“It makes more sense in its absurdity than it would have if it were created by just one person, one designer.”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

He may be more well-known as an actor (movies: “Inception,” “50/50” etc), but Gordon-Levitt is also the founder and director of hitRECord.org, an online production company that shares profits with contributing artists.

The image is from an intro video by him on hitRECord.org.

Also on the site, he describes the venture: “In a nutshell: we create and develop art and media collaboratively here on our site; we use my position in the traditional entertainment industry to turn that creativity into money-making productions; and then we share any profits with the contributing artists. In a nutter shell, we just have fun making things together. Videos, writing, photography, music, anything…”

In an Entertainment Weekly article he notes, “As much as I love acting, I also like telling stories, making little short films, music, art, writing, etc. Normally when an actor starts a production company, it’s sort of an insular, Hollywood thing, but I wanted to collaborate with all of these artists all over the world who are making beautiful art and don’t necessarily have the connections to work in Hollywood.

“That’s why we use the Internet and we put these projects that we do online, and anybody can contribute to them. I’m there directing, participating, curating, and editing, and we make things together.”

He notes their project “Tiny Stories” “is our most popular collaboration that we’ve ever had. It’s really easy to contribute to it. As it says on the back, we had 8,000 contributions that came into this collaboration. From that we edited it down into this tiny book.”

The author of the article (Joseph Gordon-Levitt on ‘The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories’), Stephan Lee asks him more about the creative endeavor, and how much it engages him and the many contributors.

Stephan Lee: What are some of your favorite bits from the book?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The Tiny Stories tend to end up in two broad camps: Some of them have a real button, like a punch line. Like, for example, “the Doctor’s Wife ate two apples a day, just to be safe. But her husband kept coming home.”

That one’s got a bit of a zinger at the end, and I love those, and the illustration that goes with that one is particularly well done.

There’s such a story in her facial expression and her posture. It’s like great acting to me. Then there are other ones that don’t have such a zinger at the end, but I feel like they’re a little more whimsical.

They invite the reader to bring what meaning he or she chooses. You just get into really beautiful aesthetics of the words and the images.

There’s one that goes, “I collect flickering stars in old pickling jars, poking holes in the lids so they can breathe.”

I love those words. They’re fun off the tongue and evokes so many images. Are we talking about a little kid who’s collecting fireflies, or are we talking some god of the night sky?

What exactly is going on is up to interpretation, and I feel it’s so rich.

Stephan Lee: The drawing that goes with that particular story is so great.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: That’s actually a cool story to bring up in terms of the HitRECord process.

That illustration is a combination of several elements. It’s the work of several graphic artists putting things together and finding ways to remix each other’s work into this beautiful new story, and I think when you look at it now, it seems like it’s meant to be.

I love the creative process like that. That’s what life is. You go through life and you take these different elements that are coming at you, and you don’t understand why they are or what they’re doing there, but it’s up to you to be creative and match the elements together.

Stephan Lee: I think the composite nature of the art gives it a bit of mystery. It makes the reader wonder, “How did this unusual drawing end up this way?“

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Exactly! It’s sort of like evolution. Nature itself is such a beautiful thing whether you’re talking about jungles or the human body or whatever.

It’s something that can only naturally evolve over time; things come together in unexpected ways and all of a sudden you have a product that’s still in evolution, but it makes sense for what is in that moment.

It makes more sense in its absurdity than it would have if it were created by just one person, one designer.


The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1 – “Joseph Gordon-Levitt directed thousands of collaborators to tell tiny stories through words and art. With the help of the entire creative collective, Gordon-Levitt culled, edited and curated over 8,500 contributions into this finely tuned collection of original art from 67 contributors.”

This screenshot image from a small section of the site indicates some of the breadth of people involved in adding their creative expression – as does this description of the site’s main project:

RECollection: Volume 1 is the very first anthology of hitRECord’s work, featuring the contributions of 471 collaborators. The eight-inch square, cloth-bound tome is a well-crafted and meticulously-designed piece of art. With equal attention given to each medium—video, audio, image, text—this relic of our records is rich in detail and a feast for the senses.

The DVD – A collection of 36 short movies created collaboratively on hitRECord under the direction of—and with some starring roles by—Joseph Gordon-Levitt. You’ll find short films, animations, music videos, ‘tiny stories’ and records from hitRECord’s various live events.

The Book – 64 full-color glossy pages filled to the brim with everything you love about your beautiful books: poetry, prose, paintings, photography, comical curiosities, non-sequiturs, bed-time stories and, of course, more!

The CD – Join your DJ RegularJoe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt for all you newbs) as he hosts his ‘pretend’ radio show — complete with 17 collaboratively-made songs.

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Keith Sawyer, a professor of psychology and education says creativity is a collaborative process that applies not just to prodigies and masterpieces, but also to more ordinary innovation. He says, “In spite of the ‘lone genius’ myths that always spring up after an invention’s success, these important inventions always originate in collaboration.”

From my post Creative collaboration.

In my earlier Creative Mind post Creative Inspiration – R. Keith Sawyer on Myths of Creativity, he notes “Ideas don’t magically appear in a genius’ head from nowhere. They always build on what came before. And collaboration is key.”

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