Joseph Gordon-Levitt, JGL, or RegularJoe, as he goes by on his website, is an actor, producer, writer, director, musician, founder and owner of hitRECord and so much more.
Just barely pre-youtube, in 2005, JGL was seeking a place to showcase some of his small artistic projects and so, with the help of his brother, set up a website where he could post videos and other pieces he had thrown together. That is what hitRECord started as, simply a place for JGL to share some things he was passionate about outside of the big Hollywood scene. However, in the years since, it has turned into a full-on collaborative production company bringing together thousands of creative individuals online, at live shows, and as of last month, on TV.
JGL describes hitRECord as developing organically. On the original site he created a message board so that he could gain feedback about his projects, and this led to a community of artistic people all sharing their own perspectives, however it was still very centered around JGL's posts. But JGL describes himself and his brother as both having a deeply engrained belief that people should be able to express themselves and voice their opinions. This led them to look for a way to work with intellectual property laws to create what is now the hitRECord collaborative production company. A place where people can upload their own pieces of art, download others and remix them, put someone else's story to music or a cartoon, then re-upload it as something completely new and collaborative. This was officially launched in 2010 at the Sundance Film Festival, and since then has grown to the point where they have put out books, created short films, and now have a TV show that, before even airing its first episode, had been signed on for a second season.
So, how does this actually work? Well, users join for free and then they can upload pretty much any of their original work, so they have to have the rights to whatever they put on the site, they can't submit a video with a Bob Marley track - to use JGL's example. And by doing this, users submit to anyone else downloading their work and remixing it, then uploading it again, and of course all users have the right to do that to other peoples creations. A lot of times RegularJoe will submit a request for pieces related to a certain theme or to go with a script he's written for a particular project. With the start of the TV show, he has requested pieces based on where he wants the episode to go. Each episode is totally different and has a completely new theme. The one that I actually just watched was Re: Fantasy, which was actually really related to this class because it was all about fantasy and the creativity that goes on in your own mind. HitRECord then gets thousands of uploads responding to these requests and JGL and his small team go through them with the help of other users and the "heart" tool. One of the greatest things is that JGL can have an idea or a theme that he wants to follow, but ultimately what the show ends up looking like is dependent on how other people interpret that idea and what they put out together.
When they upload these pieces, users are also agreeing for them to be used in the profit-making ventures of the company, because it is a production company at its core. A really cool part of the whole venture is that when somebody's contribution gets used either on the show or becomes part of the book or in any way makes a profit, JGL and his team work out the financial stuff so that the company keeps 50% of the profits and the other 50% are split proportionally between all the contributors. They obviously have a formula for figuring this out, but they also post a preliminary profit proposal online for 4 weeks and any of the users can give their feedback (I think this piece deserves a bigger/smaller cut…) and then the final breakdown is settled on and checks get sent out.
HitRECord then, is not just a creative venture of JGL's, it's not solely what Maslow would consider primary creativity, it's not just JGL self-actualizing and fulfilling himself, although I think for him, creating a space for others to realize themselves and express themselves would be considered a dream come true or at least a really fulfilling experience. But I think he has put something together that is creating a different avenue in the entertainment, artistic world. It's not big screen Hollywood but it's not dinky little youtube. Obviously it's not Big-C, he's not changing the entertainment world, there is no paradigm shift here, but I think it's bigger than little-c just because of the scope it has and the insane amount of people it has reached, inspired and allowed to realize their own creativity.
So, you should all check it out (hitrecord.org), create an account, upload a piece of art or a song or a poem. Or if you aren't creative, like me, JGL always needs help from people with good taste to "heart" what's good, so that he doesn't have to go through every single piece that's uploaded or remixed each week.