Barney and Kate Miller have an intense and wonderful life story that began with a tragic accident. A new film, soon to be released, reveals the trials, tribulations and adventures they have experienced.
Back in 1998, at age 19, Barney Miller was involved in a car accident near Sawtell. At the time he was a promising surfer and the owner of a growing whitewater rafting business.
Miller was air lifted to hospital in Sydney and pronounced dead on arrival. Barney miraculously survived the fight for his life, only to be told he was a paraplegic and would probably never walk again.
Tell us about your connection to the Coffs Coast?
Barney – I moved to Sawtell with my mum when I was 11. She was the Vice Principal of Mary Help of Christians, ‘til she retired six years ago. So, Sawty has been my home for 26 years, and it will remain our home forever.
Kate – I grew up 10 hours south west in a little town called Cowra. The closest beach was a four and half hour drive, so every Easter we would have a family holiday in Coffs. I have always loved the ocean and the coastal culture, and it held many great childhood memories for me, so I decided to make the move when I was 17. I have now been here for nine years and have made Sawtell my home.
How did the journey of making the film begin?
Barney – Taylor and Lorenzo were film students from NYC (Taylor is a cousin of Barney’s friend) and approached me about doing their graduation project on me. They had heard about my quest for recovery and the results I was getting and wanted to tell my story. Initially it was meant to be a 15 min doco, but after they came out to Australia to get some interviews, the story kept growing.
Kate – We had just gotten engaged, and Barney’s goal was to stand at the altar and share our first dance, so with all the stories they were getting they decided it was too big for the uni project, but they wanted to document Barney’s journey to the wedding day as their first out of school project. It has since grown into something so much bigger than any of us expected, but we are so proud of it.
What is the storyline?
The movie is called You and Me. It’s a story of our life, our challenges and the power of love and friendship. When you surround yourself with people who challenge, inspire and support your vision, it gives you the courage to believe in yourself and push beyond any limitation that you or anybody else has placed upon you.
How long has it taken for the movie to grow from an idea into what people will see in the cinema?
It has been a four and a half year journey since the initial chats. We have all grown so much through this experience. The amazing thing too, is that every person who has been part of the process has become dear friends of ours and all share the same core values of what the film is about. So, it is really special.
The real turning point though, was when Michael Lawrence (producer of Bra Boys and AACTA award winning film Fighting Fear) and his company Garage Entertainment jumped on board and guided the film to what it is today. We really can’t talk highly enough of our team; they are just amazing. They have created something so beautiful, it will make you feel every emotion and take you on our roller coaster journey, but above all it’s raw and it’s real.
Barney, you and Mick Fanning have been great mates for ages. How has his training regime and mental toughness been a positive influence and inspiration to you?
The thing about Mick that really inspires me is his ability to draw success out of any situation. Seeing him come back to win three times world titles plus be in the running for two more after what was meant to be a career ending injury (torn hamstring off the bone), that is what pushes me. He is constantly challenging himself physically and mentally, so it’s been amazing to have him as a friend and mentor in my journey.
You have also been working with the renowned Ken Ware, from NeuroPhysics Training & Rehabilitation how is his approach?
Training with Ken has been a whole new experience. For the five years prior, I had been working on waking up my nervous system and regaining functional movement through repetitive exercises (much like the mobility phases of a baby) and focusing on activating each muscle; whereas, with Ken’s Neurophysics training and therapy, he is working at trying to get your brain to create new pathways. It’s very much more about putting your body in a vulnerable state so that the neurological system upgrades. I have learnt how to open up the system, let go and let my body do what it needs to do. The beauty of this type of therapy is that anybody can benefit from it. It’s not just a centre for spinal injuries, unlike the past centres I have worked out of, so I can draw inspiration from all types of people with totally different backgrounds and objectives.
I am lucky enough now that a good friend of mine, Clint Greenshields, also a local Sawty boy, has also been trained by Ken and is now opening his own Neurophysics Institute in Coffs Harbour out at Pacific Bay within the next few months. So it is nice to now have someone at home for me to train with after all the years of having to travel to do my therapy.
Can you tell us a bit about the Wings for Life World Run?
I am very passionate about my role as an Ambassador for this global event to raise awareness and funds for finding a cure for spinal injury.
Now in its third year, the Wings for Life World Run is a race like no other. Athletes in 34 locations worldwide will start the Wings for Life World Run at precisely the same time on May 8, 2016. Instead of a finish line, runners and wheelchair competitors – from beginners to elite athletes – race side by side to keep ahead of the Catcher Car. The Catcher Cars take off 30 minutes after the start at 15km/h and once the car passes you, you’re out. They then steadily increase its speed until the last two athletes in each location have been caught, but then you are also racing against everyone else in the world, so ultimately there is one person left running in the world. Last year’s winner ran 79.90 km with more than 100,000 participants registered for the event.
The Australian race will take place in Melbourne in Hawthorn East on 8 May, kicking off at 9pm, and Kate and I will be there again this year.
For keen runners who can’t make it to Melbourne, you can grab a friend and download the phone app and still race along with everyone, and it will tell you when the Catcher Car passes you.
Some of our friends did it last year in Sawtell and just ran laps around town ‘til the app told them the car had got them. One of them actually even came 2nd in the world in the Women’s for the app, which was awesome! It is an incredible event, and 100% of the registration fees goes to finding a cure.
The Barney Miller Classic has being running for a few years now. Can you tell us a bit about how it was started and what it’s like these days?
It was initially started by a friend of mine, Joel “Tubby” Bath for his HSC project when I first got injured, to help with costs. Every year since, I have donated the money to a different individual who has also suffered a spinal injury. It is now coming into its 17th year, and we have since raised approx. $100K for multiple recipients. Go Pro is now the major sponsor, along with Coca Cola, and they pay for the event itself. Then The Sawtell Hotel plus multiple surf brands and local businesses donate items and product for raffles and auction. The Sawtell Boardriders run the event, and everyone donates their time for that one weekend so that 100% of the proceeds go to the recipient.
This year’s contest will be held in August. (Dates to be confirmed.) It is something I am really proud of and grateful to have held in my name.
Kate, your performing career has taken off in leaps and bounds. What have been some of the highlights?
It has been an amazing learning experience, especially for exploring what type of artist I would like to be. I am grateful that I am surrounded by so many inspiring people and have the opportunity to do what I love. The biggest highlight so far though, was singing the American National Anthem at a Major League Baseball game in San Diego to 25,000 plus people. It was incredible!
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on my next album. We set up a little studio in our house, and I have been writing a lot. I just recorded some tracks for You and Me the movie and am so excited to see them part of it. We will be going back to California a few times during the year for me to get back to recording with my head producer, John Edney, too.
My first album was a big mix of genres, and each song represented a different stage through my life. It was more focused on soul searching; whereas, this album will be more collected and symbolise the person I have become and everything I have learnt and of course, my take on love. It will be a Pop R&B Soul focused album, with rhythmic beats and also emphasising power ballads.
You appear to be an effective team; how do you keep each other motivated and focused?
I think it’s because we both want to see each other succeed in anything we do. We are both huge believers in what we put out, we attract back in. We talk a lot about our goals and what is needed in order to achieve them. When you talk about it, you immediately become accountable, and it is also the first step to moving fowards. We just make it a priority to do what it takes to get there, and we’re always there to remind each other why we are doing it if it ever gets hard. (Which is always, because nothing worth having comes easy!) We also practice a lot of meditation and regularly use affirmations to keep us in the right headspace. The number one thing though, is finding gratitude in everything. Every morning and night we say five things that we are grateful for, and it’s amazing how powerful that alone is in creating a better relationship and life in general.
What was the highlight of making the film?
That we have been given an opportunity and a platform to share with people what is possible with love, self belief and dreaming big. But it is the people we have met and the friendships that we have formed along the way that has made this journey so special. It is pretty humbling to have a team of people who have dedicated the past few years of their lives to telling our story and being as passionate about it as we are.
Do you guys get to spend much time on the Coffs Coast these days?
The past year is the longest stint that we have been home in the past six years. We usually skip winter for the endless summer, but this year we skipped the usual Californian summer for Aussie winter. So it has been nice to be home and hang with our families and friends. Any time we can be home though, we will take it. We love it here.