The Masked Man
A Documentary Film
by Stephen Newton
The Masked Man is dedicated to the unrecognized outsider artists and artisans of Southern Appalachia and explores the creative process of self-taught photographer Mike Miller, of Glade Spring, Virginia, who has been creating masked self-portraits for more than ten years. Miller’s central theme is the exploration of his own psyche in an effort to better understand himself and the world he inhabits.
At first glance, Miller’s photographs may evoke our worst nightmares, but they speak volumes about the human condition in the 21st century. In a recent interview, Miller said he has been fascinated by masks since childhood. “I’ve always covered my face a lot even when I was younger,” he said. “Maybe I think it will hide the other side of me. Or maybe it’s a way to let people know I have another side without letting it out.”
My motivation as a documentary filmmaker is to explore the causes and consequences of social injustice as well as to highlight the stories of non-profit organizations that provide a refuge and help for the victims. I approach each film from the perspective of a writer first, and as a filmmaker second. Every film is crafted like a book, with a dedication, introduction and subsequent chapters that provide the answers to a thematic question that asks “Why?”
My first feature-length documentary Outcasts: Surviving the Culture of Rejection asked the question: “Why does the US incarcerate more people than any other nation in the world?” The film was inspired by the rehabilitation work of a halfway facility for formerly incarcerated individuals making the transition back into society. It was there that I first learned the definition of the word “recidivism” and began a three-year journey to answer my question. The film premiered in 2014 and was featured twice in prime time on East Tennessee Public Television as well as screened at film festivals nationwide.
My second film, One Night in January: Counting the Cost of Homelessness, was released in 2020 after four years of filming in Tennessee and throughout the US. It answered the question: “Why are millions of Americans experiencing extreme poverty and homelessness in the richest country in the world?” Because of the pandemic, the film premiered online and was featured at film festivals in the US, Canada, and the UK.