MSU alumni set world record for most directors in a film

When MSU alumnus Marty Shea first became involved with the making of short film, “The Owner,” he didn’t expect to break a world record.

“The goal was simply to make a feature film that was engaging and high quality by working with many filmmakers,” Shea said.

But eventually, filmmakers from around the world became involved in the project. Eventually, 25 filmmakers from 13 different countries became involved in the project, setting a new record in the Guinness World Records for Most Directors of a Film. The previous record holder was “Paris Je T’aime,” which featured 21 different directors.

“As the project was getting more exposure and interest, filmmakers from around the world started finding us,” he said. “So we turned our attention to doing something on an international scale, and ended up coming up with the idea for the backpack project, which became what is now known as ‘The Owner.’”

In “The Owner,” a lost backpack is passed through the hands of many people around the world, resulting in a global journey.

The movie is a product of The CollabFeature Group, a project that was co-founded in 2008 by Shea and Ian Bonner, another MSU alumnus. The group is a team of filmmakers from over 40 countries.

Lisa Whiting-Dobson, an instructor in the telecommunication information studies and media department, said there are unique challenges that come with producing short films.

“Often times, (producers) don’t have the same resources that a big-budget film might have,” she said. “It amplifies because it’s many visions that have to meld into one.”

Despite the magnitude of the project, Shea said the film told one narrative.

“There’s 25 small vignettes all connected,” he said. “They’re all interconnected. So you’ll have a character from one segment ending up in the next one, triggering the event. You have people from one country calling each other, chatting with each other. And you have people writing letters and talking about the character you’re going to meet. It’s really focused on how people are connected in (kind of) unexpected ways.”

The filmmakers had the freedom to tell their segment of the story in their own way. Therefore, each vignette had it’s own unique tone.

“There are multiple genres,” Shea said. “You have everything from comedy to romance, to suspense to horror moments, to weirder, abstract pieces, some parts that are really just conversational and reflective. Many genres, many cultures, many languages, but they’re all tied together by a singular, narrative plot.”

The movie played last November in the East Lansing Film Festival, and premiered globally last May. Susan Woods, the director of East Lansing Film Festival, said the film was a hit with moviegoers.

“People were amazed at what it accomplished,” she said. “So many different directors, so many countries. It was quite a feat.”

The movie will be shown Friday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Detroit Boll Family YMCA, 1401 Broadway St., in Detroit, and Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Main Art Theater, 88 N. Main St., in Royal Oak. The film will also release on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital download on on Friday, Jan. 25.

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