Twenty-five filmmakers collaborating on a single film, each with equal ownership and a say in the end product might, you imagine, end in utter disaster. However, the 90-minute movie, which has only a backpack as the unifying element, will premiere on Friday, May 25, with most lives, relationships and tempers intact. As a bonus, when released, The Owner will also usurp Paris, Je T’Aime from its place in the Guinness World Records as the film with most the directors (the 2006 film had a mere 21).
The Owner, helmed by Detroit-based producers Marty Shea and Ian Bonner, is being touted as the first of its kind, a collaborative feature made by 25 directors from 13 countries including India, America, Ireland and Colombia, most of whom have never laid eyes on each other. “As would be expected with so much talent involved, there were some disagreements at certain points, particularly over the title”, says Thomas Kingsley, the press co-ordinator for CollabFeature, the production company owned by Bonner and Shea. “But it all worked out.”
The 25 directors, found via filmmaker forums, were whittled down by Bonner and Shea, who eventually charged each of them with the task of raising finances, shooting, writing the script and directing their own segment of roughly four minutes by themselves. To make the entire process somewhat democratic, each filmmaker—including the five from Mumbai and New Delhi—had to upload their segment and gather feedback from their peers using Skype and video blogs. For indie filmmaker Neha Raheja Thakker, director of the Mumbai segment, the pitching process alone took around seven months. “I would edit, upload a cut to a website, and get feedback from everyone,” she says. “There were lots of changes made, and re-shoots”.
Her segment, featuring Nawazuddin Siddiqui (who also stars in Miss Lovely) and Gulshan Devaiah, takes place in Santa Cruz in the vicinity of Thakker’s office, which is about all she will reveal. In addition to their own segment, each director was also given a task in the overall production of the film, from composing the music to handling PR. Over and above that, Bonner and Shea were responsible for stitching and editing the 25 disparate parts into a single cohesive film, ostensibly about a lost backpack that starts out in South America and gets carted through the world from person to person, until it presumably finds its way back to its rightful owner.
It’s a mish-mash of styles that curiously enough works; as the film moves across cities and continents, you’re inevitably aware of each filmmaker’s hand, some layering in comedic undertones, others who see the backpack as a ragged metaphor for the loneliness of life. ”It’s not visually seamless, but it’s not meant to be,” says Thakker. “The beauty is that it brings together different genres, different moods with a story that pulls you through.”
The Owner will premiere in Mumbai at Studio X in Fort. Watch the trailer here.