Sunday, January 19, 2014
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “HitRecord on TV” debuts on Pivot cable channel
The first time I saw experimental video art, in San Francisco in the 1970s, I could feel the exciting opening of new media worlds in the post-film medium.
I had a similar sensation the first time I experienced Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s crowdsourced online video-arts workshop, HitRecord. The collaborative production house creatively edits submissions from hundreds of media makers, presents them in a professional, highly entertaining manner and yields sometimes surprising results. Strange or funny images, odd or beautiful poetry, energetic or soulful music, it’s amazing to see what pours in from creative young minds all over the world.
Here’s a comforting thought: The hive mind is a creative force for good.
Now Gordon-Levitt (“Don Jon,” “Lincoln,” “The Dark Knight Rises”) makes the leap to the minimally more commercial sphere: Pivot, the cable TV network dedicated to Millennials, has picked up “HitRecord on TV” as a series for a first season of eight installments, premiering Jan. 19.
The first installment is already available on the Pivot network’s website as well as on Amazon, YouTube and elsewhere. It’s been named a New Frontier selection by the Sundance Film Festival.
Actor-director-producer Gordon-Levitt created, hosts and stars in the series. He’s the hip answer to Ed Sullivan, enthusiastically introducing each themed episode. The series is executive produced by Jared Geller, a theater producer, and Brian Graden, a longtime MTV programming executive.
Post-ironic, free of cynicism, the tone is celebratory. Sort of updating “let’s put on a show” with “let’s make some art.” Naturally some bits are more successful than others but, overall, the project is cause for optimism.
The first 23-minute episode is logically dedicated to “The Number One,” touching on the concepts of first times, loneliness, unity and more. Subsequent installments consider the themes of “Fantasy” and “Trash.”
Celebrity friends including Elle Fanning and Tony Danza make appearances. Fanning reads and acts in a short story developed from the work of a writer, a number of video artists, animators, illustrators and musicians. The grassroots nature of the work is the star. The credits on the first episode scroll through more than 400 names.
It all feels like the fulfillment of a dream by Gordon-Levitt and his brother, or what would result if “This American Life” mated with experimental art-school video combined with short-story writing seminars, on Twitter. (One woman says she cruises HitRecord in search of writing prompts, a great idea.)
“Are we recording?” Gordon-Levitt asks, cannily, at the start of each episode. As the audience responds by holding aloft their glowing recording devices, the answer is most definitely, yes. But “HitRecord” isn’t only about collaborative art-making. It’s also about being conscious of the increasingly omnipresent camera, and the increasingly digital, interconnected crowdsourced imagination. Ed Sullivan never saw that coming.
Post was written by Joanne Ostrow for Digital First Media, reprinted with permission.