As a legit Hollywood movie producer, Shaun O'Banion (right)found his stealth work ethic made for really good karma over the past 15 years. Coming to Bay City for the Hells Half Mile Film and Music Festival for his production of Dakota Skye, O'Banion is as happy to hang out with other film makers as he is to visit the state for the very first time.
"It was a very small film and it was made basically by a bunch of friends," says O'Banion. "It was one of those labor of love projects that you hear about."
Paying the bills with work on other major motion pictures, it was his small group of friends that took their desire to another level with Dakota Skye. "The director John Humber (left of Banion) I've known for 7 years and another friend, Chad Shonk wrote the film and we live in L.A. Over the years we linked up and became friends, developing short films and launching projects."
"We work on much bigger films to pay the rent and live the kind of life we're trying to live," stated O'Banion. "Out of frustration over the way things have gone the last couple of years, we started looking at auctions that we could do on our own. Chad and John went away and sort of did a re-write and a polish on it, because Chad had written it about five or six years before. It was one of his first scripts and probably his most personal."
Just before plans were coming together, tragedy struck Humber, which worked out to be a bittersweet situation. "We had a terrible thing happen that was actually a good thing for us, which was John's grandfather passed away and he left John a considerable amount of money," said O'Banion. "John decided to do what they tell you in film schools never to do, which was to put his own money into the film. He came to me and said, 'I think I want to make Dakota Skye. I'm going to use my inheritance and my mother is going to match whatever investment I'm going to make in it.' At first I thought he was insane, but then I thought it was the best idea I ever heard."
With money to work with, the producer was ready to break ground.
"What do we need to do, where do we begin? John was very adamant all the way through the process that he wanted to do it as a big movie like all the movies we've been working on the last 15 years. So that was what we did."
The project began in the summer of 2006. "We shot the movie in 16 days. Two days in New York and all the rest ended around in Phoenix with a day at the Grand Canyon. Pretty much all localized."
"We cast our three principal actors out of Los Angeles and we came back to L.A. to do that. I think we had 2300 submissions for Dakota, which we then sorted down to 160 girls - somewhere around there."
The team brought many years of practice to the table when filming Dakota Skye.
"I have only written and directed one film," O'Banion said. "John has probably done four or five. Chad has done one. John, Chad and the composer Seth (Podowitz) all actually went to film school, but I didn't. When I turned 18, I snuck into Universal Studios and started begging people for jobs and that's how I started in the business."
"I've been in the business for 15 years now and John's been in for probably ten. When we started out we were production assistants. That's actually how we met. We were working on a movie called Swordfish, a John Travolta film. Over the years we went from being PA's to being assistants to actors. John worked for several years for Owen Wilson; I worked for everybody from Jack Black to Christopher Walken to Courtney Cox.
"I am working for a director right now that has a movie coming out this fall called The Soloist. Joe Wright, he's a really fantastic guy. It's opening Nov. 21st, it's a Jamie Fox/Robert Downey Jr. movie. I'm assisting the director as a Producer/Director."
"John was working with Jennifer Garner and I was on the film as well and in the midst of working on that started to prep Dakota. People would come up to us and go, 'Hey, I hear you got a project.' You go, 'Yeah we're going to do this little movie' and they go, 'If you're looking for crew, we might be around then.' It was a phenomenal group of people. That's the benefit of working on these bigger movies - meeting friends that will pitch in and help you out later."
Already reaping accolades, Dakota Skye has already won Best Screen Play in Phoenix at a film festival; Best Actor for Ian Nelson and Best Feature at a Festival in Hollywood called First Glance.
"I've never been to Michigan so I am pretty excited to come out there and see that part of the world," O'Banion shared. "I'm pretty psyched to come and hang out with the other film makers and see what it's like."
16th November, 2023