We started filming Wild Home without a concrete idea of what it was going to be. My mom’s friend told us about a Vietnam vet she occasionally volunteered for, deep in the woods of Mount Vernon, Maine. She told us how he and his wife Julie had created their own world where they rehabilitated tigers and other mistreated exotic animals. My brother Robert and I decided to make the hour drive from our hometown to find them. The moment we met Bob, we knew we’d found someone special. Growing up in Maine, you meet a lot of loners with fascinating stories, but I’d never come across anyone who’d overcome so much and somehow found his way back to the world.
When Bob Miner returned from Vietnam, he didn’t want anything to do with people. Bob was shot three times in the war and suffered a series of strokes that left him in a wheelchair and unable to read or write. Without sufficient programs to transition him back to civilian life, he bounced around the country staying with friends and relatives until he ran out of money and returned home to Maine. For a long time, he lived alone on a backwoods farm with no company except for the goats, sheep, and pigs that he raised.
Bob got a reputation in his local community for his ability to care for animals. People began bringing him injured wildlife to rehabilitate. Over time, his animal kingdom grew to become a refuge for more exotic animals. A hyena that had been rescued from a basement apartment in the Bronx. A tiger who was so malnourished that, when she was delivered to Bob, no one thought she’d last through the week.
Eventually, there were too many animals for Bob to care for on his own and volunteers came to work at the farm. One of these volunteers was his future wife, Julie. Bob and Julie hit it off instantly and were married within six months of meeting. With Julie’s help, Bob began giving tours to local school groups. To Bob’s surprise, teaching people about the animals brought him back to the world. The tours gave him a way to connect to people again.
Wild Home is a film that explores the nature of redemption and the healing power of love and perseverance. Bob’s story shows redemption not as a pivotal sea change, but as a quiet and deliberate process. He is a reminder that we don’t have to forget or even overcome the past. We just need to find something to hold on to, someone to love, and the courage to share that love with the world.
Jack Schurman is an Emmy Award winning director and cinematographer from Brunswick, Maine. Jack is a regular documentary contributor to TIME Magazine and Sports Illustrated. He directed 9 episodes of the Emmy nominated, Eppy Award and Luce Award winning documentary series “Underdogs” presented by Sports Illustrated and Powerade.
His debut feature film, “Wild Home” had its world premiere in September, 2014 at the Camden International Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award. The film has been featured in People Magazine, Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed.