Airing on Pivot, the exciting new creative venture HITRECORD ON TV is a new take on the variety show. Hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who directs countless artists from his global online community hitRECord, the series showcases short films, live performances, music, animation, conversation, and so much more, with each episode focusing on a different theme.
While at the Pivot portion of the TCA Press Tour, Joseph Gordon-Levitt spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how the idea of doing a TV version of hitRECord came about, what an open collaborative production company really is, how he hopes seeing the show will inspired even more people to contribute, doing the entire first season at one time, plans for Season 2, the impact of getting people together and inspiring creativity, and having that inspire him to take risks in his own life and career. He also talked about how deeply excited he is to take on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman because of the potential of the material. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: In the beginning, not at all. In the beginning, hitRECord was something I would just say to myself. I’d been an actor my whole life, since I was a kid. And then, I quit for awhile and went to university. When I wanted to start acting again, I couldn’t get a job, and that was really depressing. So, I realized, at that time, that I have to take responsibility for my own creativity. I can’t just wait around for someone else to tell me that I’m allowed to make things. I love it too much. So, the record button – that red circle – became a symbol for that. That’s all it was. That’s how it started.
And then, my brother helped me set up this web site to put up and share some of the things I’d been making, and it grew from there, in a very informal way. It wasn’t for years that my producing partner, Jared [Geller], and I started conceiving of it as a production company, and figuring out, “Okay, say we took this collaborative process that’s developed over the last several years on this website, and we actually used it to do grand scale productions, how would that work? How could we pay people? How could we share the intellectual property rights?” Once we figured that out, then we started thinking about what productions we could do. And at the bottom of our list, the pie in the sky for the long-term future goal, was a television show. That was about five years ago. Now, we have to set new goals.
When you told people that you were starting an open collaborative production company, did they initially think you were completely crazy? Did it take people awhile to figure out what you were trying to do?
GORDON-LEVITT: Yeah. The reactions vary, of course. People who are involved tend to really love it. Sometimes it is hard to explain to somebody who hasn’t seen what it is yet. That’s really exciting about the television show because, when you watch the TV show, you really get it. So, I’m really, really excited for people to see it and be like, “Oh, that’s what you’re doing. Okay. Well, I’ll contribute to that.” I’m anticipating the contributions growing even more rich and numerous, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Did actually getting an episode of HITRECORD on TV done really reassure you, with what you wanted to accomplish?
GORDON-LEVITT: Well, we made them all, at the same time. We weren’t just doing one at a time. Right now, we’ve got five of them done and we’re putting the finishing touches on the remaining three. We didn’t just do the first one, and then do the second one, and then do the third one. We had all of the collaborations going at once. But this first season was, by far, the biggest hurdle. We had to figure out how we were going to do this and how it was going to come together. Without having an episode to show anybody, people were like, “But, what’s it going to be like?” Whereas now, we have a show to show people, so that they can see it and go, “Oh, that’s what you’re doing. Okay, great. Cool!” It’s much easier now.
GORDON-LEVITT: We’ll see. Season 2 will evolve, but I don’t know how. With Season 1, the idea was to try to keep the community involved, in as much of the process as possible, and have it really be generated by this continuous feedback loop. And I’m sure Season 2 will be the same way. It’s unpredictable in that way, and maybe a little scary for that reason, but that’s what keeps it interesting.
You work in an industry that tends to stifle individual creativity, and we live in a world where art gets less and less funding in school. Had you really conceived of the impact this could have, as far as getting people together and inspiring creativity, and giving people an outlet they wouldn’t otherwise have?
GORDON-LEVITT: The answer is yes. My parents brought up my brother and me to consider ourselves a part of a larger world and to care about that, and to not only look out for #1, but to understand that it’s in everybody’s interest for us to come together and share and be a community. Those ideals that my parents taught us are certainly deeply imbedded in what hitRECord has always been about. I’m delighted to hear that that’s apparent to you. Before it was a TV show or a production company or even a website, hitRECord was just a phrase I would say to myself, in my early 20’s. hitRECord is a complete imperative sentence, especially for my brother, even more than me, to be honest. As the collaborative process developed, I would be more focused on making something good. He’d be like, “That’s all great. I hope you do make something that’s really good.”
But, what he always cared about was just getting people to try it and getting people to jump in. People who think to themselves, “Oh, that’s not me. I’m not an artist. I maybe always wanted to be an artist, but no, I don’t do that. I can’t. I’d like to write, but I don’t let people read my writing.” That’s what motivated him, more than anything. It was seeing people that would say, “This community is really warm and receptive and encouraging. I’ve never really shown my writing to anybody before, but here it is.” That was his favorite. And that spirit is still very much alive in our community. If you go and spend any time on our site, besides the fact that we’re doing grand scale professional level productions now, there’s also just lots of people who really want to encourage each other to express themselves. Whether it’s gonna be on the TV show or not is less important, and I love that. That’s a big important part of hitRECord to me, and it certainly was what Dan was the most about.
When you see so many people try things they never would have considered doing, does that inspire you to take creative risks in your own life and career?
GORDON-LEVITT: 100%, yeah. Just ‘cause I was already talking about him, my brother’s favorite book was Green Eggs and Ham. It’s a kids’ book, of course, but if you really examine Green Eggs and Ham, it’s a masterpiece. It’s so well-written and drawn, and everything else. And the message behind it is exactly what you’re saying. It’s about, “Do it. Go ahead. Try something that you’re not used to.” And I think that’s a lot of what life is about. Certainly, trying to direct a movie, there’s going to be a lot of naysayers that say, “Stick to acting.” Our culture has a tendency to pigeonhole people and to try to tear down anybody who’s breaking out of our comfort zone. That’s why we get into these cultural ruts that end up being destructive prejudices. But breaking out of that comfort zone is the most rewarding thing you can do, in your life. I do my best to push myself, when I can.
Is that why you want to take on something like Sandman? Are you prepared for the level of expectation that comes along with that, or is that just really scary?
GORDON-LEVITT: Sure, but that’s what makes it great. There’s so much potential in that material. I’m deeply excited about it. And who knows where it will go.
HITRECORD ON TV airs on Pivot.