For most people, pursuing one dream is satisfactory for one lifetime. Not for Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
The actor is best known for roles such as Tommy Solomon on the 90’s sitcom “3rd Rock from the Sun,” Cameron James in the movie “10 Things I Hate About You” and Arthur in the Academy Award winning film “Inception.”
For most of his life, Gordon-Levitt was solely deemed an actor, until six years ago when he created hitRECord.org.
hitRECord is an open-collaborative production company, meaning anybody can create something and post it to the site for others to remix and recreate as they see fit.
The site, however, started off as just a place for Gordon-Levitt to show off the art he created in his spare time.
“It wasn’t a collaborative production company at all, it was far from it,” he told The Lantern.
Once fans started noticing the work he was doing, they would post messages and become more involved in the overall process of what he was creating, and the website grew exponentially.
“A community sort of sprouted up around that (the site) organically and people were starting to post messages and form a real communal vibe that was actually really encouraging,” he said. “Then we started making things together.”
On the website, artists contribute anything from a song to a tiny story to a screenplay and other artists build off those ideas to help create another piece of art until the song has an animated video or the tiny story has a voice over from somebody in another country or the screenplay is acted out by Gordon-Levitt himself.
The beginning of 2010 marked the official start of the professional aspect of the website, meaning profits were shared and the company started producing live events, such as the Ohio Union Activity Board’s “hitRECord at the movies with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.”
The live events showcase works done by artists on the site, predominantly short films, but also includes live music from Gordon-Levitt.
At Monday’s hitRECord show in the Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom in The Ohio Union, Gordon-Levitt performed his rendition of R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix),” which has already gained more than 17,000 views on YouTube and was blogged about by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton.
Gordon-Levitt also performed a song he wrote himself, titled “Words We’re Wailing.”
Creating original material, or the lack thereof, was the inspiration behind the term “hitRECord,” Gordon-Levitt said.
“It was just a little personal thing I would say to myself when I was kind of trying to find motivation to buckle down and make things and be creative,” he said.
Now, Gordon-Levitt enlists the live audience to help create content for the website, which is why he encourages everybody to record the hitRECord events.
Having the audience record the shows helps to create a closer relationship between who is on stage and who is watching, he said.
“A fundamental part of what I’m trying to make happen with hitRECord is blending, or breaking down, that barrier between what’s traditionally called an artist and what’s traditionally called an audience,” he said.
“The general model is the artist makes something and broadcasts it to an audience who has to just sit there and watch passively,” Gordon-Levitt continued. “I think we’ve gone way too far in that direction in our culture.”
Admitting this method of entertainment works, Gordon-Levitt said there’s more merit to the idea of having the audience participate in the creativity behind what’s being shown, which creates a more communal, collaborative atmosphere, he said.
“I think it’s healthy for people to participate more in their own cultures, in their own stories that they tell or are told,” Gordon-Levitt said. “That’s kind of one of the things, at the heart, hitRECord’s all about.”
At the show at Ohio State Monday evening, Gordon-Levitt showed examples of what audience participation can create. Recording his events himself, Gordon-Levitt showed clip of past shows where audience members joined him on stage to create stories, and OSU’s show will soon join Gordon-Levitt’s video library.
One audience member was asked to do a voiceover for what Gordon-Levitt called a “tiny story,” a story one to two sentences long. This was done after the actor showed a clip of how an audience member from a past show contributed her voice. Once her sound bite was added to hitRECord.org, an artist added animation and, after everything was mixed together, a tiny story was formed.
For Gordon-Levitt, breaking down the fourth wall between the audience and those on stage during shows is what he strives to achieve.
“I just want to make great art together, with a community of people,” he said.
Gordon-Levitt’s enthusiasm for the creation of art took some OSU students by surprise.
Katie Davis, a first-year theatre major, was pleasantly surprised by how passionately Gordon-Levitt displayed the creations from hitRECord.
“I like that he views art as more than just his specific area of it, like, just acting,” she said. “He views it as a much broader subject”
John Ross, a first-year in film and business, added that while he didn’t know about hitRECord before the show, he was impressed with the extent the company goes to get works of art produced.
“I didn’t realize how in depth it is with collaboration, (with)…getting indie projects produced,” he said.
Davis added, “I don’t know that many celebrities that…really care that much about people that aren’t, what he said, in Hollywood. He thinks that is just as important as (what) people in Hollywood are doing.”
What hitRECord produces is so important to Gordon-Levitt, a CD, DVD and book package was released in September, which featured a number of short stories and films in the book and DVD respectively.
The CD, titled “RECollection: Vol. 1” featured songs by Gordon-Levitt himself and one, “Nebulullaby,” by Sean Lennon.
Despite all of the work Gordon-Levitt has put into hitRECord over the past year, he still hasn’t forgotten the profession that made him famous: acting.
Gordon-Levitt is currently filming “Dark Knight Rises,” the latest Batman installment, directed by Christopher Nolan, who also worked with Gordon-Levitt on “Inception.”
Nolan isn’t the only familiar face from “Inception” involved in “Dark Knight Rises.” Tom Hardy and Marion Cotillard will also star in the movie. Working with the same people on both movies creates a familial atmosphere, Gordon-Levitt said.
“Everyone (on set) is really excited about what we’re making cause everyone knows we’re making something good,” Gordon-Levitt said. “We’re not just doing it for a paycheck, we’re not just punching the clock, everyone really cares about the movie, and that always makes it way more fun to do.”