MaHB / TV: A New Way Forward?

Esquire Malaysia + Esquire Singapore, August 2014

A New Way Forward?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has big dreams for his little crowd-sourced TV show.

By Sophia Goh

Harnessing the collaborative power of the Internet and the untapped creativity of the human species at large, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has produced a crowd-sourced television variety show called HitRECord on TV. Premiering early this year, each episode features short films, little documentaries, skits, animations, songs, stories and live performances that revolve around a theme, and that have been sourced from and worked on by literally hundreds of people from all around the world.

It’s a wonderful concept that not only marks an interesting juncture in the world of television, but also cements Gordon-Levitt’s reputation as a talented, innovative and unpredictable (in a good way) movie star. With season two in the making – season one is now available on YouTube – the show is a natural evolution of HitRECord, an open-collaborative website for creative types that Gordon-Levitt and his older brother Daniel* founded in 2005. While the rest of us were only beginning to discover the delights of Facebook, the Gordon-Levitt brothers had already seen the creative potential of the Internet and social media.

Today, HitRECord is a flourishing online community of about 300,000 members who, together, have created any number of films and songs, digital music albums and three volumes of The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories anthologies, available for purchase from the site’s online store. And, if Gordon-Levitt is to be believed, they are only just getting warmed up. Speaking to audiences at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the child actor-turned-bona fide leading man and film director revealed the extent of his ambitions when he admitted to hoping that HitRECord could one day become his generation’s DreamWorks. “I think we could get there eventually. I think the future is bright,” he said.

In this new age of crowdsourcing and Kickstarter, a time when anyone with an Internet connection could become a YouTube star, and everyone with a couple of dollars to spare could help to make the Veronica Mars movie a reality, all eyes are on the entertainment industry to see how it’s going to respond. Risk-averse and with a penchant for doing only what has been tried, tested, and quite possibly, done to death, Hollywood movies have, for the most part, gone from exciting groundbreakers to dull copycats. Thank goodness the TV industry isn’t a complete lost cause yet, unless the Jack Bauer reboot, 24: Live Another Day, is an ominous sign of things to come.

Is HitRECord on TV the beginning of a fresh chapter in television? Truthfully, I think not. Until this format proves relatively profitable, the show is unlikely to challenge the status quo, even with a famous face like Gordon-Levitt’s at the helm. But though it’s hardly the dawn of a new era in TV programming, it’s certainly a whisper of innovation and change. And when it comes to entertainment, or any other industry for that matter, that can only be a good thing.

* Dan, as he was affectionately known, died in 2010. “Dan was a brightly positive, genuinely caring, and brilliantly inspiring person,” Joseph wrote on his Tumblr blog.

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