photo by Gage Skidmore
Most movie stars like to hit the nightclub circuit in their spare time, or frolic on islands the rest of us will never see. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, however, begs to differ. The star of films like The Dark Knight, Inception, and 50/50, has instead embarked on an online crusade to meld various genres of creative arts into one, and to encourage the great wide world to do it with him. His project, dubbed hitRECord, is a website where artistry gets remixed a thousand times over, and everyone gets a say in the matter. The actor started the site in 2005 with his brother, “Burning Dan,” a professional fire dancer who has since died of a drug overdose. The site began as a way to post videos and get feedback, but it caught on quick and soon became the open collaborative project it is today.
Considered a production company of sorts, hitRECord has published books, CDs, and DVDs, and has even gone on the road. Levitt likes to do live renditions of the project, including one at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, opening the gig with the statement, “Please turn all recording devices on.” Audiences can then watch the collaboration unfold, or partake in the activity themselves.
The actor told Time magazine last year, “Rather than just exhibiting and admiring each other’s work as isolated individuals, we gather here to work on projects together.”
Those who join the task force take each other’s work and “remix it,” adding music, animation or even an additional character based on the idea. Users can post a photo they took, a song they produced, a poem they wrote, and watch as it’s morphed into something larger. It’s kind of like that game kids play in Kindergarten, where everyone sites around a circle and adds on to one continuing motion.
“Having someone take creative liberty with what I’ve done, it’s just fascinating. It’s like, ‘Wow they really got it.’ Or they didn’t get it. You can really tell, based on the art that they make. Much more than what the box office was,” Levitt said to Time.
When the product sells, he pays up too. Everyone who assisted in the endeavor gets a piece of the pie. According to the site, hitRECord.org, ‘RECollection: Volume 1’ was the first anthology released of the project’s work, and included the work of 471 collaborators. It came as a DVD featuring 36 short films; a book of poetry, prose, paintings, and photography; and a CD, produced by “DJ RegularJoe, as he hosts his ‘pretend’ radio show.”
The actor has also been promoting the projects via his Twitter, particularly, The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume I, which was published by Harper Collins.
Levitt’s also starting a subscription series that will function similarly to a quarterly magazine, and has been encouraging subscribers to build up the community.
“Now that there have been so many fantastic contributions to chloe04’s “Character Collab,” it’s time to start writing stories about them so that we can begin making them into short films. We need the community to curate the contributions so writers and animators can remix these characters,” he writes on the site. “Create an album. Contribute the characters to your album that you think writers should create stories for. You can include text notes in your album that suggest storylines for these characters or other RECords that might go well with one another. Then contribute your album to the “Character Collab.”
For Levitt, the art of storytelling clearly has no limit or expectation.