Gordon-Levitt urges students to hit record
Actor and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt, best known for his starring roles in recent films “Inception” and “(500) Days of Summer,” visited Stanford Law School on Monday afternoon to discuss his creative approach to filmmaking through his website hitRECord.org.
During his talk, entitled “Copyright, remix and the art of collaborative media,” Gordon-Levitt, who asked to be referred to as “Regular Joe,” answered questions posed by Law School professor Anthony Falzone and by members of the audience.
The Law School setting was appropriate, as much of the talk focused on the unique challenges that hitRECord faces as a community of “remix artists” who are committed to a “spirit of sharing,” which in the past has been viewed by the traditional media industry as illegal. As a for-profit company, hitRECord is constrained in its ability to use popular songs or even Google images in any of its works, as all projects must be completely original.
“I’ve been an actor since I was a kid, but I was feeling more and more like I wanted to make my own things,” Gordon-Levitt said. “This site started out as a personal philosophy of making a metaphor out of a record button.”
The production company that is run through the website launched in 2005, “before YouTube was big,” and was designed to facilitate the process of filmmaking in a collaborative atmosphere, he said. More accurately described as a “collaborative production company,” hitRECord allows artists from around the world to upload images, lines of poetry, stories and music to the site to create unique projects that can be elaborated upon by all site members.
“I really appreciate that his company is collaborative in the true sense of the word,” said Pearly Meixsel ’14. “He literally only contributes his acting and his voice to the projects and allows anyone with the willingness and the creativity to contribute whatever they will.”
As an example of his recent work, Gordon-Levitt showed the audience a short film titled “Morgan M. Morgansen’s Date With Destiny.”
He explained that the film came about after “an Irish girl wrote the short story and people liked it.”
“I acted in it and did voiceovers, others made drawings and videos and over 40 people from around the world contributed the sounds of their instruments to a score composed by another site member,” he said.
Gordon-Levitt also elaborated on his unique approach to the filmmaking process, since many law students and filmmakers in attendance were particularly interested in the copyright issues that his form of production spurred.
“HitRECord gets nonexclusive rights to use the stories on the site, but because we want to do business with the traditional entertainment industry, we have to start from scratch and build something that gives us the right to sell,” he said.
Some of these films, including “Date With Destiny,” have achieved enough popular support to be screened at the Sundance film festival.
Gordon-Levitt fielded audience questions ranging from whether he believed average Americans would be able to participate in filmmaking without Hollywood budgets to whether he found it difficult to be involved in the mainstream Hollywood movie industry while also working with other actors in the outsider hitRECord.
The fruition of the project is a dream come true for the actor, who prefers not to be called a movie star, despite his recent box office successes.
“I’m doing something that’s unique to me, and it’s fun,” he said. “I truly love [the acting] I get to do traditionally, but I also love doing this.”
Gordon-Levitt’s refusal to become complacent with his current celebrity status was refreshing for some audience members.
“It is very cool that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is taking a departure from the system and calling out the industry that he is a part of,” said second-year law student Blake Masters. “The celebrity factor is what gets you in the door, but he proved that he’s just a normal person.”
Gordon-Levitt also spoke at another event Monday night in Cubberley Auditorium.