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Joseph Gordon-Levitt on RECollection: Volume 1: "This is the first time that I’ve made something."

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire September 20, 2011 at 12:54PM

Joseph Gordon-Levitt doesn't seem like he's running a collaborative multimedia studio.
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Joseph Gordon-Levitt doesn't seem like he's running a collaborative multimedia studio.

The Los Angeles native just returned to his hometown after visiting Toronto to promote cancer comedy "50/50" and is in the midst of filming Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" (he plays detective John Blake). Then he's set to play the son to Daniel Day-Lewis's Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln." Both films are slated to hit theaters next year, along with two other 2012 Gordon-Levitt starring releases: "Looper" and "Premium Rush."

And in his spare time, Gordon-Levitt also heads hitRECord, a production company where artists from all over the world work together to create short films, music videos and the like. It's all a bit difficult to explain, so let Gordon-Levitt do the job by watching the video below.


His company's first anthology comes out this week and it's our pick of the week. Entitled "RECollection: Volume 1," the set includes a DVD and a CD, all bound in a hardcover 64-page book. Inside are contributions from 471 artists that include short films, videos, original songs, stories, poems, photography and more.

We caught up with Gordon-Levitt to discuss the site's genesis and see if he plans on giving up his day job anytime soon.

What inspired you to dream up this whole endeavor?

It started as a creative outlet for me. I love acting, but acting in a movie is very much my job to help a filmmaker realize their vision. I love doing it, but about five, six years ago I came to this conclusion that it wasn’t going to work for me to have to wait on somebody else to allow me to make things, express myself, be creative. That’s how hitRECord started.

The record button became a symbol for me to be creative, do it myself. I wanted to put out my little videos that I had created into the world, so my brother set up this website. At that point it was just a tiny little thing. Through there, it evolved...This community sprouted up around it.

Two years ago we turned it into this collaborative production company. It’s really stunning this art we’ve been making. With this DVD collection, I feel like it’s the first thing that I’ve put out there, something I was in charge of. Again, I love acting, but this is the first time that I’ve made something.

How did the whole collaborative aspect of the company come to be? Did you always see it heading in that direction?

It started as really just a personal thing. It organically involved. Once I put stuff I made out on the Internet and started getting people’s responses, this community sprang up around this website. I had never thought about making any sort of community on the Internet, but it sort of just started to happen.

People would write stuff and they were actually really cool. That’s rare on the Internet. It tends to be a place where people can anonymously act shitty towards each other.

Given how the company’s evidently grown, how involved have you remained? Has it all become overwhelming?

I mean, I’m doing it. It’s not like I’m the face and someone else is doing it. Like, most of the short films that are on the DVD, I’ve touched somehow. Some of them more, some of them less. Some I directed, some are just short films that I re-edited, or provided voiceovers to. There are even a few, maybe three of four, that I didn’t touch.

How do I describe it? I could compare it to Sundance where Robert Redford runs Sundance and there’s this festival with movies that other people made. That’s not what hitRECord is. It’s not just a festival that curates other people's work. Everything on RECollection is something that we made together. RECollection as a whole is a piece of art that I directed. Lots of people collaborated to make it.

So yeah, I’m on there all the time. Maybe not every single day, but pretty much, most days.

This company's essentially setting out to change the way we make movies. Has it been hard?

The hardest part was explaining it as we were trying to get it started. Now that RECollection exists, I can just say, “Here, check this out,” and put something in their hands. Before that, they thought it was a web company. We’re not trying to come up with the next Tumblr or something. I’m not a web guy, that doesn’t interest me. I’m not a tech entrepreneur.

What do you envision for hitRECord after the DVD release? Are feature films on the horizon?

hitRECord RECollection: Volume 1.

Yeah, I think there’s a great illustrious future ahead of us of making feature films. We haven’t done it yet. I would say in the next couple of years, that’s certainly in the cards.

We also do these live shows that are really fun. They’re kind of half presenting the stuff we made and half incorporating new things: People read stories, perform music, whatever. Everyone records it and we use that as the next piece of art that we’re making.

We just did a couple of them in 800-seat theaters in Seattle and San Francisco. We just did one at the Toronto Film Festival. I’d love to go on a proper tour. I haven’t been able to because I’m shooting. But that’s something I’d really love to do, to launch a proper tour.

With this growing, do you see a future where your hitRECord duties take over your day job?

Well, you know I feel like they’re beginning to blend. I do hope that they ultimately become one thing. I love acting in movies in a conventional way, but I also really love the idea of making my own things.

I’d like to be making movies that aren’t just totally controlled by a studio...Where I get more say on what the final cut is, or the way that it’s presented.

From a creative point of view, we have to start thinking about making stuff and having that go directly to our audience, rather than getting hired by some big company to make that stuff then they sell it to an audience. That’s exciting to me. I think it will lead to a generation of artists that will be allowed to be more creative.


Also on DVD/Blu-ray This Week

"4th & Goal"
"The Blind Side" meets "Hoop Dreams" in this documentary that follows six young football players on their quest to join the most elite club in professional sports: the NFL.
Extras: Director's notes and filmmaker bio.

"Circo."

"Circo"
This Mexico-set documentary follows the Ponce family's traveling circus as they travel back roads, vying to keep a family tradition alive.
Extras: Director Aaron Schock on the making of "Circo;" "Follow-up: The Ponces Now" featureete; and Calexico on the making of the "Circo" score.

"The Strange Case of Angelica"
This magical romance from Portuguese auteur Manoel de Oliveira tells the story of a young photographer who brings a girl back from the dead after taking her funeral photograph.
Extras: The first film from Manoel de Oliveira, in new 2k restoration; audio commentary by film critic and curator James Quandt; "Oliveira L Architecte" (1992, 63 minutes), a documentary by Paulo Rocha; "Absoluto" (2010, 35 minutes), a conversation with Manoel de Oliveira; theatrical Trailer; plus a booklet featuring "Late Oliveira," an essay by Haden Guest, Director of the Harvard Film Archive.

"We Are the Night"
This German vampire film centers on a Lena, 20-year old petty thief who becomes entrenched with a gang of female vampires, only to become one herself.

On Demand

"Pearl Jam Twenty"
Cameron Crowe steps behind the lens to pay tribute to Pearl Jam, in honor of their 20th anniversary this year.
Where to Find: Various as of September 24.

This article is related to: Reviews, Interviews, DVD and VOD