Interview with Logan and Noah Miller of “Touching Home”
16 Jul, 2012
Logan and Noah Miller discuss with Dig In Magazine their roles as actors and filmmakers in the California Film Institute’s film, Touching Home, starring Ed Harris. The Miller Brothers, identical twins, are also the authors of the national best selling book, Either You’re In or You’re In The Way.
Logan and Noah Miller are identical twins who grew up in Northern California’s Marin County region. Before their father passed away homeless and in a jail cell, they made a promise to him that they would make a film and tell the story of their lives. The Miller Brothers are the authors of the national best selling book, Either You’re In or You’re In The Way, and their film, “Touching Home,” which premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival in April 2008, and played at various film festivals throughout the nation, was released by the California Film Institute in May of 2010. The Miller Brothers, who write, act, direct and produce, are committed to developing “quality family entertainment that inspires the imagination.” Dig In Magazine took part in the film’s opening weekend in San Rafael, CA.
Find out more about the California Film Institute’s newest theatrical release, Touching Home!
Dig In Magazine: Logan and Noah Miller are the authors of the book, Either You’re In or You’re In The Way, and their film, Touching Home, premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival in April 2008. Dig In Magazine was there during the opening weekend of the California Film Institute’s release of the film. First of all, I just want to say congratulations to you two on the success of your book and your movie. It was very inspirational! And the first thing I want to ask you Miller Brothers is how long did it take you to write the book and make the film?
The Miller Brothers: To make the film it took almost two years…from pre-production through to the final cut.
Noah Miller: And the book, the book didn’t take that long…probably wrote the book, first draft, in like three months. And of course you edit it…once you turn in the manuscript you edit it and edit it.
Logan Miller: So, the total process including editing and revisions and everything…probably nine months to a year.
DIM: How much did the movie cost to make? And how did you raise the funds for the film?
NM: The movie cost around two million.
LM: And we raised the financing by printing up a bunch of business plans and just started handing them out to everybody that we knew. And the business plan made it’s way from a guy named Pete Deterding to a guy named Curtis Rapton to the hands of Brian Vail. And Brian sent us an email and said “Are you still looking for money?” and we said “yes.” And we got into a series of negotiations and he ended up underwriting about 97% of the movie and then…Lance Logan also contributed.
DIM: How did you get distribution?
LM: Well, we played at film festivals for about a year…year and a half. And then, we had met with a few distributors…[we] thought that our movie was going to be like any other movie that they were going to be distributing. So, we were talking with Mark Fishcan who runs CFI [California Film Institute]…we were having lunch one day and he had said that they were trying to get into distribution and we said “well we think that you guys would be sort of the perfect fit for our movie.” And so, we needed a distributor and they we getting into distribution so…
DIM: So, it all worked out from there. Great! And where was the film made?
LM: The film was shot in all of West Marin [California].
NM: And three days in Tucson [Arizona].
DIM: How did you meet Ed Harris, who played the role of your father in the film? And what made you decide that he was the right actor for that role?
LM: So, our dad knew about the script and he used to always ask us “when you guys gonna make our movie?” and we’d always say “we’re gonna make it soon.” And we visited him in jail shortly before he passed away…and he said “who’s gonna play me? He’s gotta be good lookin’!” And we said “Oh yeah, we’re gonna get Ed Harris to play you.” It was just a joke at that point. And then our dad passed away shortly after that and we just made a vow that we were going to tell the story. And we received a Panavision New Filmmaker Grant and went and shot this little two minute trailer. And then, we read in the San Francisco Chronicle that Ed Harris was coming to the Castro Theatre and that he was going to be doing an interview on stage. And so, we went there with our laptop that had the trailer on it, with our script in a manila envelope and we ended up sneaking backstage after the interview, and then, actually making our way into the alley and showing Ed the trailer in the alley. Then, he took the script and he called us nine days later.
DIM: I understand that you both have been writing screenplays for awhile. What other screenplays did you write before this film? And is this the first one that was turned into a film?
NM: Yeah, this is the first screenplay that was turned into a film. We have thirteen other screenplays.
LM: This was the first one that we wrote and also it was the first one that was made.
DIM: Were you trained in film, i.e. acting, directing, producing and screenwriting? And if so, where were you trained?
NM: We trained ourselves.
LM: Yeah, in our apartment.
DIM: Just like reading books?
LM: We read hundreds of books…just educating ourselves on the process. And watched many, many, many movies. And when you’re interested in something you start to study it with a certain intensity. And it was just like when we’d play baseball you know…you’d get up each day and you work at your craft. So, we just applied that same work ethic to screenwriting and making movies.
DIM: And that brings me to my next question, so let me ask you this, if training for baseball was an analogy for life and your work ethic, how would you say that it helped you or transferred over to your newer role as screenwriters and filmmakers? Can you talk a little about your motivators and your work ethic during the screenwriting and movie making process?
NM: Sure. In baseball, you work everyday to get to…let’s say your goal [is] the major leagues…so you wake up everyday and say “what do I need to do to get to the big leagues?” And the older you get, you have games every single day. You’d be lucky if you have a day off in a month. And so that rigor or that sort of demanding of a schedule translates…we said okay, we’re going to take the same template that we used for baseball and apply that to writing. So, we’re going to read and write like we played baseball everyday and lifted weights and sprinted and did all [of] the auxiliary exercises that helped me be a better hitter or a better pitcher. You know, we took the same idea and applied it to writing. So, we’d get up everyday and we’d write and then we’d read as widely and as broadly as we could everyday until our eyes got so tired that we couldn’t read. I mean, that’s how we’ve done it for many, many, many years.
DIM: Would you say that it [baseball] brought you through some of the hard times like [the] struggles with your father…your focus on baseball and striving for success?
LM: For sure, that was like our outlet. When we played baseball that was like a release….[we] focused all our energy on that. You know, I think whenever you have a goal that you can focus on, it helps push away all of the other noise in your life.
DIM: How was it working on a screenplay together? Did you bounce a lot of ideas off one another? How does it work?
The Miller Brothers: Yes, that’s pretty much what we do.
DIM: Because I hear [that] you guys have one computer…one person types…
NM: Yes, he types, I write freehand…Writing a book is a little different than writing a screenplay. [With] a screenplay, you’re mostly talking through it and it gets put down in spurts. Same with writing a book, but we’ll separate for a couple hours and I’ll write and he’ll type and [then], we’ll come together.
DIM: What was the hardest part about making the movie?
NM: My answer to that is that there’s no easy parts.
DIM: Was it therapeutic to make the movie?
LM: Yeah, making the movie was very therapeutic. It allowed us to say goodbye to our father and express a lot of pain…a lot of frustration that we had had. It helped us kind of move on. Yeah, it was very therapeutic.
DIM: How true were each of your characters in the film to who you are and how you interact with one another in real life? So, like do you guys argue as much in real life as you do in the film?
LM: It all depends on the day!
NM: We argue all the time.
LM: I’d like to think that the characters…their temperaments are very true to who we are. I think that hopefully we’ve sort of evolved since then…since when the time of the movie takes place. But I tend to be a little more reserved and a little more shy and he tends to be…
NM: But you couldn’t tell from this interview! [Laugh]
DIM: What types of films would you like to make…[are] there some in the vault?
NM: Family entertainment.
LM: …Movies that you could take the whole family to. Ideally we have a company up here in Northern California…
NM: But not dumbed down. I think there’s sort of a hole in the marketplace right now…Pixar comes out with an amazing product every year, but after that a lot of the family movies are dumbed down. Like when we were growing up…
LM: When we were growing up we had ET, Goonies, you had Raiders of the Lost Ark…
LM: Movies that parents appreciated, as well as the kids.
NM: John Hughes, you know…Home Alone. You could watch Home Alone as a ninety year old or [as] a nine year old and it is equally entertaining. So, I think we’d like to make those types of movies. So, quality family entertainment that inspires the imagination.
DIM: And what role(s) would you like to play in your next film projects…would you also like to act in [them] or do the behind the scenes types of things like directing, producing and writing?
NM: There’s nothing we’ve written to this point…that we would act in.
LM: And we don’t need to necessarily direct everything that we’ve written. But we really love directing. We love writing.
NM: It would be nice to partner on some projects…maybe get some director we really like and would enjoy working with…sort of partner with them and oversee the whole project. Producing in that aspect would be a lot of fun.
DIM: So, if you could work with anyone in the film industry who would it be?
NM: There are a few people that we would like to work with.
LM: [Would] love to work with Will Smith.
NM: I think, I mean, I haven’t met the guy…you never know when you meet these people…it could be a nightmare! …But yes, Will Smith, Steve Carell…I think he’s very, very funny. Chris Columbus…he’s a local director…[I'd] love to work with him.
LM: We’d love to work with Ed Harris again. Ed was awesome!
NM: Who else? That’s a good question!
LM: That is a good question.
NM: There [are] so many talented people!
LM: And I’m sure there’s somebody that we’ve thought of several months ago that we would think of again, but just off the top of our head[s]…
NM: …Everyone at Skywalker. And pretty much most of the people on our crew. I’d love to work with them again…Everyone out at Skywalker.
LM: Skywalker Ranch.
NM: They’re the best group of people in the world! I’d love to work with them.
DIM: What advice can you give to young, aspiring filmmakers?
NM: Just go out and do it!
NM: It’s pretty simple.
LM: Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. You’ll figure it all out. But if you don’t attempt…if you don’t go after it, you won’t give yourself the opportunity to figure things out.
NM: Go out and do it, and don’t let anybody tell you [that] you can’t!