Imagine a film that covers five continents, features hundreds of cast members and extras, and breaks new ground in storytelling.
Sounds like a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster? Wrong. It’s “The Owner,” the first project from independent CollabFeatures. It’s the product of a collaboration between 25 directors from around the world, helmed by Detroit filmmakers Marty Shea and Ian Bonner. The film screens at 7:30 on Friday, Jan. 18 at the Boll Family YMCA.
The idea for the film was born from a website that Marty and Ian built to collaborate with filmmakers they had met on the film festival circuit. It was originally supposed to be only US filmmakers, but international filmmakers found them as well.
Marty and Ian, who have worked together for ten years, has always wanted to work on a collaborative project with a large group, and “The Owner” is the first one they have brought to fruition. It started with a really basic idea — following a green backpack around the world, through many stories and situations, in a quest for its actual owner. This was a way for the filmmakers to create one feature length film that could have wider distribution versus a series of short films.
“There are all these filmmakers pulling in time and money and favors to make these short films, and then they don’t have much of a market,” says Marty. “If we could all do it together, if we spent time collaborating on the writing process and then make each film a piece of it, we could make a full-length film.”
Each filmmaker who participated wrote and directed his or her own section of the script, figured out how it would fit in the larger narrative, and shot those scenes. Marty and Ian then cut them together and shared them on the website for the other other filmmakers to critique and correct. The script was written via a similar process.
Because most of the collaboration took place online, some close friendships were formed between people who may or may not have met in real life. Marty himself has met three or four of his collaborators in person and talked over Skype with a few more, but most of them are a strange combination of close collaborators and people he’s never met.
“I feel like I know these people as well as I do some of my neighbors,” Marty says. “We have disagreements sometimes, and get them ironed out, like a family.”
The film holds the world’s record for the largest number of directors to work on a film, as certified by Guinness.
Marty describes the film as an epic road movie, with elements of drama, comedy and satire in it. Once scene, which Marty directed, was shot in Detroit at the Alger Theater, an abandoned theater on Detroit’s east side which a group of community members is trying to save. This is the first showing of the film in the city of Detroit, although it premiered at Emagine Novi back in May of 2012.
They chose the Boll for the screening because Marty and Ian, as Detroit residents, really wanted to make sure the film showed at least once in Detroit. Marty knows many of the instructors involved with the Y-Arts program, including Y-Arts director Margaret Edwartowski, through Detroit’s arts community. “She is someone I admire — I love her as a playwright and an actress,” he says. “Because of the community that surrounds that place that is so enthusiastic, we knew it would be a good place to be.”
Tickets are available at CollabFeatures’ website and will also be available at the door 30 minutes before the screening.