Kids often dress up as characters from their favorite stories and will spend hours playacting in tales of their own creation. But adults rarely do that -- at least outside the bedroom.
Academy Award-winning writer-director Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") wants to change all that.
"I think there is a lot of creativity that is not used, and I think people could use their own creativity to entertain themselves," Gondry said. "That's my concept."
In a new collaboration with Deitch Projects, Gondry has transformed the gallery in New York's SoHo into a "back lot," an intricate playground of sets, costumes and props. Here, visitors are encouraged to gather a group of friends, spend about two hours shooting a movie, take home copies, and allow others to view their creations via the gallery's video store.
Sound familiar? Well, it's essentially a recreation of the one in Gondry's latest film, "Be Kind Rewind."
In the movie, set to open Feb. 22, Jerry (Jack Black) inadvertently erases the tapes in his friend's (Mos Def's) video store, and the pair re-create the movies to keep the business afloat. They call their wild, low-tech, guerrilla approach to filmmaking "sweding." The plan works better than expected, and the entire community of Passaic, N.J., unites to make a movie.
"That's the beauty of being a director," Gondry said in a telephone interview from Berlin. "You can create the world according to what you want to happen."
Residents of Passaic participated in the filming of "Be Kind Rewind," and Gondry was inspired by their enthusiasm to continue the community filmmaking in a "more real-life way."
Gondry explained that he doesn't want the content created at the gallery to be posted online. He sees the activity as the entertainment and wants to promote an environment free of of competition or critique.
"I intend to prove that people can enjoy their time without being part of the commercial system and serving it," he said in a press release.
Although the exhibition was not created as an advertisement for the film, New Line Cinema will reap the benefits of the additional publicity garnered by the Deitch project.
"It's a great way to market the movie. It elevates the film to an art form ... and brings it to life," New Line marketing director Chris Carlisle said.
The exhibition fits in with the studio's interactive advertising strategy. On the "Be Kind Rewind" movie Web site users can "swede" themselves into popular films. They can also help "swede" the Internet, which the character Jerry has accidentally destroyed.
"Industrywide, the trend is toward guerrilla marketing campaigns," CNBC's media and entertainment reporter Julia Boorstin said. She cited the successful viral ad campaigns for the film "Cloverfield" and the ABC television show "Lost."
Studios are seeking out audience participation at a time when there is a growing demand for user-generated online content. Although Gondry created the "Be Kind Rewind" exhibition to entertain and build community, it seems as though he has "sweded" this marketing approach by asking people to take a break from their computers, televisions, even movie screens and collaborate with him and others at the gallery.