WELCOME TO PINE HILL is an extension of Miller’s earlier short film PRINCE/WILLIAM about an unexpected encounter surrounding a lost dog. Blurring the line between documentary and fiction, PINE HILL follows that short’s protagonist Shannon, a reformed drug dealer who is now an insurance claims adjuster, in the days following a grim medical diagnosis. Shannon, portrayed in an extraordinarily intimate performance by first time actor Shannon Harper, sets out to make peace with those around him and in turn find his own peace beyond the cacophony of New York City.
My films take accidental encounters, intuitive leaps, and heightened realities to interrogate conditions of the real world. I work to make this happen by creating openings for reality to bleed into the story, in both the process and the final movie. The inevitable challenge is that the real world is messy, troubling and, in the deepest sense, beautiful. It is my hope that WELCOME TO PINE HILL has some of all three, offering moments of transformation for those participating in the film, whether cast, crew, or audience.
In the middle of the real-life event that is now the opening scene of PINE HILL, I realized that this experience was a challenge for both of us. Over the course of our long conversation regarding our dog, we both consciously and unconsciously worked through issues of race, class, and above all, our love of this puppy. That respect has only grown as we have continued to work together, and watching him work has given rise to a great admiration for his ability as an actor and as a friend.
PINE HILL blurs reality and fiction and questions that very opposition. Some events in the film are taken directly from life. Others take real situations and transform them. Still others are completely invented. I have tried to disregard the often-rigid line between fiction and fact to make a story that is as real as it is urgent. I believe this is a film that incites dialogue and refuses clichés of class and race often depicted on screen. I hope WELCOME TO PINE HILL might bring a little more empathy into our world, just as it did between Shannon and me.