Ready, Set, Gondry!

The Brooklyn Paper
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Filmmaker Michel Gondry isn’t trying to teach people how to make movies — he just believes we don’t have to rely on Hollywood for all our fun.

With his new book, “You’ll Like This Film Because You’re In It: The Be Kind Rewind Protocol,” released this month, Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” “The Science of Sleep”) encourages people to create their own entertainment and establish an alternative to commercialized art.

“Most people are being told they can’t express creativity or it’s something either for a privileged group or for kids,” said Gondry, an East Williamsburg notable. “Reaching out to those people, giving them a chance to express themselves – we reveal treasures, unknown treasures.”

It’s these riches of community filmmaking that are derived from Gondry’s idea of the “Neighborhood Movie Club.” The concept rose to prominence in February with the launch of his most-recent film, “Be Kind Rewind,” which saw funnyman Jack Black and rapper Mos Def as video clerks forced by their own incompetence to recreate Hollywood blockbusters without a budget. Accompanying the release was a do-it-yourself exhibition at Manhattan’s Deitch Projects Gallery, where school groups and visitors made their own movies in an installation space decked out with multiple film sets.

In an amusing, light-hearted style (one film involved “a bunch of naked women with unshaven Venus mounds and a live chicken”), Gondry writes about the misfires and successes of the Deitch exhibition as well as his experience helping his Orient Avenue neighbors make their own community film, “There’s a Hand in My Soup.”

“We just shot in my street; I wanted to demonstrate that the protocol could work in a real world,” said Gondry, who also reveals in the book that he chose his Orient Avenue address due to its proximity to two gas stations — a nostalgic reminder of the complimentary “Lucky Luke” comic books he received at French gas stops during his youth.

Originally based in the East Village, Gondry moved to East Williamsburg in February and also spends two months of the year in his native Paris. He explained that the two creative environments could not be more different.

“In Brooklyn, I can wake up with an idea in the morning and achieve it in the afternoon,” said the 45-year-old Academy Award winner (for co-writing “Eternal Sunshine”). “In Paris, you would have to count one week if not one month — if you’re not discouraged.”

The book also explains that when Gondry moved to Orient Avenue, he was completely unaware that the house used in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is on the very same street. But as The Brooklyn Paper reported, the onetime film set has since become a crackhouse frequented by local junkies and prostitutes.

“It’s a bit sad and I think it’s too bad that people don’t want to take care of their house,” said Gondry, who lives with his teenage son Paul. “Because the strength of development is overwhelming and the condominium is eating up the street from both ends.”

Gondry’s bank balance might get eaten into as well if his new book is a hit. Keeping with his aim to promote community-based, non-commercial creativity, in the closing paragraph he offers readers a free digital camera if they send him a proposal for a neighborhood movie.

“If 200,000 people ask me for a camera I will be in trouble,” said Gondry. “But then it would mean that this book has a big impact. That’s the risk I’m taking.”

“You’ll Like This Film Because You’re In It: The Be Kind Rewind Protocol” by Michel Gondry (Picturebox, $16.95) is available at Barnes & Noble [267 Seventh Avenue at Sixth Street in Park Slope, (718) 832-9066] and BookCourt [163 Court St., between Dean and Pacific streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 875-3677]. For information, visit

Updated 5:09 pm, July 9, 2018
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