What Michel Gondry’s Home Movie Factory Taught Me

First off, it taught me that it’s okay to have a title that sounds like something you were forced to write when you were twelve. Secondly, it taught me that art is does not have to be the often pretentious, overly self-aware, inaccessible and unreliable deluge of imagery and emoters that I’ve come to associate with the word. Art- and don’t let anyone under the age of 25 with a ridiculous haircut hear you repeat this- can be fun.

I went to film school. That’s not something I usually tell people while sober, but I did, and I’m not. I have watched the triumph of some of my more talented, disciplined peers rise to levels of relative success in the film industry and I have sat back and nestled, ever cushier, into my role in advertising with no small amount of jealousy. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job- especially if you’re a colleague reading this, believe me, I LOVE my job, and I am grateful for the journey I’ve taken to get here. It’s made me the undeniably awesome and incredibly humble person I am today. But I have often wondered what my life would look  like if I’d had the balls, the financial freedom and moral ambiguity to fully pursue film making. Like for reals.

Going to the Michel Gondry Home Move Factory in Johannesburg last Saturday wasn’t something I was particularly looking forward to. As my friend and film school cohort, Dave, said to me as we waited for our postponed slot and our equally postponed lunch, I would have- at the time- preferred a nice lecture and a nap. Possibly simultaneously. We met our fellow movie makers while we were still smashing take-aways into our faces and, three hours later, sat down with them again and a bottle of Leopard’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc (Note to self: You eat and drink too much when you hang out with Dave) to watch the strange fruits of our labour.

I’m not going to give away too much of how, exactly, the project works. Suffice to say that it does. I don’t think I’ve had that much fun in a long time. I’ll just tell you that, much like the characters in Be Kind, Rewind, the participants are forced to conceptualise, plan and shoot a film in  feverish 45-minute spurts. My group and I went from being complete strangers to galvanising as a  team around more bizarre collection of ideas I think many of us will have ever had to deal with before. The time limits eliminated nit-picking, over-thinking and much of the arguing. There simply wasn’t time to disagree with Dave’s decision that all of ‘gang’ members should wear feather boas, or to stop me from squirting a pile of glitter glue all over our DVD cover, and so no one did.

You’d think that a project created on the fly with a group of unfamiliars would be an absolute, bloody abortion (another thing that Dave somehow worked into our 11 minute opus). And you’re right. Watching it for the second time today, the story is largely disjointed, the footage looks as though it was shot by an epilepsy sufferer at a rave and my performance consists primarily of me standing around, not sure of what the fuck I’m doing. But when we watched it the first time, we were delighted and surprised by the clarity of the narrative and the quality of the acting. It was at least 10 times better than I thought it would be while standing on the other side of the lens.

And it showed me that, unlike the three years I spent stressing and suffering through my studies at AFDA, and unlike the moments of very real panic I feel in my day-to-day job, making movies with your friends, or making any kind of art- is fun. If I could help create something that we were all- well, at least that I was proud of, in under three hours, with people who don’t know even each other, imagine what I could achieve in three weeks, or three months, with people I actually like.

Much though I enjoyed the Home Movie Factory, I don’t know if it’s an experience you can ever repeat. Just like you can never have a second first kiss, or how you can never properly relate why someone falling down a flight of stairs made you wet yourself laughing, I don’t think you can ever make a Home Movie Factory Movie twice. The enjoyment is in the unexpected. That said, I recommend the experience to anyone looking for a great way to spend time with their more artistic, and less inhibited, selves. If I, like the kids in my Michel Gondry inspired Home Movie, had a time machine, I would go back and do the whole thing again in a heartbeat.

Here, without further ado, and for your viewing terror is sci-fi/kung-fu/mockumentary I co-created on Spring Day 2012:

The Kungfusion Project.

Please don’t judge me.