Gondry's Movie Captures DIY's Impact on Professional Creativity

That Ethos Extends to Film's Website, Giving Fans a Chance to 'Swede' Themselves

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The release of a Michel Gondry film is always cause for giddy anticipation in certain circles. For Gondry's coming film, "Be Kind Rewind," those circles likely will be much wider than usual.
On the site for 'Be Kind Rewind,' visitors have re-rendered popular websites in paper, popsicle sticks and found objects.
On the site for 'Be Kind Rewind,' visitors have re-rendered popular websites in paper, popsicle sticks and found objects.

In the film, Jerry (Jack Black), through a series of unlikely events, comes to be magnetized and accidentally erases all of the movies in the quiet video store where his pal Mike (Mos Def) works. Compelled to make the show go on for a beloved regular customer (Mia Farrow), the boys re-create and reshoot the movies she rents by whatever lo-fi means they can. That premise has Black and Def using a cheap camera, cardboard and neighbors to remake such films as "Boyz n the Hood," "Driving Miss Daisy" and "Ghostbusters."

Thematically, the film couldn't be more era-appropriate -- it's got a DIY creativity ethic, remixing and, behind the delightfully low-tech visuals celebrating individual creative expression, a contemplation of copyright law. Basically, if you don't want to see this movie, you're a robot (or you got put off Jack Black somewhere between "Shallow Hal" and "King Kong").

In the film, the process of remaking films is called sweding. As Jerry explains: "You take what you like and mix it with some other things you like and make a new thing." New Line Cinema has harnessed the sweding premise in an online and offline campaign that does right by the film's crafty spirit. Visitors to Bekindmovie.com, created by Sydney, Australia's Tequila, discover that the internet itself has been erased and they must help rebuild (swede) it. Sites such as Google, MySpace (or MyFace, as it's called on the site), IMDB and eBay have been re-rendered in paper and popsicle sticks and found objects, while fans have posted similarly homely versions of CNN and Rotten Tomatoes. The site also allows visitors to swede themselves into movie posters and circuitously discover an assortment of clips (including fans' own movies on a YouTube channel), games, downloads and other movie-related nuggets. Even the site navigation is homemade -- including the cute, oversize cursor arrow that's held aloft by a wire and torn-paper scroll bar.

The campaign idea was a natural extension of the film, says New Line Senior VP-Interactive Marketing Aaron Sugarman, but care had to be taken to offer something new, in keeping with the story's message. "Doing this seemed more fresh than doing just another user-generated video contest," Sugarman says.

The campaign also brings the sweding experience to the streets, with Gondry and New York's Deitch Projects linking to create a sweding studio at the Deitch gallery (Deitch also held an exhibit of artifacts from Gondry's last feature, "The Science of Sleep"). Another live swede house is planned for the Sundance Festival, where "Be Kind Rewind" premiered last weekend. Next up: a sweded "Be Kind," courtesy of the directors whose films are reassembled by Mike and Jerry. Sugarman says there's been "friends and family outreach" toward that end, but nothing approved yet.

For all the cuteness and quirk of the film and campaign, the most rewarding aspect of the whole enterprise, though, is that Gondry will surely have his "biggest" feature to date, by providing a low-fi counterpoint to big-budget moviemaking.

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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and Creativity-Online.com.
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