Ever imagined yourself starring in your own movie? Now you can get closer to that dream with the Home Movie Factory, a concept that allows ordinary people to make their own film, star in it, and watch the finished product, all in the space of three hours.

Home Movie FactoryOne of the multipurpose sets in the Home Movie Factory.

The project is the brainchild of French director Michel Gondry (Be Kind, Rewind and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), who described it as a space that inspires a playful imagination, where people can work with others to create something of their own that is tangible.

“The Home Movie Factory is a way to get people to leave their homes and make friends,” said Gondry. “To be proud of what they’ve achieved together and above all, to have fun.” His aim is to show that everyone is creative.

Situated in the Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg’s Commissioner Street, the studio is housed in an old warehouse. Filming takes place in an interactive environment with a wide range of backgrounds, props and costumes that reflect everyday aspects of Johannesburg. A total of 12 sets range from a downtown street to a Highveld campsite and mine shaft.

Other props include a car with a filmed background to simulate driving in the day or night time driving. For indoor scenes, a bedroom, lounge, church and courtroom give the crew and actors a variety of scenes, including a doctor’s consulting room.

“Mistakes are encouraged,” said Gondry. “The idea is not to produce good films, but to create for the sake of creating.

“Crews are provided with a group of small sets to cover a decent range of story possibilities. Some sets are more fun than others, but they can all be used in any way one likes.”

The Before filming begins, each group is given 45 minutes to decide on a genre, title and basic scenario. Another 45 minutes is spent developing the storyline and acting out the scenes.

“In two workshops, the group will, step by step, elaborate a simple or complex storyline starting from the most basic point they agree upon: the genre. The title will then be decided, and the story will flow logically from there.”

The entire process takes three hours, ending with a screening of the film at the Bioscope, an independent cinema a few blocks away, which is partnering in the project together with the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), the National Arts Council and the French Institute.

Watch the Bioscope’s introduction to the Home Movie Factory:

The Home Movie Factory has previously been hosted in New York, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Rotterdam, Paris and Moscow.

Gondry said that the principle is simple even though it took him several attempts to get it to work as it does. The Home Movie Factory is an official project of the France-South Africa Seasons 2012 and 2013, an initiative of the governments of both countries that tries to encourage a discussion of on culture, science, sport, education and business.

At the factory’s launch in August, Zama Mkosi, chief executive officer of the NFVF, said: “The occasion represents the beginning of a future where the youth of South Africa will have a constant voice in the development of the film industry.”

She added that young people will get an opportunity to tell the South African story from their own perspective, helping the industry to flourish.

“We therefore will like to congratulate the Bioscope independent cinema team, our partners in the Home Movie Project, for ensuring that Michel Gondry’s dream comes to our shores,” she said.

The Home Movie Factory runs from 1 September to 27 October at MOAD, 281 Commissioner Street, Maboneng Precinct. Members of the public are invited to participate in the project at no charge. Block bookings can be made for a maximum of 10 people, but each session can accommodate up to 15. To book phone 011 056 4573.

HMF floorplanThe floor plan of the Home Movie Factory. Click the image for a larger view.