On my recent L.A.-bound vacation, I took the time to check out a Web site I’d had my eye on for months: hitRECord.org, a supremely cool, online collaborative media-making venture started by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It seems to have reached a happy and coherent critical mass lately (I was a bit confused when I first stumbled upon it), most deliciously expressed in a whimsical live action/animated short, Morgan & Destiny’s Eleventeenth Date “The Zeppelin Zoo.” Aside from the Lewis Carrollish narration and visual razzle-dazzle, what’s so remarkable about this film? The credits. Wait for them, because you’ll discover that there were 306 online collaborators (58 musicians, 54 actors, 95 visual artists, 95 animal creators and 4 digital engineers) who contributed ideas, music and images and then helped re-shape and remix the film into its finished state.
hitRECord looks like another big step in connected culture, standing on the shoulders of The Elephant’s Dream, the world’s first so-called “open” movie, which was made solely using open source graphics software, and with all production files freely available to all contributors.
And the late, lamented Remix America, developed by Norman Lear, ran in this same creative stream of “let’s remix stuff together and make something amazing” and included online historical clips and video-editing tools. hitRECord.org doesn’t feature those tools and it’s probably for the best, offering more freedom to contributing artists to work with their own clips and editing tools.
What a smart and shrewd way to get something creative going, especially in a town that enjoys crushing creativity much more than nurturing it. While the site has produced only short films so far, Gordon-Levitt claims to have his eyes open for hitRECord projects that could be developed into feature films.
And there’s something really radical in the not-so-fine print: profit-sharing. For hitRECord projects that become monetized (shown at film festivals, included in anthologies) the company splits profits 50/50 after costs with all contributors. Apparently they’re already sending out checks. (Don’t tell Jack Klugman, who I believe is still trying to collect profit-participation money owed to him from his 1970s Universal show Quincy.)
But what I like most is that hitRECord takes user-generated content far beyond pop song lip-syncs, lame parodies and, oh, they’re so cute! pets. Hey, Hollywood, here’s a win/win method to surface new talent. Maybe — I hope — new stories, genres and superhero-free movies will bubble up from this bright endeavor. I’m going to throw my artistic chops into the mix. Why don’t you?