LA COSTA — Rob Miller, a senior at La Costa Canyon High School, won the Geoffrey Caine Award for “Best Student” documentary at the Idyllwild International Cinema Festival earlier this month.
His film titled “From Page to Stage: The Journey of Heartland” follows the struggles of playwrights Anita Simons and Lauren Simon as they wrote “Heartland” and their subsequent efforts to put it to film.
The play, which deals with German-American internment camps during World War II, premiered to sell-out houses at MiraCosta College in Novermber 2008. It went on to place second in the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Steve Savage, founder of the Idyllwild film festival, admits to being surprised at the sophistication of Miller’s work.
“The cinematography is beyond anything I’d seen from a high school student,” he said. “To a nonwriter it might not be interesting because it’s about the writing process, but everyone in the audience was glued to it. Rob’s an exceptional film maker and I’m glad we were able to be his first festival.”
Miller’s dream of being a director began when he saw Woody Allen’s 2005 film “Match Point.”
“It inspired me — the writing, direction, camera, cinematography,” he said. “It was the first time I looked at a film like a painting. I went from wanting to be an actor to a director.”
Miller decided to enroll in the film program at La Costa Canyon High School.
A fortuitous meeting with playwright Anita Simons in 2008 at a podiatry event gave a boost to his career. Simons’ husband and Miller’s father are podiatrists.
“When I met Rob he was 16 years old and told me he was interested in working in film,” Simons said. “I proposed the idea to make a documentary about my first produced play ‘Heartland,’ written with Lauren Simon.”
Simons said Miller attended auditions and rehearsals and interviewed the two writers and director Eric Bishop.
“Lauren and I were both blown away after viewing ‘From Page to Stage: The Journey of Heartland,’” she said. “We realized what an incredible job this young man had done and how lucky we were to observe his own journey from a shy teenager to outstanding director/producer.”
Miller was able to make the documentary with equipment and a crew made available through a mentorship program offered by the Del Mar Television Foundation.
“I finished the film at the beginning of November and took it to them,” he said. “They really liked it and decided to air it the month of January.”
Another fateful meeting occurred when Miller contracted the services of educational consultant Denise McGregor to help with college planning.
“She told me she was working on a film festival in Idyllwild and that the founder, Steve Savage, was an upcoming director,” he said. “She said she’d get in contact with him about volunteering.”
Coincidently Miller turned 18 on Jan. 10 when he made the drive to Idyllwild. The festival started the following day.
“I met a lot of producers, directors and actors and will probably be working with Steve and other directors in the future,” he said.
Miller is also hoping to study at Savage’s alma mater in the fall, the Los Angeles Film School. His goal is to make fictional films in the genre of Terry Gilliam, former member of the Monty Python comedy troupe, who went on to direct “Time Bandits,” “Brazil,” “The Fisher King,” “12 Monkeys” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”
“I look at film as a painting,” he said. “I like making art and see the camera as my brush.”
This spring Miller will serve as founder of the first La Costa Canyon High School Film Festival, which will be open to all schools in the San Dieguito Union High School District.
“From Page to Stage: The Journey of Heartland” is scheduled to air locally at 8 p.m. on Jan. 31. Time Warner digital customers can watch it on channel 130. All others can watch it streaming on www.delmartv.com. A trailer can be viewed at Miller’s channel on YouTube at www.youtube.com/RobMillerFilms.
For more information, e-mail RobMillerFilms@gmail.com.