Telluride Library + Mountainfilm: “One BIg Home,” 6/8
“One Big Home” addresses issues of growth and gentrification on Martha’s Vinyard, a tiny island off the coast of Massachusetts where presidents and celebrities vacation.
“The conversation about housing and growth in Telluride has been at a fever pitch for awhile now. When we were approached by members of the community to show this film, it seemed like a good fit and we hope not only add to the conversation, but facilitate movement toward constructive ideas.”
Twelve years in the making, “One Big Home” follows a carpenter’s journey to understand the trend toward the giant homes that he feels are threatening to destroy the island’s unique character. That carpenter is also the filmmaker, Thomas Bena. Feeling complicit in wrecking the place he called home, he took off his tool belt and picked up a camera. In the process of filmmaking, he bumps up against angry homeowners and builders who look the other way, as well as attempts to pass a new bylaw to limit house size.
After graduating with a degree in marketing and working for a time in the business world, I grew disillusioned with it. So I spent the next decade traveling around the world.
To fund my addiction to the road, I’d work odd jobs back in the U.S. and then, when I had a few thousand dollars saved, I’d be off again. My goal was simple—see the world and learn about myself.
During my travels, I can’t tell you how many times I’d hear, “You should’ve been here twenty years ago. It used to be such a special place but then it got discovered. People loved it to death.”
When I landed on Martha’s Vineyard, I found small towns and an eclectic mix of educated tradespeople, artists, Native Americans, and travelers. The sense of place was unlike any that I’d encountered. Instead of strip malls, franchises, and billboards, there were stone walls, rolling hills, and incredible beaches.
On the first day that I arrived I landed several jobs and it wasn’t long before I was working seven days a week. My main gig was carpentry. At first I really enjoyed the work, but over time I found myself working on larger and larger homes. The larger the home, the more my sense of uneasiness increased. And the fact that they were often third or fourth homes seemed incongruous with their enormous size. They looked more like bus stations or hotels, not summer cottages.
The houses were heated year-round and I found the waste of resources shocking and depressing. Not only did the “starter castles” dwarf the cottages and historic homes they replaced, they seemed out of keeping with everything that I love about Martha’s Vineyard. I felt like I was ruining the place that I wanted to call home. And that is why I took off my tool belt and picked up a camera.
After nine years of shooting and editing, I decided to do more than just document. I helped lead a local effort to pass a bylaw that would limit house size. That decision added three years to the project, made for a much better film, and helped to show that an individual truly can effect change.
This is not the anti-trophy home film. It isn’t anti-wealth or anti-development. It is PRO-community. A community gets to decide its own destiny—and if its members don’t take an active role then the market will decide for them.
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