After seven years producing major live events in the Middle East, Rachel Millar left for film school in the Big Apple and is now developing an unscripted true crime series and an LGBTQ+ short film.
MA Philosophy and English Literature
|Year of graduation||2011|
Your time at the University
I grew up loving storytelling and was intrigued by the fact that writers always seemed to be able to read my mind and articulate thoughts that I found difficult to express myself.
I was exposed to a variety of social backgrounds, and would often reflect on the differences in how people would interact and the conversations they would have. I would confuse myself between believing that everyone is inherently the same, and yet at the same, so different. Literature teaches us that it is how we become different – the process of that – and that’s so fascinating - that insight to perspective. I feel that being able to understand those things allowed me to find a middle ground with people who are different from me later on in life – which was essential for me, as I ended up working in a country that has some stark cultural differences.
When I reflect back at my time at Edinburgh, there are two things to think about - my academic study, and growing up. Edinburgh really opened up my eyes to the world and got me excited to explore. I choreographed and danced in the University Fashion Show three times and was part of the contemporary dance group, which was a community I was so grateful for. It was a tough choice for me to decide between going to dance school in London or studying at Edinburgh - so I am so grateful that I had the ability to still dance at the level I wanted to. Being at Edinburgh allowed me to mix in various social environments of all backgrounds and intellects, which I think was probably a foreshadowing of living my life abroad and working in a mix of cultures after university.
Edinburgh was also the catalyst for my travel bug, from hearing about people’s gap years and travel experiences. Every summer I travelled somewhere completely new, alone, and random, from teaching English in the Cook Islands, to selling books door to door in Colorado, to working in Real Estate in Dubai - which ended up becoming the city I ended up living and working in for seven years.
Your experiences since leaving the University
After graduating I moved to Dubai with no real plan or idea of what was next - I had some distant family there that, thankfully, gave me a roof over my head and supported me in looking for a job. Looking back, it was a crazy risk – but somehow, things fell into place.
I managed to get an internship with an events agency, begging them to give me a chance after they rejected my application due to lack of experience. A few months later, I was heading up a prestigious hospitality event at The Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, hosting the likes of the Ferrari and Lotus drivers, and global celebrities.
Over the next seven years, I had some incredible events under my belt, such as the Dubai World Cup Opening Ceremony with Cirque Du Soleil, Expo Milan 2015, Beach Polo Tournaments in Dubai and South Africa, and major exhibitions while working at Dubai World Trade Centre such as Dubai Boat Show and Dubai Motor Show.
My work would take me to some unusual places sometimes – for one event, we were launching an Oil Refinery 10km from Saudi Arabia in the middle of nowhere, and I found myself living in a town they had built there for its 20,000 employees.
Living in the Middle East was an incredible education for me and it was very special to be a part of a country that is not even 50 years old – to almost ‘grow up’ with it was very special. I was able to travel to many countries during my life there, as both East and West were literally on my doorstep and the world became a very accessible place.
After my seven years in the sand, I moved to New York City to study tv and film producing at New York Film Academy. New York City inspired me and brought out a new creative flare within me. I wanted a new adventure and to challenge my brain in a different way. Since graduating I have been working in development for an unscripted true crime series and a short film, ‘Luka’ which follows a young, gay Russian man who flees to New York, after being abused and disowned by his family – only to arrive to a new challenge – immigration. Speaking to the homophobia of Putin’s Russia and Trump’s harsh immigration policies in the US, the film is a harrowing and inspirational story about the cost of global LGBTQ+ persecution and xenophobia.
New York City inspired me and brought out a new creative flare within me. I wanted a new adventure and to challenge my brain in a different way.
Remind yourself from time to time how many major transformative things you are coping with – and be kind to yourself about that. It’s easy to beat yourself up if you don’t get a good grade, but you are also growing up and figuring your life out. Engage with the community – it will help. Maintain your friendships – the world is a small place now, and you will be surprised at who pops up in your life years later that may be able to help you with a job, or move to a new city, or advice. Get your degree, but don’t forget all of the other social and life skills at the same time. They are just as important. Trial and error is completely acceptable. Go to the castle every now and then, or walk up Arthur’s Seat – remind yourself what a magical city you are in. At the end of the day, it’s a privilege to study at Edinburgh!