Gentrification comes in many forms. On the tiny island of Martha’s Vineyard, where presidents and celebrities vacation, trophy homes threaten to destroy the island’s unique character.

Twelve years in the making, One Big Home follows one carpenter’s journey to understand the trend toward giant houses. When he feels complicit in wrecking the place he calls home, he takes off his tool belt and picks up a camera. Bumping up against angry homeowners and builders who look the other way, he works with his community and attempts to pass a new bylaw to limit house size.

Director Thomas Bena speaks in favor of a bylaw to limit house size, at the Chilmark town meeting

Director Thomas Bena speaks in favor of a bylaw to limit house size, at the Chilmark town meeting


“Intelligent and thoughtful throughout, One Big Home starts out with bias and ends up with one of the fairest assessments of a complex cultural issue seen on our screens in recent years.”

— Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film



While making One Big Home, filmmaker Thomas Bena interviewed many people with different perspectives on mega-mansions and limiting house size. The film presents their various points of view and their conflicting ideas about what makes a house a home.

Mike Wallace with filmmaker Thomas Bena

Mike Wallace with filmmaker Thomas Bena

"Conspicuous consumption is an old, old story. It's a free country. Why does it offend you?"

– Mike Wallace, journalist

Filmmaker Doug Liman

Filmmaker Doug Liman

"I used to live in the Hamptons and I'm suddenly seeing these big houses crop up and I'm nervous that could just start happening everywhere. If the people right around here start doing it, this house that I'm hoping to live in for the rest of my life, I'd probably sell. I mean I love this place but I love it the way it is now. If it gets ruined...for me the Hamptons got ruined."

– Doug Liman, director, The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow

Residential architect Peter Breese

Residential architect Peter Breese

"Your point of view is that of the neighbor. My point of view is ‘look at the world of architecture.’ They're building as a patron to the art of architecture, and that's an opportunity."

– Peter Breese, residential architect

Chris Murphy, retired fisherman

Chris Murphy, retired fisherman

"What happens to the community of working people...as the community gentrifies into really rich people and their houses?"

– Chris Murphy, retired fisherman

Clarissa Allen, farmer

Clarissa Allen, farmer

"It would be great if houses didn't dominate landscapes. We see a lot of that on the Vineyard in recent years. They're created instantly, completely landscaped—tennis courts, pools, whatever they think they'd like to have there—but it all happens so fast."

– Clarissa Allen, farmer

Film Clips

“A gutsy exposé about an issue on the tip of people’s tongues.”

– Matt Tyrnauer, director, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City

I hope my film will spark a discussion about the way we regard housing, land ownership, and the economic forces that shape our communities. Rather than throwing up our arms and saying, ‘you can't fight progress,’ communities can stand up for themselves, their way of life, and the natural environment.”

– Thomas Bena, director, One Big Home




In 2001, while working as a carpenter on Martha’s Vineyard, Thomas founded the Martha's Vineyard Film Festival.  Now in its nineteenth year, the MVFF is a year-round cultural institution. It offers free filmmaking classes in the Island schools, workshops for children, a thriving summer film series, and an annual March film festival. Thomas is looking for land (and/or an old barn) that the MVFF team can convert into a year-round gathering space for the community. In 2004, he started shooting his first documentary feature, One Big Home. The film chronicles his efforts to understand the trend toward extra-large summer homes. It took 12 years to make and has screened in more than 100 venues in the U.S. and abroad, including the National Gallery of Art and the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Citizens in Honolulu, Vancouver, Truro, and Provincetown have used the film to galvanize support for their own town/city bylaws limiting house size. Thomas has spent almost three years traveling to speak about One Big Home, and continues to do so. The film is also available on iTunes, DVD, and Blu-ray disc. He has recently launched an interactive website to help the conversation continue to grow: www.onebighome.com.


James Holland studied art and filmmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). He has produced and directed short films, as well as music videos for musicians including Regina Spektor and Only Son. His company The Media Darlings designed the motion graphics and title sequences for the films Unlocking the Cage (Pennebaker Hegedus Films), In My Father’s House (Break Thru Films), and One Big Home. James is also an editor and producer, and is currently developing a feature-length biographical narrative film that he will write and direct.


Liz Witham received her Master of Arts degree from Stanford University, in Documentary Film and Video. Her film Precipice, about the ethics of body modification, was nominated for a Student Academy Award, and her film Blues Variations, a profile of three blues artists, was broadcast on KQED, San Francisco’s PBS station. Liz produced, directed, shot, and edited A Certain Kind of Beauty, which premiered at Silverdocs as one of two U.S. selections on global health. Liz also co-produced Legacy of the Harp, a documentary which received a People’s Voice Award from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


Jim Cricchi studied experimental filmmaking at the University of Maryland. In 2000, he directed the fiction feature Gasoline Rainbows. His editing credits include the Emmy-winning documentary series Vice (HBO), the documentary Let Them Wear Towels, and the Jane Lynch comedy I Do and I Don’t. He is currently editing a documentary about the mental healthcare system in the U.S.


Jeremy Mayhew is an independent filmmaker, designer, animator, and freelance motion graphics artist based on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. He has developed and worked on projects for Redken, PBS, HGTV, the History Channel, The Electric Company, Galen Films, The Big Picture, Silver Screen Society, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, the Woods Hole Film Festival, and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society. His films have screened and won awards at film festivals around the world.


Paul Brill received three Emmy Award nominations for his scores for the films Full Battle Rattle (National Geographic), The Devil Came on Horseback (Break Thru Films), and The Trials of Darryl Hunt (HBO), and won the Best Music Award from the International Documentary Association for his score for the film Better this World. He collaborated with U2 on the HBO film Burma Soldier, composing a new string arrangement for an acoustic version of their classic song “Walk On.” He scored the hit documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (IFC), the Emmy Award-winning Page One: Inside the New York Times (Magnolia), as well as Christy Turlington Burns’s directorial debut, No Woman, No Cry (OWN), on which he collaborated with songwriter Martha Wainwright. He also composed the music for the landmark, six-hour PBS documentary The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, which won both Emmy and Peabody Awards in 2014.


Mollie Doyle is a writer, editor, and yoga teacher who lives with her family on Martha’s Vineyard. After many years as a Random House editor she moved from New York City, and to the other side of publishing, to ghostwrite books. She now writes an award-winning column for the Vineyard Gazette. In addition to her writing, Mollie is the director of yoga for The Yard, a dance colony on Martha’s Vineyard, and a co-founder of the Field Fund. But Mollie really considers her most important work to be raising a child, being connected to her family, and contributing in whatever way she can to making the island of Martha’s Vineyard a better place. 


Jake H. Davis, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral associate with the Virtues of Attention project at New York University. He has taught at Brown University and the City College of New York. He earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from CUNY’s Graduate Center, with an interdisciplinary concentration in cognitive science, as well as a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Hawai’i. He has authored and co-authored articles at the intersection of Buddhist philosophy, moral philosophy, and cognitive science. His research draws on his training as a monk in the Theravada Buddhist tradition of Burma (Myanmar), long periods of intensive meditation practice, a decade of work interpreting between Burmese and English for meditation masters, and training in teaching meditation retreats.


Steve Bernier first met Thomas Bena many years ago, when Thomas was raising funds for the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF). A few years later he was voted president of the MVFF’s board of directors. Although he had never produced a film before, One Big Home triggered his interest, so he wholeheartedly signed on and became one of the film’s major funders. He is a lover of good food, good people, and good community, and an avid champion for the planet and all things good and right in the world. Steve enjoys working hard and supporting those that do too. A family man, grocer, and wannabe forest ranger, Steve believes in the mission of the MVFF and is a major fan of God.


Arleen McGlade is an award-winning film producer. Her diverse credits include the documentary film Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine, for which she won a Daytime Emmy Award, the Oscar-nominated writer/director Damien Chazelle’s critically acclaimed musical Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, the feature film Maria My Love, and the documentary Death by Design, which uncovers a global story about mass-market devices that are intentionally designed to fail. She is currently in production with Dear Walmart, a documentary about the power of speaking out and organizing for change, featuring stories of workers across America standing up to the world’s largest private employer as they fight for fair wages and working conditions. Arleen serves on the advisory board of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. She is a proud New Jersey native and Rutgers alumna.


Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte is an Academy and Emmy Award-nominated, Golden Globe-winning producer working under the banner of Antidote Films, the company he founded in 2000. He most recently produced Fading Gigolo, written and directed by John Turturro and starring Woody Allen, Sofia Vergara, Sharon Stone, and Liev Schreiber. His other producing credits include The Kids Are All Right; The Dungeon Masters; Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired; Bomb It; The Last Winter; The Hawk Is Dying; Mysterious Skin; Chain; Thirteen; Laurel Canyon; Wendigo; American Saint; and Limon. He has also directed and produced two documentaries, Charlotte and Soul Power. Jeffrey is Board Chair for the IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project) in New York.