Alumni Feature: Erin Miller (PPE ’07)

Erin Miller (PPE ’07) says the challenges of a career in television and a growing family have paled in comparison to the unexpected blessings in her life.

Alumnua Erin with family
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The film industry is notoriously difficult to enter, but Erin Mae Miller (PPE ’07) made a smooth transition from studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics to working as a production executive for Big Indie Pictures. She always knew that she wanted to tell stories through film, so even after moving from her hometown in Durham, Conn., to New York at age 18, she did not find the City daunting. “Any difficulty paled in comparison to the joy of being alive in New York,” she said. “All of the beauty and all of the grunge—I loved every bit of it.”

Erin found the City to be full of surprises—especially the people, each of whom had a story to tell. “Stories are close to God’s heart,” she explains. “Jesus, for one, taught through parables, and I hope to contribute to that narrative in my work.” But before she could tackle the monumental task of putting important stories on screen, she decided “I should know what I think about the world before I tell others how I see it.”

In addition to making her first industry connections through King’s, she found that the PPE core curriculum gave her solid preparation for the professional world. In particular, Dr. Peter Kreeft’s class on world religions and an essay assignment from Dr. David Tubbs taught her not to seek to be right, but rather to seek truth. She reflects, “The best thing King’s did for me was encourage my entrepreneurial, questioning spirit. I didn’t learn all the answers. I learned the questions. And if you know the right questions to ask, it’s only a matter of time before you find the answers.” She began asking herself, How do I ethically make sure I’m making the right decision in this difficulty? How do I walk this out with integrity?

Erin found these questions immediately applicable to her first job in television. She entered a toxic work environment in which an abusive superior constantly demeaned her in the presence of her colleagues, and she prayerfully considered her next step: “Should I be active or passive? I have no problem standing up for myself, but in that particular situation, I kept praying and feeling like I needed to keep my mouth shut. And I did. For seven months, I just took it.” Her husband assured her that she could quit, but she said, “I can do anything for seven months.”

So she persisted, though she admits, “There were times I literally just wanted to crawl into a hole and cry.” She expected to disappear in ignominy—“The way my superior had been yelling at me and throwing things, I figured everyone in the whole company thought I was incompetent”—but as the job came to a close, she was approached by a producer who said, “I’ve watched you take that abuse for seven months and do nothing about it but your work. I want to give you a real opportunity. I want you to come join my show for the next season.”

Erin accepted with enthusiasm. “It was such a relief that my reputation hadn’t been tarnished because of the way that I was being treated.” Instead, “that longsuffering, patient endurance is what got me my next job.”

“If you know how to think and you know how to reason,” she adds, “difficulty becomes a matter of character.”

Since then, Erin has produced non-scripted material for the Discovery Channel, TLC, and Animal Planet, among others. Her documentary Work & Happiness: The Human Cost of Welfare premiered on PBS in 2017. Now her experience with difficulty takes a different shape. After the birth of her second child in December 2018, she continued asking questions to reconcile her roles as mother and storyteller. “How do I provide the best home for my kids and at the same time keep my career alive?” She considered that it would be more comfortable to put her decade of work behind her and to trade 12-hour days on set for more time with her children. “I work in an industry that’s not very friendly to having a family. As a woman, I have to deal with the fact that I desire to be at home. At the same time, I’m a very driven, ambitious person. If in 20 years I look back and I’ve given up all my dreams and ambitions, I think I would regret that. So there’s a tension there.”

Still, Erin is not discouraged by this tension. “Life is difficulty,” she said. “It’s also a process.” Our job is to choose forbearance and joy in the midst of difficulty, resting in the knowledge that “God is bigger than every circumstance and every situation. When you focus too much on the negative, you become it.” Despite the challenges of her first job, Erin emphasizes the blessings in her life and career that she has found through seeking wisdom and truth. “My story is so abnormal. I can’t take credit for it. If you collaborate with God, He does some pretty crazy things.”

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