Local Sandpoint sisters, Hailey and Sarah Hines, founders and operators of Planted Roots Productions, were awarded the Audience Choice Award at the Sandpoint Film Festival last November at The Panida Theater for their film, “Peace Among the Black Hills.”
“The Sandpoint Festival was the first one we entered in,” Hailey said, “and the first one won.”
The sisters’ goal for their production company is simple: to bring amazing, life changing art to the world via film. Hailey is an actor, model and director. Sarah also acts, directs and writes the screenplays. “Peace Among Black Hills” was co-written by both sisters and is a story of love, loss and overcoming hardship during the war with the Plains Indians.
“It was Sarah’s baby,” said co-writer Hailey. “And the great part is that 90 percent of the crew was female and local to Sandpoint.” That doesn’t happen often in the film industry, where the workforce is predominantly male in Hollywood.
“The people we cast for ‘Peace Among Black Hills’ were all on board with what we were doing,” Hailey stated. “We shot it in nine days and only had four days with the main cast.
“They were solid days—no sleeping during that period,” Sarah chuckled. “Peace Among Black Hills” was filmed in Bannock City, an abandoned ghost town in Beaverhead County, near Dillon, Montana.
“Locals offered to cook food for us while we were filming. You won’t get that in Hollywood,” Sarah mentioned after being asked what the filming process was like for them. “Rattlesnakes were everywhere, though.”
The film has been dubbed as “Young Guns” meets “Dances with Wolves” with the perfect mix of actual history and make believe, shining both romantic and dark light on the ways of the West. The drama revolves around discrimination during the war with the Plains Indians of the Northwest.
“The first quarter of the film is dedicated to the history of Native Americans and the way that our country treated them,” Hailey Hines said.
There’s a personal stake in the story as well, bringing light to a dark part of our country’s history: Indian dissemination. “Our great-grandmother and her sister were taken from their family and relocated,” Sarah explained. “They were both taken to Oklahoma and adopted into a white family; the Hawkins family.” The film’s protagonists mirror that tale, One Star and Jacob are both Lakota born half-breeds, and One Star is taken to the Carlisle Indian Institute in Pennsylvania.
“Our family’s history always sparked the interest to study Native American history,” Sarah said. “The schools [Native children were sent to] were way worse than any of the history books make them out to be.”
“At the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, there are 170 marked graves, when in fact there are over 800 bodies that have been recovered there,” Sarah added. From 1879 to 1891, over 10,000 Native American children from 140 tribes attended Carlisle to be educated and assimilated. Only 158 graduated.
“We wanted to show how these acts shaped a people as a whole,” Sarah explained, “and also give light to the dark parts of history that don’t get noticed.”
“The movie is very historically accurate,” Hailey added.
The sisters entered “Peace Among Black Hills” in several other film festivals as well. “We also entered it into the California Women’s Film Festival, Human Rights Film Festival in Melbourne, Australia, as well as film festivals in North Bend, Seattle, Montana and Sun Valley,” Hailey stated.
“Our biggest goal is that hopefully people will see the story and will want to make it into a feature film and will be able to make that happen,” Sarah said.
Both Sarah and Hailey became involved in the industry early on. While growing up in Snohomish, Washington and Sandpoint, Idaho, their parents kept them involved in a variety of extracurricular activities that taught them how important it is to help others and share their good fortune with people in need.
The sisters then separately studied outside of the area in Washington State: Sarah in Bellevue attending a small private school where she studied acting, along with music, soccer, horseback riding and art. Hailey got her start in Snohomish studying dance as a child and even winning some awards. From there, she went on to study theater, modeling, acting and film.
The sisters’ roles in film initially started for them by helping out with a friend’s film. Their first project as Planted Roots Productions was “Spread the Virus”, a short film which Sarah wrote. “We had been helping other people with their projects, assisting with sound or production,” Sarah stated. “And the short film was to show people what we are capable of.”
“Spread the Virus” is a short film about the random acts of kindness and how big an impact they can have on those involved. Sometimes even the smallest act can change someone’s life in a huge way. For the sisters, it isn’t just a film, it’s a call to action to all who see it to be kind, be compassionate, and spread kindness like a virus.
The move was filmed locally at the Life Care Center, Sandpoint High School, outside of Winter Ridge, the Grainery, and even the Hines’ home. The Schweitzer Fire Department helped out too, and the sisters even used a firefighter from the force to help with the narration of the film. Both Sarah and Hailey acted as narrators as well.
The Hines sisters have deep ties to the area, and both grew up attending and performing in the historic Panida Theater. Although they have both moved away for school or life, they both found themselves back here. “Sandpoint seems to be the place we always come back to,” Hailey said.
The Hines’ grandmother was involved with a group of ladies that would get together to raise money for several local foundations, including The Panida Theater—or as she liked to call it The “Pan-eye-da,” as a play on the word “Idaho.” Sarah’s first play was at the beloved theater. “They have helped us a ton with auditions and finding actors,” Sarah stated.
The Panida also introduced them to Sandpoint Filmmakers Network, a pool of local resources for making films in Sandpoint that meets monthly at the Condo del Sol Clubhouse. The organization provides camera operators, actors, sound technicians an environment for sharing, learning, practicing and executing movie-making skills.
Coming up, the Hines sisters have some projects in the works. “A Thousand Bullets” is another one of Sarah’s creations. She wrote it and both sisters will act in it, while they will bring someone else in to direct. They’re also working on a post-apocalyptic short film that is set after a devastating war; the film contains an underlying message conveying that even when bad things happen in the world, your family is always there.
When asked where they see themselves in the future, Hailey jumped right in with, “Making bigger films and having a bigger network of people to work with.”
“I would like to be making feature films here locally,” Sarah added.
“Even if ‘Peace Among Black Hills’ gets out there with a bigger budget, we would want it filmed here,” Hailey declared.
“We have so many different stories that we want to make that we know we will need bigger sources and bigger budgets.” Sarah added.
You can get a taste of their upcoming projects on the Planted Roots Production website, www.plantedrootsproductions.com. Their short film “Spread the Virus” is also available to view on the homepage, or on their YouTube channel.