Working on a television show is a many-headed hydra. For all intents and purposes, it's one singular recipe spearheaded and crafted by hundreds of cooks, and the result is hopefully a finished project that everyone involved with can at least be satisfied by. HitRECord on TV, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Saturday night variety series on Pivot, is by-and-large the same but the results, process, and enthusiasm are wildly different, resulting in the first-ever democratically crafted television show. We've already emphatically heralded the series as a Hollywood game-changer, but being the Nosy Nancy that we are, we wanted to know more. So we took a deeper look at the creation process and what goes into getting just one aspect of the show off the ground. And we can say with much confidence that HitRECord on TV is an extraordinary machine.
As the show and its content hub are so intrinsically linked, Gordon-Levitt's presence on the site is visible and accessible. In the thick of production, "Joe was on almost every single day, making videos and asking people to work on certain things," musician Jerzy Jung, who was featured on the series' premiere episode, told Bustle. Everyone on the site was encouraged to create, contribute, and remix submissions (where one artist puts their own spin on someone else's idea or "record") and concepts.
When you consider all the odds stacked against a production this enormous coming together, it's amazing the show was given the green light at all. Between the huge pool of creatives (426 contributing artists were involved in the pilot episode alone), network executives, and the team running HitRECord.org itself: there are many a cook in this kitchen. But Jung asserts that Gordon-Levitt's rules for the site and contributing — simple yet steadfast — coupled with the camaraderie of those involved makes the whole thing run smoothly. "You think it couldn't possibly work and it's incredible because it does, it really does," said Jung.
That camaraderie comes from the infectious attitude of its creator, and it no doubt acquiesces those pesky, seemingly universal artistic insecurities that plague so many aspiring creative types. "We want to be seen and known and a pat on the back or some encouragement," explained Jung. "[HitRECord does] a good job of walking that line. People get recognized, but all the users know that not everyone's stuff is going to be used."
In addition to that camaraderie is also a respect for the artists and their work: all creators retain the rights to their original work. Once something is remixed, the site retains some rights over that product, but the originators are always in control of their initial submission: an aspect of the site and the show that is decidedly different from other submission processes we've encountered. HitRECord seems to have a keen understanding of what it means to be an artist, where being underpaid and taken advantage of — especially in the early stages of one's career — is not only the norm, but often expected.
"Everyone that works for hitRECord has such integrity. They’re always reiterating the community and working together aspects. These aren’t auditions; the point is for all of us to collaborate and they do a great job of promoting that sense of community," said Jung.
On top of that the show makes a point to pay every single artist who contributes to something that gets on air. Every.single.one.
"There’s a video of [Gordon-Levitt] signing all the checks he got to send out to hitRECorders this year, and you can tell he's happy to do it, he's happy to be able to pay all the artists, which is really touching. It’s wonderful. Anyone’s goal it is to have a career in the arts knows that that's the dream to get paid to do what you love, and it’s awesome that its such a priority for them."
And through the site's communal process and supportive atmosphere, the series' ideas and content are created. For most aspiring artists, the desire to be "perfect" often stems from an insecurity with "competing" against other artists for those extremely limited opportunities. But on hitRECord, there's no limit to the number of people who can get involved. For Jung, she felt that her own progression on the aspirational express were holding her back — a problem that's less so now that she's on the site. "I had sort of a vision of what I wanted my career to be at this point, and I’m pretty far from that. I wanted to get back to that place I was at when I was 19 and wrote my first song, where I wasn’t worried about money or the career side."
With HitRECord, though: the pressure was off, because perfect, finished creations are not what's brought the party. It's all about working to create something together. In a sentiment echoed by many other hitRECorders in comments and anecdotes around the Internet, Jung insisted that by reengineering an oft-solitary process, the good proliferates more good. "Instead of feeling like 'holy shit how am I going to write an entire short story or an entire song?' all of the people jump on it and help you, so you productivity goes up so much. Together you’re all putting out more content. Something can come out of anything."
And in that simple leap of faith, Jung was able to add her contribution to the song "You're Not the Only One," without fearing that it wasn't some masterstroke of a finished product. "I wasn’t going to force myself to make sure things were polished." "It's about just hitting the record button and doing it. I just gave something from the heart," and the rest was TV history.
By focusing less on the end result, Jung was able to create something that not only received positive feedback on the site, it ended up on the show — resulting in HitRECord on TV flying her out for the taping. "I was so touched by them inviting me, because it couldn’t been easy to get a celebrity or someone more established to do my part, but they wanted me to come do it."
What drives the series forward is undoubtably passion — from its inceptor, to its creators, and everyone in between — and the respect that everyone involved has for its many moving parts. People involved with hitRECord are just straight-up enthralled on every level and through every step of the process. "It's changed me in such a good way as an artist," explained Jung. "It's so much more important to just do."
And through doing one can see that the opportunities in the possibilities are truly endless and sometimes, yeah, even revolutionary.
Image: Pivot