Native of the San Francisco Bay area, Sean Wilder Owen studied photography and film at the San Francisco Art Institute, received a BA at Prescott College in Arizona, and a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio. He made The Empty Hand, a film about the martial Arts, during his time at the SF Art Institute. As a young man, he apprenticed for a time in the studio of his father, well-known Arizona-based sculptor John Waddell. The experience helped refine Owen’s grasp of such art fundamentals as drawing, perspective and composition while confirming in his own mind that sculpture was not his preferred creative path. Beginning in 1973, he spent 33 years in administrative and teaching positions at boarding schools in Sedona, at Walnut Hill arts boarding school in Boston, and at Idyllwild Arts Academy in Idyllwild, California. He served as Dean of Students, Assistant Headmaster, and taught photography, video production and Tae Kwon Do, in which he holds an 8th degree black belt.
After retiring in 2008, Owen and his wife settled in Durango, where his filmmaking focus became full-time. Among his eight previous films, all documentaries, are Borderlands, a portrait of Cahuilla Indian performance artist Gerald Clarke, and Sing Birds, which opened the Palm Springs Native Film Festival to an overflow audience in 2009 and was nominated for best documentary at the Native American Film Festival in San Francisco. Sing Birds focuses on the ancient tradition known as bird songs, ceremonial and social singing among tribes in California and Arizona. Sing Birds is presently being used in an on-going exhibition around California Indians at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.
Owen also made The Flame, a documentary about the 20 some spiritual groups in Crestone Colorado, and Tribal Radio, the story of the Ute Native Radio station in Ignacio, CO. Silverton Gold, a documentary on the old mining town of Silverton has just been completed in 2020. He has recently given up filmmaking to focus on his first love: still photography.