My forearms start to cramp up. I'm poised in an awkward position the middle of a room under the hot beam of a studio light. The scene I'm filming is suddenly tense. The actors stop talking, fold their arms and stare pensively at each other. Total silence descends upon the set, and suddenly I really, really need to burp. Making movies is harder than I imagined.
I was on the set of Derby Soap Opera, an ambitious film project orchestrated by Italian director Marinella Senatore. "We need every single person in the city, every student, every school, every bingo player, dentist, bus driver, grandparent, councillor, professor, bricklayer, plumber, mum and dad to get involved!" says the project's website. We were invited to become actors, dancers, scriptwriters, set designers, camera operators.
The process of creating the Soap Opera has so far been organic, collaborative and inclusive. Or chaotic, bewildering and hair-raising, depending on your perspective. The ending of the script wasn't decided upon until the day the crew started shooting the final cut, for example. But Marinella thrives on this, her role more akin to a mediator than a dictator. And she's done it many times before, in Spain, Italy and America where she brought an incredible mix of people together from the Lower East Side of Manhattan together to make a film.
Community-led projects bring an expensive and challenging art form into the hands of those who might never have the opportunity to engage with it. One of Marinella's films, Nui Simu, focuses on ex-miners in a hill-top town called Enna, in the middle of Sicily; a situation ripe with ideas and collective memories that deserve to be documented.
Derby played an integral part in the Industrial Revolution. Its silk and cotton mills dotted around the town a powerful reminder of how much our lives have changed. Will the Derby Soap Opera's plot reflect this rich heritage? Or will it be something totally unexpected, a concoction dreamt up by an usual meeting of strangers in a scriptwriting workshop? I suspect the answer isn't as important as we believe. The beating heart of this project is the process of film making, not the final product.
In the most literal way possible Marinella links the social, political and artistic by putting the camera in my hands and asking local citizens to tell me where to point it. She uses the structure of cinema - the fact that it requires a large, multi-talented team - to include as many volunteers as possible.
Hanna Sköld's first feature length film, Nasty Old People, was the first ever live action movie to be released under a creative commons licence. It was launched on The Pirate Bay in 2009. A story about a neo-Nazi Swedish girl who is carer to a bunch of, well, nasty old people, it was funded through a bank loan of 10,000 Euros (just under £8000). The generous licence allows fans to edit the footage and create new films, or remixes. It was screened all over the world, from indie film festivals to cosy cinema clubs and even on Swedish TV. Less than two years after its release, the bank loan was completely paid off with donations from fans.
Grannies Dancing on the Table is Hanna's next project and will be released under an open licence both online and in cinemas simultaneously. That's the plan anyway. The script is being developed on Facebook with help from people all over the world, and plans are afoot for an interactive game, public events and even an International Granny Day. The whole universe will become a backdrop for granny-appreciation: a Granniverse!
Story sharing is seen as a formidable force for social good - an idea which binds both the Derby Soap Opera and Grannies Dancing on the Table. I asked Hanna what the appeal of open source filmmaking is for her. "I think that the more people tell their stories, the easier we can understand each other's realities. And I think it's hard to make war when we understand each other's circumstances, and we see the world from other people's perspectives. That's why creative commons and telling stories is a peace movement."
Open licences and community-led work have the potential to do more than just give birth to great movies and art. "Every one of us should have the same opportunity to listen to and take part in stories and culture." says Sköld. "It's a matter of democracy. That's why I believe in free culture!"
Grannies Dancing on the Table is being funded via crowdfunding on Kickstarter, see here for details. Derby Soap Opera will be screened during Derby Festé arts festival in September.
Follow Shreen Ayob on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@shreen_ayob