of the Month - Rob Miller, Screenwriter
Rob Miller is a screenwriter in Hollywood. During
his interview, he shares how the Bible has influenced
his writing and helped his career; explains how
his ABC Family movie "Three Days"
got produced; and gives insights into the creative
I know you worked hard to get into film writing.
What was the process?
Well, I think persistence wins the prize in this
instance. I was interested in writing from an
early age. And when I got out of college and I
went to work as a TV writer/producer, I realized
writing was my forte. But after awhile, radio
promos and news campaigns didn't challenge me
enough. So one day I sat down and decided to write
a screenplay -- not because my motive was to sell
it, but because I loved writing. I had no idea
how to sell a script when I moved to L.A. I just
packed that script in the trunk and thought that
in 10 minutes, I'd become the greatest thing ever.
But after awhile, I realized that it was going
to take lots of work, lots of years, and lots
of getting back on the horse after failed attempts.
My love of writing kept me going despite obstacles.
Ideas started to come at a rapid pace, ideas that
God was giving me. I determined early on that
the type of story that I enjoyed writing was very
similar to the type of stories that I was raised
hearing from the Bible - stories about redemption.
Throughout my scripts individuals face up to their
faults and go through periods of troubled waters
in order to be redeemed, like the Prodigal Son
(Luke 15:11-24). But while I enjoyed writing about
the transformation of individuals, my scripts
So, did you continue using the theme of redemption?
Well, I changed the type of writing I was doing,
not the themes. I began to write essays. In fact,
the first essay I wrote was published all over
the world, even in China. The theme for it was
"love thy neighbor" -- right from the
story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible (Luke
10:29-37). I continued writing essays and
getting published. Looking back over my essays,
which deal with forgiveness, overcoming obstacles,
and friendship, it's so obvious to me that my
Biblically inspired upbringing and the Bible's
immediate significance in my life influence my
You can certainly see the theme of redemption
and forgiveness in your movie, "Three Days."
How did you come up with the idea?
Well, one day I just wanted to write a Christmas
movie. And while I was sitting there in my cold
house in North Hollywood, ideas just flooded into
my thought so instantaneously that it was clear
to me that these ideas were coming from God. I
started writing the story about a man who had
taken for granted the good in his life, primarily
his wife. He was caught up in materialism; he
was thinking about having an affair; he wasn't
expressing any sense of gratitude for anything;
and he had no humility. Then, he loses his wife.
And I thought, "What would we do if we had
the chance to live over the last three days of
our lives knowing we were still going to lose
them? So I wrote "Three Days." In the
movie, the main character has to learn to appreciate
his wife and love his father. He is so embittered
against his father that he has shut him out of
his life. But in order to move forward, he has
to confront those feelings and forgive his father.
There's a line in the movie that explains the
process of forgiveness: "In order to be forgiven
you must first forgive."
What was the process of getting "Three
Days" to production?
It certainly didn't happen over night. The producer
who I first contacted immediately liked it, and
I thought it would be optioned. But it took a
roller coaster ride that lasted years, and took
my emotions with it. I even wondered whether or
not a story about gratitude and forgiveness was
saleable. I discovered later that along the way
I was being deceived. Finally, I decided to get
off the roller coaster and just let go completely.
I put the script in God's hands. And then when
I was on vacation with my family (I had just gotten
married), I got the call saying that the script
was sold. When the movie was made, it was made
very quickly. And the basic story about forgiveness
remained intact. Two script-writing projects I'm
working on now are along the same lines. One is
another Christmas movie that reveals the gift
of generosity and loving others. The other depicts
how one individual realizes that loving his family,
which he had neglected during the pursuit of his
career, is more important than fame and self-gratification.
We need more movies like yours, Rob, that
reveal the goodness in humanity.
They are all so natural to write. Millions of
people around the world tuned in because of the
positive, redeeming messages that resonate with
so many of us. I think that when studios aren't
afraid to air such positive, clean, good-message
movies, the rewards they reap are extraordinary.
Most advertisers want to advertise for these types
of movies. They want their product to be associated
with clean, wholesome, family values.
But it took a long time to get "Three
Days to production." Was there anything from
the Bible that sustained you during the process?
Oh yes. One passage that has come to mind so much
over the years is "the battle is not yours,
but God's ... set yourselves, stand ye still,
and see the salvation of the Lord" (II Chron.
20:15, 17). When I realize that I'm not the one
who has to "battle" to write or sell
the script, that all I have to do is "see
the salvation of the Lord," then the burden
of responsibility shifts from me to God, and I
get a much greater sense of peace. This is particularly
helpful in Hollywood. Before you sell a script
people continually say, "Do you realize the
odds of selling a script? They're astronomical
against you, and even more astronomical of getting
it made." For "Three Days," I kept
rejecting the idea of odds, of chance. I kept
praying to know that my script was in God's hands
and that one person having a bad day could not
kill a project, make me happy, or send me into
despair. It is extremely difficult to hold onto
this spiritually elevated viewpoint when so many
different people have to sign off on an idea.
But when we can hold on, the results are tremendous.
When the movie was finally produced, everything
fell easily and naturally into its perfect place
-- the cast, the music, even the weather.
How do you really know if an idea is a right
Well, that's a question that's been asked for
a long time, and there doesn't seem to be an easy
answer. There's not some beam of light that comes
and says "right idea." For me, the best
way to answer the question is this: Along the
way, I became extremely discouraged. I'd often
stop and ask God for a sign telling me that I
was going in the right direction. And each time,
I'd get a sign -- a note from Readers' Digest,
a positive comment about my idea or talent. Those
little signs, those answers to my humble prayers,
were indications that I was going in the right
direction. But first I had to be willing to walk
away from the idea, the career path, or the goal
and trust in God. And I think if we pray to God
in humility, He's not going to turn a deaf ear.
So, how would you explain the creative process?
Well, I think it's different with everybody. But
one thing I do know: ideas don't originate from
me, but from God. And when an idea is good, or
is from God, it comes to me as a complete idea.
It just flows. And I'm constantly listening to
understand how to fine tune the characters and
plot right up to the end. I have confidence in
God to direct not only a script, but my whole
life as an artist, as a writer.
Is there anything you would tell teens about
writing, your industry, or life in general?
Patience and discipline are keys to success in
any career. Love the entire process, the journey.
Love the learning, the starts and stops, the failed
attempts and the steps forward. You can't just
love the financial rewards somewhere down the
road. You have to love the salad days (the period
when all you can afford is salad). And then when
you get to your goal, you'll love that too, but
you won't look back with bitterness or hardness.
Also, don't be in a rush. And take criticism,
and don't take it personally. As a writer, artist,
or in any type of creative industry (actually
all industries), you're going to be criticized
again and again.
How do you deal with criticism?
You have to realize that although others may reject
you for a particular role or reject your script,
God never rejects you. You're not personally being
rejected. Consider it as a part of the learning
process. It's so important to be willing to make
something better. If you settle for "good
enough" you miss the possibility of "great."
A lot of writers have problems with notes - edits,
criticisms, ideas, input from the producers. Their
egos get involved, and they refuse to change a
single line. I look forward to getting notes because
I don't take such personal ownership in every
line, scene, and character. I realize a movie
is a process of unfoldment that doesn't belong
to me. This is humility: realizing that an idea
never really came from me to start with; it came
from God. You write it and let go. My wife helped
me learn that because she had more experience
in the movie industry. You have to realize that
your script is going to be changed; a lot of people
will be attaching themselves to it; actors will
portray characters differently than you had in
your mind. You have to treat it like you would
a job or business, and not take changes so personally.
I remind myself that God is the producer, writer,
director, producer, and that my job is to give
the best performance I can.
That reminds me of the Bible verse, "I
will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth
all things for me" (Ps. 57:2).
That's so appropriate.
How do you deal with other pressures in your
The Bible passage, "Be still, and know that
I am God" (Ps. 46:10) has helped tremendously.
"Be still" in the face of a screaming
producer or a pressing deadline or whatever you
may face as a writer. You have to be still a lot,
because you're faced with things that seem overwhelming
at times. It's the Bible that builds that rock,
that principle, that safety zone in your life.
The 23rd and 91st Psalms and I Corinthians 13
are passages you read through your life that come
back and give you the strength you need when you're
faced by the rude actor, the screaming producer,
the bad review, etc. You're able to stand strong
and firm because you have that spiritual background.
And you think, "Wow, Jacob and Esau went
through a lot worse times than I did. Look at
David's struggle compared to mine. He had Goliath
to deal with. Look at Joseph." Those Biblical
stories can be translated to today; just insert
new names, new careers and new situations. The
same principles available to resolve it back then
are available to us today.