Sherman Oaks native Joseph Gordon-Levitt has played a love-struck 20-something in 500 Days of Summer, a memory manipulator in Inception, Batman's right-hand man in The Dark Knight Rises and, most recently, Bruce Willis' younger version in Looper. Next month, the actor plays the son of Abraham Lincoln in the highly anticipated biopic, Lincoln. But lately, acting is just his day job. What he really wants to do is make movies, books, videos and creative projects with his virtual pals at his online production company, hitRECord. The site is a creative forum where artists upload their personal works—from music and film to poetry and illustrations—and collaborate together, remixing each other's work to build new forms of art. Members can also curate and rate projects, of which a select number are chosen by Gordon-Levitt to go into production. Started by the actor and his brother in 2005, hitRECord has grown into a thriving creative hot spot with more than 125,000 active members worldwide, a book published last December with works by 67 contributors, a record featuring 78 artists from the online community, a six-city tour this fall and partnerships with Sony and Levi's, the latter of which will help distribute collaborative works made by the hitRECord community. Time Out cornered RegularJOE (as he's known on the site), to ask him about his pet project, his favorite place to eat in his hometown ("I love the valley, 818!") and where he goes in LA to get inspired.
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Time Out LA: How did HitRECord come about?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: It evolved pretty organically. I had been acting my whole life, but then I went to college, and when I wanted to start again, no one would hire me. I realized that I couldn't leave it up to other people to let me be creative. "Hit record" was my own personal, self-motivational thing I would say to myself, to push the button myself. I'd make videos and post them online. At first it was just me and my brother, then it slowly grew into a community. We put up a message board and people started making art together, and I thought that was really cool. So, I was like, 'Let me try to encourage this and participate in this.' At the start of 2010, I turned hitRECord into a professional production company. We've recently developed partnerships, which is great because we've figured out how to deal with the money. When we turn a profit, half goes to the contributing artists and half goes back into the company. Now we can pay people for the hard work that they do.
Did you approach Levi's or did they approach you?
We approached them, but I was really picky. It didn't make sense to be sponsored by a car company or a credit card company or people that I don't really have a connection to. With Levi's, I actually wear their denim and always have. They've also previously supported artists like Shepard Fairey and James Murphy.
Where do you go in LA to get inspired?
Movie theaters. The New Beverly and the Nuart are great. The Sunset 5 just reopened as a Sundance cinema, which I'm really excited to check out. I love Sundance and the fact that they've started to enter cinemas is the best, because growing up, that's what the Sunset 5 always was for me. I would go there to see movies, and almost all of them had come through Sundance: Swingers, Sling Blade, Trees Lounge and The Usual Suspects. The Aero and Egyptian are also great. For live music, the Troubadour is the coolest place in town.
Are there any LA-based artists on hitRECord that you're excited about?
Campaign is an LA musician—a great singer, rapper, vocalist, music producer. He does these beautiful vocal harmonies. He'll dub himself over and over again, so there's, like, ten of his voice. It just sounds great. To be honest, he's a guy that I grew up with. I have a bunch of creative friends and I always tell them, 'You should get on HitRECord. It will be good for you!' Of all of my friends, he's the one who's embraced it the most. He's just so good, and I believe in his taste.
You grew up in Sherman Oaks, where do you eat there? We're still trying to find some good brunch spots in the Valley.
My parent's house.