 p.m.