September 21 – 24, 2023

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Spotlight: Interview with Producer Shaun O’Banion

Spotlight: Interview with Producer Shaun O’Banion

Shaun O’Banion, who has come to the festival in years past, is busy working out the details of his newest project: a dramatic comedy about dating in your 30s.

“I was looking for something a little lighter in tone that could also take me into a different direction,” O’Banion said.

With his previous two films, he worked as the producer and accepted the best of fest award for Dakota Skye in 2008 and the best narrative award for Girlfriend in 2011. While he really enjoyed producing those two films, he is eager to transition into the director’s chair.

He would like to work on directing this new film in which he said is a “smart, honest script.” In The Sack, working title, by Arthur Tiersky is about a man in his 30s who has been discouraged in dating and decides to start wearing a sack over his head to make people stay away from him.

Strangely enough, the sack actually draws more attention to him, making him more interesting to people of the town and mysterious to the women. O’Banion said that the sack serves as a way for him to become more confident and energetic.

“In a way, it is kind of like a superhero identity,” he said.

But as the story evolves, the young man learns that the sack is actually a crutch.

While the script was originally written for a larger city, it was adapted to a smaller community because in a smaller pool, options are limited. It also makes it easier for a reputation to follow you around. A couple of the characters decide that they would rather be unique in the small city than get lost in a big crowd.

Filming is planned to take place in Michigan with the help of producer James Stuart of a studio on Mackinac Island called Cinefab Studios. The film will be a co-production with this studio and Ravenwood Films.

Carrie Jones, Michigan Film Commissioner, and the Michigan film office has also been really helpful in finding and securing locations, answer questions, reviewing documents, and working towards state incentive qualification.

“It’s imperative,” O’Banion said, “to have the cooperation of Carrie’s office, and her staff has been extremely patient with us so far.”

O’Banion said he also hopes to incorporate local Michigan actors.

“We can make Michigan a character as well in a way,” he said.

O’Banion said that both times he came to Bay City, “he fell in love with” the feel and look of the city and the kindness of the community.

As a filmmaker and guest, he said he felt very welcomed and enjoyed the camaraderie amongst him and the other filmmakers. He enjoyed being able to hang out with them and share ideas. Even as he returned to LA, he said he kept in contact with many of them.

For smaller areas like Bay City, he said it is important to have these festivals so that people will have the opportunity to view films that they might not otherwise know about.

He said it is also important for those interested in making film. Speaking from his own experience, he said that when you aren’t in a larger city centered on film, it can sometimes make you feel isolated as a creative type.

“The greatest gift in a smaller festival is that it shows you that you have the ability to do things that it’d be hard to pull off in large cities,” he said.

He said that with a city as supportive as Bay City, people can really take advantage of the area and make great films—even if they don’t live in Hollywood.

O’Banion said that they are still looking to secure more financing for the new film. If they do lock in a new partner, they hope to shoot this summer. If interested, please contact


Interview by Kirsten McIlvenna

with corrections 7/13/12