BRIDGEWATER — Working nights at a hotel, Royce Miller can often find himself with a little extra time on his hands.
So during slow hours on the job, he picked up a subscription to DC Universe, an online streaming service that provides viewers with content from the DC Comics stable of animated series, select movies and television shows and digital versions of DC Comics.
That subscription has led him down the path to becoming a finalist in a contest that will see a concept he developed turned into a pilot for a potential DC Universe series.
“I’m a night auditor, and there are a lot of slow, quiet nights,” Miller, of Bridgewater, said in a recent interview with the Daily Republic. “So I got into DC Universe because it was a way to watch the Batman animated series at work and it was only 7 bucks a month.”
Miller enjoyed the service, but was especially taken with the announcement of a contest put on by Ideas United and DC Universe. The contest offered fans a chance to pitch an original non-narrative unscripted idea for a show, with the winner having their idea turned into a series for the streaming service.
“We asked fans around the country to submit their original concepts that deliver authentic fan voices that are not only innovative and interesting, but leave audiences wanting more,” the streaming service said on its website. “From game shows to game play, from hot takes to hot food, and from hero appreciation to personal tales of heroic triumph, DC Universe is on the hunt for inspiring shows inspired by the world of DC.”
Miller, 26, was intrigued.
“One day about mid-October I was perusing for something to watch, and noticed they have this contest you can enter,” Miller said. “I’m a wannabe writer, so I submitted my idea.”
Miller crafted his pitch and sent it in. The idea revolved around eight teams of participants who take on roles as henchpersons to Gotham City’s most notorious criminal rogues. Their goal is to escape the dreaded Arkham Asylum and its new warden. The show would involve mazes, puzzles and traps that contestants would need to navigate.
“I’m not too familiar with reality television shows, but I watched a little Storage Wars in high school and liked game shows as a kid,” Miller said. “And I always liked Batman’s rogue’s gallery. I grew up with the cartoon, and it felt like a natural progression.”
He enjoyed the creative process, but didn’t necessarily expect his idea to go far.
“I didn’t think I had much of a chance because I thought there were going to be a lot of (entries),” Miller said.
But his concept impressed the powers that be at Ideas United and DC Universe, and he soon found his idea making its way up the ladder.
“About a month or two later I got an email that said I got into the top 25. Another few weeks later I was told during a video chat that I made it into the top 10,” Miller said.
His idea is now down to the final three, which means his pitch will be turned into a pilot show for DC Universe. Making it this far already qualifies Miller for $5,000 in prize money and an associate producer credit on the pilot. He has been in regular contact with other creatives at DC Universe and Ideas United helping to develop his ideas into a workable idea for streaming.
The next step is filming the pilot itself, something Miller will be invited to take part in as a consultant, provided the recent outbreak of COVID-19 doesn’t derail those plans like it has so many other events and gatherings around the country.
“I’m supposed to come down at the end of March for filming. But of course, I’ve been waiting all my life and it happens to coincide with a plague,” Miller said. “But I haven’t heard anything different. These guys are full steam ahead and very invested in all three projects.”
The other finalists include Molly Brady, of Los Angeles, California, who pitched the idea of three cosplayers who show off their craft and creativity as they compete for honor, glory, cash and prizes, and Elora Powell, of Tigard, Oregon, who pitched an idea of comic book fans traveling to beloved comic book stores in local neighborhoods to investigate how these shops provide inclusive, fun communities for geeks in real life.
He believes the pilot, which will be available to view on DC Universe, may come out in June. He said he knows it will be difficult to top the other two finalists still in competition, but he is already relishing his time as a creator working with characters he loves and a receptive audience in his new creative partners at Ideas United and DC Universe.
He realized that on a recent trip to Burbank, California, to meet with contest organizers.
“As far as I’m concerned, I won the second I got off the plane in Burbank. The people were so nice and so fun, the food was amazing and the company was spectacular,” Miller said. “I’m very introverted, I don’t really like talking to people. But I felt more comfortable with them than I have around anyone else in my entire life.”
Whether or not his pilot is selected for a full series on DC Universe, he said his experience has sparked a renewed interest in coming up with interesting concepts. This may be just the beginning, he said.
“It’s been my dream to have my own cartoon show. I actually have been working on an idea for the past couple of years since I was in middle school, but only in the last four years came up with an idea that I very much liked and tried to fine tune it,” Miller said. “I hope this will be a stepping stone and people see that this kid could be worth investing in.”