For Noah and Logan Miller, the dream was always baseball. The identical twins grew up in Fairfax, Forest Knolls and the redwoods of Lagunitas, spending their early years shuttling between their mother’s one-bedroom home they called “the Shack” and the corrugated aluminum shed where their alcoholic father, Daniel, lived before becoming homeless for the last 15 years of his life. They knew they weren’t going to get anywhere through privilege or relying on other people. Baseball was their ticket out of a life otherwise limited to pounding nails like their dad.
After graduating from Drake High School, the twins chased their baseball dreams. But success never came. Logan made it to the minors, but was released. Noah played college ball, but flunked out. No team picked them up at the annual tryouts in Arizona. The dream died and they had no contingency plan.
A friend offered his apartment in Los Angeles for a few weeks so they could sort out their lives. With a couple hundred dollars, baseball gear and a few pairs of jeans, they headed to Hollywood. The weeks turned into months. On weekends, the brothers drove home to Marin, where they parked cars at the Spinnaker in Sausalito and worked roofing jobs with their father. Part of their dream endured, though—to make a living at something they loved.
Over time, an idea emerged, to write a movie about their experience—the quest to play in the majors, their father’s struggle with alcoholism. The notion was as bold as it was rash. They had no experience in writing and, in fact, very little even in reading. “We didn’t read. And when I say we didn’t read I mean we didn’t read,” says Noah, who adds, half-jokingly, that their reading level hovered at around fifth grade.
The brothers took to books with the same diligence they once applied to hitting curveballs, reading up to 12 hours at a stretch. “We got a list of books from this professor that smart people read but we thought we’d start out with the easier stuff—Jack London, The Alchemist, The Outsiders, Great Expectations,” says Noah.
Noah and Logan didn’t have a computer, so they started writing in their “office”—a Los Angeles park, where they drank coffee out of mason jars and played catch in between bouts of scribbling on a legal pad. The outcome was their first script, which eventually became Touching Home, a movie starring Ed Harris as their dad that premiered last year at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
“When we wrote the first one we figured okay, we wrote a screenplay, someone’s going to buy it and we’d be on our way,” says Noah. When that didn’t happen, the brothers fell into a familiar Hollywood lifestyle, scraping by with modeling and odd jobs (working at a bingo hall, for one) while writing as much as possible and producing a dozen more screenplays. They also collected rejections by the hundreds. Perhaps they would have continued to limp through L.A. had not a tragic event set off a string of occurrences that led to having their Hollywood dream realized.
On January 5, 2006, their dad died in the Marin County jail, where police had taken him after he was found drunk outside a liquor store. The brothers’ relationship with their father was complex. They describe him as a man of great but unutilized talents. The last time they visited him in jail, shortly before he died, he asked, “When are you gonna make our movie?” The three imagined actors who might play their father. They thought Ed Harris was a good fit. “I’ll give him permission to be me,” Daniel said. “The sheriff will negotiate on my behalf.”
At the morgue while saying goodbye to their father, Noah and Logan vowed they would do anything they could to make the movie that year. They returned to L.A. and buried themselves in the Guerrilla Filmmaker’s Handbook, where they found the name of Lorette Bayle, a Kodak film representative. They pitched their project to her; she recommended they see Ric Halpern, manager of the Education and New Filmmaker Program at Panavision. They called Halpern on the day he returned from vacation and met with him that afternoon; he agreed to give them one of the company’s new-filmmaker grants to cover the cost of expensive camera equipment.
The brothers took their gear to Arizona for spring training and used their baseball connections to shoot a few scenes. Then it was off to San Francisco, where Ed Harris was being given an award at the San Francisco International Film Festival in April. They showed him the footage, pitched the movie and generally hounded him until he signed to play their father during a two-week opening he had in December.
That summer a family friend introduced them to an investor who financed the few million dollars they needed for the movie. They shot scenes around Marin including in the San Geronimo Valley, Point Reyes and Samuel P. Taylor park, and in December, they wrapped, shooting the last scene, an aerial shot coming into the town of Nicasio from above.
They had kept their promise to themselves and their vow to their dad—and within a year of his death.
While editing the movie, the twins lived with their mother in Fairfax. They would run into people on the street and get asked where they had been, what had been going on in their lives. “When we started telling our story people said we should write a book,” says Noah.
“We started writing our tails off and hitting the keys every morning. I don’t even remember how it got written,” says Logan.
In only a few months they had finished Either You’re In or You’re In the Way, the story of their path to make their first feature film with no experience and no real money. Producing partner Jeromy Zajonc and friend Jason Holthe read the draft and made suggestions. They gave the rewrite to Jason’s wife, Tess, a best-selling author, who sent it to her agent, Mary Ann Naples, in New York.
“Her agent read it right away, probably because it had been vetted by Tess, and we could tell by her voice and her enthusiasm for it that she liked it. After we addressed her notes she sent it off to publishers and told us not to expect to hear anything for six to eight weeks,” says Noah. Actually, the wait turned out to be more like six to eight hours. By that afternoon about a dozen editors were e-mailing Naples telling her how much they liked it.
Collins, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, made an offer and the brothers signed a contract.
“We wrote a memoir about two nobodies,” Logan says of the finished piece. “Nobody knows who the hell we are.”
“The big part is that you’re writing this memoir, right, and you may give information that you haven’t told most of your friends,” adds Noah.
“And you haven’t consciously thought, how is that going to be perceived,” says Logan.
“You’re just trying to tell the truth and as much of it as the story can contain. I think it happened a couple of months ago that we thought, ‘Shit, our lives are going public,’ ” says Noah. “It’s an awkward feeling. It’s different when you’re with people you trust and love. But now, out of the gate you’re asking people to care about you. We’re saying here we are.”
The future for the brothers is uncertain. They want to continue to write, direct and produce because “it’s nice to stay in control of your vision, the vision you had since page one,” says Noah. In their book, they write that if they had something to fall back on after baseball they would have never started writing and wouldn’t have made the movie. Now still living in Fairfax, they’re on the brink of releases of both their first book, which comes out April 28, and their first movie, which will have a screening at the Rafael Film Center May 6 and at Bookstock 2009 at AT&T Park June 6.
With their success in the entertainment industry, there’s also the possibility of a return move to L.A. “I wouldn’t mind having an apartment down there, but this is home,” says Noah. “So many guys who live in Marin have tables (full) of Academy Awards. The dream would be to stay here and have a whole entertainment company. Lucas and Coppola have done it. Nobody of our generation, but…”