CollabFeature – “The Lost Backpack” – an international feature film project
UPDATE September 27th, 2010:
The first teaser trailer is out! Check it out:
Please also “LIKE” the project on Facebook to help us spread the word!
I was recently asked by two of my long-time filmmaking friends to take part in an amazing project: a so-called CollabFeature, titled “The Lost Backpack”.
So what is CollabFeature? It was initiated by the two US filmmakers Marty Shea and Ian Bonner, both from Detroit. It’s a collaboration by filmmakers from around the world who work on a feature film – together. 25 directors shoot their self-written episodes in 17 cities around the globe.
This isn’t your average episodical feature – it’s an ongoing story that develops as our protagonist, a lost backpack, travels around the world, only to ultimately return to its owner. During the course of the journey, we learn more about the mysteries surrounding the backpack.
It’s a low-budget project and each director is responsible for their own budget, crew and actors. I still have a lot to organize before our shoot next week – actors, some crew, transportation and more, but the story as great fun.
I agreed to take part in the project due to the thrill of shooting for an international feature film, while at the same time not really knowing what it will look like in the end. It will be a hotchpotch of stories and genres for sure, but I think that will become one of the intrinsic qualities of the entire film.
Despite the individual nature of every episode, there are also episodes that are constructed together, like ours:
My two friends Alexander Schönauer and Arne von Nostitz-Rieneck directed their episodes in Berlin and Vienna, respectively, and I will direct the “connection piece” between the two episodes, taking place in Innsbruck, my hometown in “the heart of the Alps”. I was DP on Arne’s episode – which effectively is a horror story, as you might have seen on one of my Twitter posts – and we wrapped shooting it last week, and it was great fun. He uses the same main actors as I do (we cast them together) and their performances were stellar, despite the low-budget shooting environment. With Arne’s segment, the entire CollabFeature production hit half-time on all the shoots for “The Lost Backpack”. So half of the feature is already shot!
I used the 550D on his shoot and was very pleased with the results. During the shoot, I was using the DigiFinder.pro that I got for review from Jag35, and despite having issues, it’s a “entry level viewfinder”, but not for extended shootings.
Check out the gallery at the bottom for behind-the-scenes shots as well as still frames from my camera work on Arne’s shoot.
I’m sorry I can’t give away too much about the content of my episode, but it will be shot high up on a mountain next to Innsbruck, and it will involve some kitschy dancing in the style of “Sound of Music”. My DP will be Mario Feil from Bavaria. I know him from Twitter and we’ve been in contact for over a year, so I was happy to meet him for the first time only two weeks back. Be sure to check out some of his work on his blog, he has a great eye for detail and I look forward to working with him on this. We will be shooting on the awesome RED ONE and it will be Mario’s first time shooting with it – so you see, not only the content of this production is a great experiment, but also our shooting style
I will blog about the shooting of my episode once we’re wrapped. We have to pray for good weather as currently it is not very pleasant. I guess there’s a reason why they built Hollywood in California, they hardly have to deal with these kinds of problems!
I did an interview with CollabFeature initiator Marty Shea where he talks about how they came up with the idea and how it’s going.
Interview with Marty Shea:
1) You are the initiators of the CollabFeature “The Lost Backpack”. How did you come up with the idea to produce a collaborative feature film project?
Ian and I have always been collaborators. We write and direct together and collaborate with other people all the time. There is nothing like the experience of two or more creative minds melding into one. We are also fans of famous collaborators in filmmaking but more so in music. In college, I was reading a lot about rock bands who not only play music together but create music and make creative decisions from start-to-finish as a band. This got me thinking about how that could apply to a visual medium. I had some ideas back then that never went anywhere–some I’d still like to return to. As I grew professionally and realized how hard it was to make a good short film, let alone a feature, and even harder to market it and almost impossible to make money, I kept coming back to this band of filmmakers idea. Each filmmaker makes the smallest part of a feature–and puts everything they can into their small part. I figured if the filmmakes can learn to actually respond to each other and see their work in a larger context–like they are a musician in a band, each making something greater than ourselves–then we accomplish something logistically and artistically extraordinary. In the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough with my career to have some time to actually start the project.
2) Why is it about a backpack?
The first collab-feature script is about a world-wide power outage. It was a struggle to get that one right and and in the end we have a script that is too expensive to do on our own. We realized we needed to get back to the original idea, but we learned a lot about collaborating with the filmmakers over the world who you’ve never met and who don’t have the luxury of time to explore ideas all day long. We learned that we needed to have some very concrete rules from the start: 4 minutes max, each segment plays out in its entirety before going to the next, each segment should respond to the one before and lead us to the one after, there’s an unseen character that we’re trying to get to, and there’s an object that the film follows–an object belonging to that unseen character. At one point it was going to be a letter, an item of clothing, a cell phone and then maybe a suitcase. A backpack seemed a lot more hip and loveable! With a backpack each filmmaker can play around with objects inside of it and its squooshy and a little more like a person.
3) Who is writing the segments?
The best 25 filmmakers from around the world that we could find. Over the last two years, we’ve had about 700 or 800 people apply for the project, submit their films and answer some questions. We picked the ones with the best films that we though showed they could work on a low budget and had the most creativity.
4) How do you manage the different scripts and ideas and ensure that they work well together?
I have no idea!! I always think of the creative process like the millions of sperm trying to get to the egg. In this case, it was lots of ideas for short segments involving a backpack trying to connect to each other. We just had each filmmaker pitch idea after idea.. all of the filmmakers voted and Ian and I looked for ways to connect them. Once we had a rough outline, everyone revised their pitches in response to what came before or after, some changed them completely and then we would have group chats where completely new ideas would form.. sometimes a mini-storyline that encompasses 3 or 4 segments. That was my favorite part of the whole process.
5) How much of the film has already been shot? How happy are you with the results?
Half of the film has been shot! Segment 13 wrapped today (August 4th). appropriately, segment 13 was the horror segment about a ghost haunting a tortured pothead! I am extremely happy with the results! I can’t believe it’s really happening!
6) Will you shoot your own segments? Which part of the film will they make up?
Yes, I’m doing the 4th segment in the film. It’s called “Cinema Evangelist”.
7) When will the film be finished? Do you already know where you want to do the premiere, are there already any film festivals attached to it?
We hope to have the film finished by the end of the year or early next year. We want to premiere the film in every kind of theater in the 18 cities the film was shot in.. If we get into a prestigious film festival that requires a premiere then we’ll have to change our plans, but I think that is the right way for this one to be done. Festivals don’t usually accept films before they’re finished, so we don’t know where it will get in. Festivals are great and I owe so much to the festivals I’ve been a part of, but I hope that Collab-Feature can create new ways to introduce unknown artists to the world.
The shoot in Innsbruck last weekend went very well, HUGE thanks to this amazing team! Everybody did their best to make this happen. Check out this gallery of production stills at the amazing location high up on the mountain right next to my hometown Innsbruck.
The RED footage looks amazing! Mario Feil did very well as DP on my episode, especially considering it was his first time with a RED
About 60-70% of the episode was shot on RED, the rest on a 5D Mark II – and I think the footage will work very well together. I will post updates as the editing process progresses – without giving away too much of the story of course!
photos by Claudio Carletti
UPDATED February 2, 2011:
Check out these two behind the scenes videos done by the amazingly talented couple Claudio Carletti & Dagmar Holzmann. I subtitled them so everybody can understand our German pribble-prabble