Entertainment

Joseph Gordon-Levitt reveals inspiration for Mr. Corman – The Hollywood Reporter

Apple TV Dark Comedy + Mr. Corman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Josh Corman, a 5th grade teacher living in the San Fernando Valley. Facing loneliness in his late 30s after a breakup and struggling to connect with others (including his kind-hearted roommate as well as his difficult mother, who is played by Debra Winger) ), Josh lives off his days, making music in his bedroom and hoping for an end to his psychotic, anxious view of the world. Gordon-Levitt, who also created the series and directed 8 of its 10 episodes, revealed to CHEAP a collection of inspirations for the show’s look and feel including his own experimental work in film and music as well as the film that showed him how to find “cinematic beauty in one place”. seems mundane.”

Photo taken at Van Nuys . High School

Gordon-Levitt grew up in the San Fernando Valley at the start of his career as a child actor. Perhaps not coincidentally, Mr. Corman takes place in the Valley, with the title character teaching at an elementary school in Van Nuys. “I went to Van Nuys High, and the look and feel of the place was a big part of the show,” says Gordon-Levitt. This photo of the actor (left) – with friends John, Mike and Ian – was taken by another friend, Josh, during their first year of high school. “At the time, he was an artistic kid who was experimenting with photography,” says Gordon-Levitt. “Taking pictures meant something a little different before people had digital cameras on their phones.” Since the black and white photo of the four friends resembles a band photo, its photographer asked the children to sign the photo.

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The first stars I saw tonight

Josh Corman is a man searching for connection in an over-connected world, and much of his melancholy stems from his lonely nature when it comes to creating art on his own. It was a fitting topic for Gordon-Levitt to explore, as he co-founded the online collaboration platform HitRecord in 2005 with his brother, Dan Gordon-Levitt. With hundreds of creative collaborators, HitRecord has produced short films, music, and prose, along with an Emmy-winning show that spanned two seasons.

Through a collaboration on HitRecord, Gordon-Levitt began experimenting with animation and green screens (both appearing in Mr. Corman). Gordon-Levitt explains: “There’s a bunch of green-screen scenes in which Josh is daydreaming, and you’ll find his emotions are too strong or too powerful to really capture with realism. real. “The way we do it on HitRecord is a bit different from what we did on Mr. Corman. We will put [footage of actors shot in front of a greenscreen] online for everyone to see, even though it’s not finished and then people will add [their own] image. “Gordon-Levitt notes that the sequence of collages in Mr. Corman done in a “more orderly way,” but he points to one of HitRecord’s short films, The first stars I saw tonight (featuring actress Elle Fanning), as an example of a multimedia process.

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The first stars I saw tonight
Courteous photo

“Take Your Time” by The Books

Although his time is spent teaching 5th graders, most of Josh’s free time is devoted to his music. “Nathan Johnson – who composed the music – and I are great friends,” says Gordon-Levitt. “One of the things we talked about was [that] Josh’s music should be something he can create in his bedroom. “

Gordon-Levitt points to experimental duo The Books as an influence on Josh’s music. The New York City-based band – consisting of guitarist and vocalist Nick Zammuto and cellist Paul de Jong – released four albums between the band’s formation in 2000 and their disbandment in 2012. Their songs are a mix of folk tunes and cassette tape samples bought from savings stores; Moving away from traditional percussion instruments, the band preferred to use everyday objects in lieu of drums. Gordon-Levitt called the song “Take Time”, on the band’s second album, Lemon pink, as a path to Josh’s musical sound. “Books are music that someone can make in the bedroom,” he says, “but it is incredibly expensive, creative, and beautiful.”

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“Take Your Time” by The Books
Courteous photo

Punch-Say Love

Paul Thomas Anderson’s fourth feature is his third (after Boogie night and Magnolia) is set in the San Fernando Valley, where he grew up. For Gordon-Levitt, the signature romantic comedy — which starred Adam Sandler in his first dramatic role as a nervous clumsy man alongside Emily Watson — changed perspective. about how he sees the Los Angeles area where he grew up. Gordon-Levitt commented: “It finds cinematic beauty in a seemingly mundane place. “If you were standing in the alley where Adam Sandler’s character worked, you probably wouldn’t think, ‘Wow, this would be a beautiful location for a movie.’ “

Gordon-Levitt credits Anderson’s specific vision of the Valley as an inspiration for the way Josh sees the world. “Paul Thomas Anderson doesn’t decorate the place – it’s just a matter of how you frame it,” he said. “I like the idea that, depending on your point of view, a place that seems ordinary or not very special can bring out so much beauty.” Gordon-Levitt added that it was a “life lesson” in his series: “Mr. Corman is about having a negative outlook versus a positive outlook. It’s about taking the mundane and making it beautiful.”

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Punch-Say Love
Columbia / Courtesy Everett Collection

Fostex four track recorder

Gordon-Levitt says he’s been making music since he was a teenager. “When I was 15, I had a four-song track – that’s what we used to call it back then,” he recalls when he started recording his own songs, a long time before Digital recording devices became commonplace. “You would record on a cassette tape—just a normal, empty cassette—but this machine [would allow you to] record four different tracks on one [tape]. ”

Josh composes new music throughout Mr. Corman in an attempt to work through his anxious mind. Gordon-Levitt admits it was his own passion for creating music that influenced that element of Josh’s personality. “I recorded a lot of little songs starting at the age of 15. I’ve always loved doing it – I still love doing it,” he says. “That hobby of mine has become an important part of Mr. Corman and Josh’s character. If you take that 15-year-old boy fast into his adult life, it will be Josh in many ways. “

As Josh composes his music (each episode begins with Josh tinkering in his bedroom, albeit on the computer rather than the four analog tracks), we gradually hear what he’s doing. with the end of the program. “All of these parts,” he said, “are really part of a song.”

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Fostex four track recorder
Adobe Stock

This story first appeared in a December issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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