Blog Post: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Film as an Interactive Medium

The WalkOur screening tonight was The Walk, Robert Zemeckis’s dramatization of a tightrope walker to engaged in unauthorized whimsy by practicing his craft between the towers of the World Trade Center. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt in another charming performance from him. We’re also fans of his show HitRecord, where he pulls together artists, creatives and random denizens from the Internet in an effort to create spontaneous drama. Watching the film tonight (a review will be along later in the week) reminded me of his efforts, and how the Internet has changed our perceptions of movies.

It used to be, you simply absorbed films. Creating your own wasn’t something you could share with more than a handful of people and writing about them was similarly limited to diaries or self-published newsletters. There were just a handful of critics who actually made a living at and a somewhat larger group of academics who analyzed the medium in search of whatever higher meaning they could find. That was the extent of film’s interactivity to the general public. We were there to watch, absorb, and maybe talk it over with our friends. That was it.

Those days are long gone of course. Anyone can make their own movie, or mach up existing ones, then post it on YouTube and become an overnight celebrity. Anyone who wants to share their opinions can do so on a blog or in a forum and get an instant audience to discuss, debate and weigh the merits of whatever they had to say. Trolling is there, of course, but that pales before the near and staggeringly easy ways that movies become as much clay for us to mold ourselves than finished products to be picked apart.

I never reviewed films for the money (what money there was to be had, that is). I did it, and still do it, because it gives me a chance to engage with the movies, in however small a way, that was more than just watching. That became a lot easier with the Internet, but while audiences a film lovers are reveling in it, filmmakers themselves seem a lot slower on the uptake. Levitt is one of the few people in Hollywood who seems to realize what this amazing tool can do for the movies. I wonder how long it will take before more Hollywood moves and shakers start to catch on.

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