by Alyssa Moody
You can catch Joseph Gordon Levitt and his hitRECord project tonight at the Warner Theatre. Click here for ticket info.
For those who are unfamiliar — can you explain the genesis of HitRecord and give a brief description of how it works?
Back in the early 2000’s I wasn’t really being given the same creative opportunities I am fortunate to have available to me today. So, instead of waiting around for things to happen, I started hitRECord as a website, a space for stuff I created on my own. The words ‘hit record’ have always been a creative mantra for me — to take responsibility for my own creative expression. Back then, hitRECord was an online journal where I posted videos and writing. A bit later I added a forum and over time an online creative community sprang up. Even back when hitRECord was a simple message-board of sorts, the creative community started to organically collaborate on different writing and art projects. My brother Dan helped program and develop the code of hitRECord to make it easier for more and more artists to collaborate together. And then in 2010, we officially launched hitRECord as a production company — with a legal infrastructure and more cohesive creative methodology. Now, hitRECord is a company of over 125,000 artists from all over the world who form a community around the art we make together. There are thousands of collaborations — writing, music, image, video for artists to work together on. If and when a project we work on together is able to make money, we split the profit 50-50 with the contributing artists.
What is the live experience like? What benefits have you seen from the open, interactive live performance environment? What can fans expect to see when you come to the Warner Theater on November 13 (TONIGHT!)?
Our live shows are pretty unique. We like to think of them not only as just a forum for the audience to be entertained, but a place where we actually make stuff together: half film-screening, half film-shoot. At the shows, we’ll screen a bunch of the work we’ve made together on the site and we’ll also be creating new stuff live in-the-moment.
For an artist that seems to have a kind of kinship with a bygone era, how challenging is it to make something lasting — something that matters or endures — in such an ephemeral society?
While we’re living in a time where it’s easy to distribute art through ones and zeros, I think people have come to appreciate art that can exist in the physical world even more. Every opportunity we get to take the art we make at hitRECord offline we go for it. In fact, one of our most popular collaborations, Tiny Stories, has a three-book deal with Harper Collins, volume two of which comes out today, Tuesday, November 13! The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories is over 100 pages of (very) short stories and illustrations contributed by over 60 hit RECord artists and sold in retail stores worldwide. It gives me a great feeling to be able to translate the art we make digitally into physical artifacts you can touch.
While all of the creative work on HitRECord is unique and extremely well-done, there are some particularly outstanding pieces on the site that have received immense acclaim and some that were even screened at major film festivals like Sundance and SXSW. What characteristics do you look for in a collaboration that could be screened for a larger audience? What have you found to be the best method for success with this type of synergistic platform?
Every RECord we make at hitRECord has a different origin story – you never know where inspiration will strike. The inspiration for one of the videos we screened at Sundance 2012 actually started out as a conversation between two artists about a kind of candy that is only available in the United Kingdom: Strawberry Bootlaces. A great hitRECord artist, Day_Glo (UK) wrote a poetic piece and voiceover describing what Strawberry Bootlaces are and why he loves them. Then, a wonderful musical artist, Ozie from Detroit, set the piece to music. Our community loved the vocal/score arrangement so I shot video in front of a green screen and then the community provided the visuals. A wonderful animator and visual FX artist, MarieIv from Russia then animated and we screened at Sundance!
You don’t limit yourself to one art form or medium. What influences do you look to who have blazed that path — involving themselves in all art forms — in staking out your own vision?
Of course, every artist is unique and I look to many for inspiration. Some who come to mind based on your question that I’ve come to really admire are artists like Tom Waits and Orson Welles.
How do you envision HitRECord will evolve over the next few years? With the site’s increasing popularity, how do you reconcile the tension inherent in art being opened to a mainstream audience?
I have found with hitRECord that the more popular it gets, the better the art becomes. Because more and more people are collaborating with one another, the wider the funnel — the art has only gotten stronger.
Sony recently donated cameras to several promising photographers on HitRECord to work on the incredible “Flickering Lights” project, and I know the site has also developed a similar partnership with Levis. — In what ways will these corporate partnerships effect the work being produced on the site? Will their contributions impact the live performances as well?
First, I’m so glad you called out our Flickering Lights collaboration. I’m really pleased with that one. It’s a great piece of writing, only made better by the haunting score and visuals. Flickering Lights is a good example of how our corporate sponsors work and how they don’t really effect the creative direction of hitRECord. Flickering Lights was a project we were developing on the site. It made sense for Sony to shine a light (pardon the pun) on this collaboration as they produce cameras which are all about capturing light. They don’t have any creative control, but they’re going to be distributing the final cut of the video on the internet. I’m excited about that — we get to create the work we want, and Sony is getting it out there to more people. Your readers can contribute to our FLICKERING LIGHTS collab here.
Finally, there are so many moving and inspiring works of art produced from the site — and I’m sure it has been extremely rewarding knowing you’ve allowed those pieces to come to fruition. Overall, what have you found to be the most personally gratifying aspect of HitRECord?
hitRECord inspires thousands of artists world-wide to create and collaborate every day — it’s an incredibly gratifying thing to be a part of.