Feature film produced by 25 directors, in 13 countries
One backpack of unknown origin, multiple stops in cities across the globe and one mysterious unidentified owner. That’s the story behind the recently premiered feature film, “The Owner,” a collaborative movie created with the help of three MSU alumni.
The historic collaborative effort of 25 directors from 13 different countries collectively creating a full-length feature film stemmed from an idea alumnus Marty Shea had back when he was an MSU student in the 1990s.
“The Owner” follows the story of a backpack that is found by a man in Brazil, and the journey this backpack makes across the world to various countries as characters attempt to find its true owner, Shea said. The backpack’s presence has an effect on each of the characters’ lives in some way, and is interpreted differently in the different cultures and locations it ends up.
More than two years of work and hours of discussion and collaboration over the Internet allowed the numerous directors to piece together multiple segments shot by others into one flowing, coherent movie.
“It feels like one story, it doesn’t feel like it ends and a new director takes over,” Shea said.
Shea founded an organization called CollabFeature with fellow MSU alumnus Ian Bonner with the intention of bringing together independent filmmakers to collaborate and eventually create feature films, he said.
Soon after the idea for “The Owner” got under way, the two enlisted the help of their friend and MSU alumnus John Versical, who directed the Chicago segment of the film.
Each director was responsible for segments ranging from three to seven minutes that incorporated a variety of genres such as comedy, drama and even horror.
Creating a feature-length film with 25 different voices clamoring to be heard sounds daunting, but the process went surprisingly smooth, Versical said.
The team currently is awaiting verification from the Guinness Book of World Records as the record-holding film with the most listed directors.
“As many people say, it’s hard enough to make one film with one director because there’s enough opinions in one director to probably fill a room,” Versical said.
Bonner cited numerous other challenges of working with so many people stretched across the entire planet, such as differences in language interpretation and arranging times to collaborate with the other directors online in distant time zones.
“Some of the biggest challenges, I think, were having never done this before,” Shea said.
The film had a worldwide premiere in cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Mumbai, Dublin and Johannesburg, among others, on May 25 to mostly positive reviews, Shea said. The directors were able to look in live at the premieres across the globe via Skype.
Although the filmmakers knew each other from their days in East Lansing and had worked together on previous projects, all three alumni agreed that there’s something special about working with fellow Spartans.
“Everywhere I turn there’s MSU alumni working on a project,” Shea said. “So it’s almost like it’s actually weirder if I’m not with an MSU alumnus because some of the best people come out of that school, and we have the camaraderie and we stick together.”