Joseph Gordon-Levitt has appeared in four films this past year alone — The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, Looper, and Lincoln — but the actor’s real passion lies with hitRECord, his online collaborative production company that inspires users across the world to come together and create singular works of art. Last year, he released a compilation of those online collaborations in the form of The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1. The first volume was so popular that Gordon-Levitt reunited with collaborator wirrow to produce The Tiny Book of Stories: Volume 2, a brand new collection of moving (and funny!) stories from the hitRECord family and It Books. Gordon-Levitt took the time to talk to EW about this new volume, building a happy online community, and running around in a cape in the privacy of his home.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How does it feel to release Volume 2?
JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: It just shows how far we’ve come. The difference between Volume 1 and Volume 2 is pretty great. There are a ton more stories in Volume 2, not because we wanted to make it bigger per se, but because people contributed just a lot more good writing and illustrations, and we figured we’d put it in. That just makes me feel good.
Did the level of participation go up between volumes?
That’s exactly what happened. We’re about done with our third year of hitRECord and it’s just been a progression. More and more great artists are contributing stuff. Every time I’m in a movie that comes out, hitRECord receives a real boost.
It must have been a great year for hitRECord, then.
Yeah, exactly! When Inception came out in 2010, which is the first year we really were doing hitRECord professionally, it was just a remarkable step forward in the level of contributions. And the same thing happened last year when 50/50 came out. So this year, all these movies came out and there’s been a lot of attention around me. I really enjoy getting to channel that attention into art-making.
Was it at all difficult to narrow down the contributions?
I would say it only makes it easier when you’re getting more good stuff and also, not only do we have more writers and more illustrators contributing, we also have more curators, which is a huge part of it. There are thousands of contributions coming in, and so it’s not just me and wirrow who are going through this stuff, it’s the whole community. They’re going through the different contributions and reading them and recommending them and writing comments about them. That sort of curation is a huge part of how we’re able to get to the stuff that we want to put in the book.
What’s the relationship like within the hitRECord community? I’m surprised there seems to be such a sense of good will between members. You don’t see that often on the internet.
Thank you. A long time ago before hitRECord was this professional production company, it was just this little hobby website that I was putting my videos on. When I very first started to have my brother help me put up a message board so that other people could post onto the site, I was really torn about it because of exactly what you’re talking about. Let’s face it, in a lot of internet culture people are s—ty to each other, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to subject myself to that or have my website be a place for that. But I gave it a try and I was pleasantly surprised. Everybody was really cool to each other.
I can’t believe that!
Maybe it’s because… I find that on movie sets when you have a director who’s cool to the people that are working on the movie, everyone tends to be cool to each other and enjoy the work and there’s a great vibe on set. Recently, I’ve had the fortune to be on great sets and work for great filmmakers, but I have been on sets — I remember when I was a kid — where directors mistreat people and there’s a bad vibe on set. I do think there’s a little bit of that. I like to be really positive. I never really say anything negative on the site because I just don’t think it’s productive. I’ll give constructive criticism sometimes, but mostly I’m just positive because that’s what I think brings out the best work in people. It’s a bright part of my day when I get to come on there and encourage somebody who’s done some good work. It makes people feel great and that makes me feel great and that only makes the art better.
How does it feel to be promoting hitRECord on a nationwide tour?
To be honest, the tour doesn’t feel like promotion. It feels like we’re making art. At our shows, we’re not just exhibiting things that are done, we’re making new things. A lot of people bring their cameras and people come up from the audience and perform — they sing or dance or read stories. It’s my goal oftentimes to try to shine light on the artists who are coming to these shows more than putting on a show myself and just having everyone sit in their seats and watch me.
But that’s what happens! [Laughs] That’s the norm. The audience is just supposed to sit and not do anything.
Do you have a favorite entry from Volume 2?
Man, there are so many. There’s one that I really like that I’ve been actually thinking about how we could try to perform it on stage. It’s really quick. It just says, “Tell no one about this cape” [see page 80 of The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 2] and it’s got a picture of someone with a towel around their back acting like a superhero. I just love that because we all, I at least, I love to dress up in private and freak the f— out. And no one needs to know the weird character that I become in the privacy of my own home. [Laughs]
For fun, check out some of Duke University’s renditions of “Tell no one about this cape” from the Nov. 15 stop on the hitRECord tour below:
I know ONTD likes to shit on JGL for this whole HitRecord thing but, while I do think he gets kinda pretentious sometimes when he talks about "making art," I find it admirable how passionate he is about the company.
Plus, the shows seem fun as hell. Case in point: