Washington Filmworks’ Innovation Lab has helped launch Washington State’s next wave of filmmakers with its investment in the future of film. Projects like Rocket Men and War Room have benefited from the production program, and now you can add Ben Dobyns’ Strowlers to the list.
Set in the modern day, Strowlers tells the story of the misfits, outcasts, artists, and activists who exist on the magical fringes of society. It’s a unique project that experiments with storytelling, and Director Ben Dobyns is just the one to explain it all.
Washington Filmworks caught up with Dobyns after production wrapped on the project to discuss its current status and what audiences can expect.
WF: What was most surprising to you during the production process?
Ben Dobyns: The most surprising thing was that cast and crew bought in to the crazy thing we’re doing – we plan on releasing the show for free, and we’ll let other people share and profit from our intellectual property. Working with artists and creators, who are often engaged in a constant battle to protect their creations from piracy, I was worried that they would be hesitant to let their work out into the world like this. Instead, everyone was excited. It’s remarkably freeing to set those worries aside and just say “Let’s create something awesome and see what amazing, unpredictable things other people do with it!”
WF: What was your favorite location and why?
Ben Dobyns: This project is explicitly set in the Rainier Valley, with locations in Columbia City, Beacon Hill, and Hillman City. It’s a part of Seattle that we don’t often see on film and grounding the project in these neighborhoods, where I lived for many years, is all about representing one of the most diverse zip codes in the nation. Seattle is more than Pike Place Market, tech workers, and the Space Needle. The hub of this picture is a real-life location, the Hillman City Collaboratory, which is doing extraordinary work as a space for co-working, cultivating the arts, and creating a place where communities can meet and organize. So many members of that space, as well as other local artists, performers, and makers, came together to appear on screen the day that we shot there, helping to show a side of Seattle that’s all about what we can create collaboratively. Strowlers is about the people who are making culture, rather than consuming it, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase real-life Strowlers in a space that’s doing such exciting work.
WF: Can you give us three words that describe your personal experience directing the project?
Ben Dobyns: “A dream fulfilled.” It took seven years to get this project off the ground: two years to create the business plan, then five years to build the company, the infrastructure, the fan base, the storytelling skills, and the record of success that ultimately led so many people to take a chance on Strowlers. The experience of being on set with a cast and crew who believed in the project was extraordinary. It’s one of the best crews I’ve ever worked with: calm, professional, creative, and excited to show up every day and make magic. The best kind of dreams are the ones that we’re able to share with others, whether they’re flickering images on the screen or a real-world gathering to help our neighbors in need. The show Strowlers is all about bringing those dreams to life through the stories we tell and the production process itself felt like it lived up to that ideal.
WF: How is Post-Production going? What is the timeline for the project in terms of being ready for the public?
Ben Dobyns: Editing has begun and we’re aiming to have a locked cut of the pilot by the end of this year. We intentionally have not set a public release date yet, as we’ll first be looking for the right partners to help create a bigger launch for the show than we could manage on our own, but we expect to release the pilot in 2016, along with several other potential Strowlers shows that other producers are currently developing.