At 7:30 p.m., the sun had just begun to set. I shivered as the air took on the chill of dusk. But there was something else too — a frisson of excitement passing through the long line of people wrapped around the corner of Sunset Dr. and Hollywood Ave.“hitRECord at the Movies,” the marquee of the Vista Theatre, proclaimed proudly to passing pedestrians and vehicles.
In the screening room, rows of plush, velvet seats alternated with rows of folding chairs. The screen displayed a slideshow of images ranging from photo manipulations to sketches to paintings as an acoustic guitar played over the speakers. When the lights began to dim, the crowd’s excited murmuring hushed to silence; it seemed as if the entire audience was waiting with bated breath.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, your host Joseph Gordon-Levitt!”
The crowd, composed mainly of girls, erupted into cheers, screams and wolf-whistles as Gordon-Levitt strode through the audience. Without stopping, he pulled out a small camcorder and aimed it in the direction of the audience, grinning all the while.
“Hi, everyone, I’m RegularJOE. Welcome to hitRECord at the Movies! Are we recording?”
The crowd let forth another roar of excited screams — and Gordon-Levitt filmed the audience as they filmed him.
So what exactly were we all doing there at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night? Besides getting to see JGL, as his fans often call him, in person (which, not gonna lie, was a pretty big incentive in itself), everyone was there to see just what hitRECord is all about.
A project that Gordon-Levitt started about five years ago, hitRECord’s name stems from the little red “record” button on camcorders and tape players — as in, hit the record button. Only last year did the project evolve into a “professional open collaborative production company.” In layman’s terms, hitRECord is a company that “create[s] and develop[s] art and mixed media collaboratively” on their website, hitrecord.org. Registered users simply upload their art onto the site, allowing other users to add to their work and create something new.
Videos, writing, photography or music — virtually anything and everything is welcomed on hitRECord, provided it is one’s own work. Any profits that are made from a completed project are shared with the contributing artists.
“What we’re recording right now is stuff that we’re going to use … There are some computers back there where you can upload your records ‘cause we want them,” Gordon-Levitt explained. “If you got a good shot, upload it and we’ll use it in a concert film or something.”
“Well, we make movies so let’s play one, what do you say? Should we do that?” he asked, as the lights dimmed and the screen lit up.
The evening was a good mix of all the different short films and mixed media produced through hitRECord, from “Tiny Stories” — like “The circle was feeling pointless” — that had been animated and set to music to short films with plot and dialogue.
As the evening’s host, Gordon-Levitt was energetic and personable. He engaged with everyone in the room, often pulling people with nice cameras out of the audience to take shots from different perspectives. He joked with the crowd, calling out to his producer, “No, no, that’s wrong. One demerit for you!” only to realize that the flub was actually his fault. “My bad, my bad. I’m an idiot,” he said, as the crowd laughed.
At one point, he asked for any singers in the audience to come to the stage to participate in the remix of a song hitRECorder lizzienrose uploaded earlier this year. By recording their voices and combining it with additional instrumentation and the original upload, Gordon-Levitt hoped to turn it into something bigger, a new song that could then be animated or incorporated into a larger project.
As the evening of movies and recording came to a close, Gordon-Levitt talked about ongoing projects on hitRECord, calling for writers and artists, for people with “great speaking voices,” for anyone with a creative bone in their body to add to these projects.
It was an evening well worth the $20 ticket price and the long drive from Irvine to Los Angeles. The short films were wonderfully quirky at times, sad at others and whimsically meaningful, causing the audience to laugh or gasp or sigh. Gordon-Levitt’s enthusiasm and passion for hitRECord was palpable in every aspect of the evening, showing in his energy and his smile, his body language and tone of voice. The evening was definitely an enjoyable experience, one that opened up a new and different creative outlet.