Actor. Musician. Writer. Director. Producer. These are just some of the many roles that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has assumed throughout his nearly three-decade career in show business. In the ’90s, Gordon-Levitt was one of Hollywood’s busiest child actors, starring in feature films like A River Runs Through It and Angels in the Outfield and TV shows like 3rd Rock from the Sun, which ran for six seasons on NBC.
Later, he had prominent parts in teen movies like 10 Things I Hate About You before successfully transitioning to more adult roles such as Neil McCormick in Gregg Araki’s haunting Mysterious Skin, Brendan Frye in Rian Johnson’s neo-noir Brick, and the lovelorn Tom Hansen in Marc Webb’s cult romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer.
In addition to collaborating with Christopher Nolan in both Inception (2010) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and directing and starring in Don Jon in 2013, Gordon-Levitt (with his brother Dan) also co-founded HitRecord, an online collaborative media platform that allows actors, directors, writers, photographers, and musicians to hone their craft and share their ideas.
Since its debut in 2005, HitRecord has grown beyond its humble origins and spawned a TV show, books, and music containing the works of some of its members. Recently, the site has launched Class Projects, a series of video tutorials that allow HitRecord subscribers to learn creative skills like how to craft a pop song or write a short story. These tutorials are taught by both experienced professionals and famous artists such as Logic, who break down their process and showcase their chosen method of artistic expression.
At this year’s CES in Las Vegas, Gordon-Levitt sat down with Digital Trends’ Ariana Escalante to talk about HitRecord, where he sees the platform going in the near future, and how Class Projects can help young creatives develop their talents without having to worry about advertising and social media popularity.
On Class Projects: “It’s all about learning by doing. […] As opposed to leaning back and listening, it’s much more about leaning forward and doing.”
On the classes HitRecord offers: “I have taught a writing and screenwriting [class]. The latest one we just put out is the rapper Logic, [who] is teaching a Class Project on writing a verse and goes through his whole process on how he composes a rap, how he writes it, [and] how he performs it.”
On the future of HitRecord: “I would love for there to be a part of the internet, somewhere for artists and creators, to do their thing that’s not all about fame and fortune, and short attention spans,and ultimately making money for these advertising businesses. But is instead about the fun […] you can get by collaborating with a positive community of artists.”
On embracing technology to create art: “It’s the easy way out to blame […] technology [and] to say ‘well, the technology is out of control.’ It’s not out of control. We’re in control. It’s ours, it’s for us to take that responsibility and say it’s up to us. We humans are using technology in a positive way that benefits everybody.”
On rejecting an ad-based model for a subscription-based one: “If you’re driven by ads, you have to race to the bottom, you have to appeal to sheer numbers, the biggest number of eyeballs. We don’t have ads on HitRecord. […] Learning is, to me, an upfront and positive way for people to appreciate art and creativity, pay money for a valuable service, and they are going to grow as a human being, and that is something that is worth paying some money for.”
In addition to overseeing HitRecord, Gordon-Levitt is keeping busy on multiple fronts. He just wrapped Mr. Corman, an Apple+ dramatic series he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in, and will be soon seen in the Showtime anthology series Super Pumped as Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and heard as Jiminy Cricket in Robert Zemeckis’ live-action remake of Pinocchio.