Have you ever been watching something on TV and just thought, “Seriously, Dude, I can do better than this”? Maybe you’re disappointed with the writing, or maybe it’s the actors, or maybe it’s the visual style or lack thereof that’s got you wishing you were in charge.
If you’ve ever wished that you could change the way TV looks or sounds, but you didn’t have any idea where to start, then maybe you should take the time to look at the HitRECord website (hitrecord.org). HitRECord is an open collaboration production company started by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I know the first part of that sentence seems like some kind of foreign language. You may recognize all of those words separately, but putting them together cohesively can be kind of a challenge.
Before we get much further, though, I had probably better disclose something first. One of my pieces has been featured and made into a collaboration on the site. This is probably one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me, barring the time that I helped find a mosasaur vertebra, and I’m having a pretty difficult time containing that excitement.
Back to HitRECord. It’s a website that’s essentially a creative free-for-all. No matter what kind of art you make, if you’re a writer, if you’re a visual artist, if you’re a musician, or if you’re a filmmaker, you can upload things you make to the site. They also really like having curators there, people who go through and pick out stuff that they like and gather it into albums. The idea is, of course, that as people see your work and like it, they’ll get people that like their work looking at yours.
They make stuff with site contributions. There have been books, an album, t-shirts and a DVD/CD set so far, all of which are available in the site’s store. If something that you created makes money, then you get paid for your contribution. Which is very, very cool.
In order to participate, though, you have to be okay with other people making stuff based on your work, or, in the site’s terms, remixing it. By uploading, you’re giving other site users permission to base works off of that one. If you’re not good at letting go of something you’ve made or if you don’t think you can handle watching a piece being turned inside out, upside down, and every way in between until it becomes something entirely new, then you probably shouldn’t start uploading. The site tracks your work and what people have done with it, so you do get credit for what you did, but the terms of service are very clear. If you have plans to use that work elsewhere, say, maybe publishing a novel or trying to pitch a full-length movie to a studio, then you’d better keep that particular work to yourself. On the other hand, if you’ve got a little germ of an idea that seems great but you can’t get it to gestate into anything useful, setting it loose into a community of artists might just be exactly what it needs.
I’ve found that HitRECord is amazingly useful for inspiration. Sometimes, I just hit a wall when I’m writing. I hesitate to call it writer’s block because that seems so final and depressing to me. It’s not that I can’t write, it’s just that I’ve reached a point where my brain refuses to acknowledge that it likes writing and would like to shut down now, thanks very much. I’m willing to let it do that for a day or so. I am not willing to let my brain get lazy and stop producing. So, I go searching for prompts to use. If I can write something small, that has a tendency to let me continue on with the bigger pieces so I can get them finished. It’s a way to challenge myself by setting one of those shorter, more attainable goals and it jump starts the mindset that lets me write.
Now we can get to what that has to do with making television. HitRECord has a deal with the Pivot network to create an eight episode TV show with the site. So, they’ve chosen the themes for each show and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is doing updates five days a week spotlighting collaborations, asking for ideas and input, and generally making sure that everyone who’s interested gets a chance to make contributions.
The intent is to make a variety style show with live performances, short films, pieces of testimonial, animation, and anything else cool that HitRECorders can come up with that they can put on TV. The themes themselves are pretty general, the tightening up of details happens mostly in the collaborations. The whole thing is, very much, a spectacular group effort to make something that’s pretty much unique.
I’m not just having fun creatively with this, I’m finding the whole process more than a little fascinating. This is not some secret meeting room somewhere packed full of mysterious writers maniacally plotting the demise of your favorite characters (the fact that I think that may be a sign that I watch too much “Supernatural”). Instead, this is an inside look at how something that started with an idea three weeks ago is going to get made into a TV show to be delivered in October.
As pieces gain a following and get some traction, people start making things from them or to go with them and they take on a life of their own. One of the coolest things about HitRECord is how positive it is. There’s not a whole bunch of trashing other people’s work or hit and run negative commentary. If people like your work, they say so. If not, they just go on and find something that they do like or, even better, make the stuff that they want to see or hear or read.
So, if you want to make some TV and really don’t have the funds or connections to do so, there’s hope for you yet. You get the chance to be pretty fearless on HitRECord with a minimum of risk. It’s also a chance to prove that you can do better than whatever it was you were watching that made you think that in the first place.