Joseph Gordon-Levitt reveals inspirations for Mr. Corman’s look, feel – The Hollywood Reporter


On the black comedy of Apple TV + Mr. Corman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Josh Corman, a fifth-grade teacher living in the San Fernando Valley. Confronted with loneliness in his late 30s after a break-up and struggling to connect with others (including his caring roommate as well as his tough mom, played by Debra Winger), Josh gets through his days, creating great relationships. music in his room and hoping to put an end to his neurotic and anxious view of the world. Gordon-Levitt, who also created the series and directed eight of its 10 episodes, reveals to THR a collection of inspirations for the show’s look and feel that range from his own experimental work in film and music as well as film that showed him how to find “cinematic beauty in a place that may seem mundane “.

Photo taken at Van Nuys High School

Gordon-Levitt grew up in the San Fernando Valley as he began his career as a child actor. Maybe not by chance, Mr. Corman takes place in the valley, with the main character teaching at a primary school in Van Nuys. “I’ve been to Van Nuys High, and the look of this place is a big part of the show,” Gordon-Levitt said. This photo of the actor (left) – alongside his friends John, Mike and Ian – was taken by another friend, Josh, in his first year of high school. “He was that kind of artistic kid back then who experimented with photography,” says Gordon-Levitt. “Photography meant something a little different back then before everyone had a digital camera on their phone.” Because the black and white shot of the four friends looked like a group photo, her photographer asked the young people to sign the image.

First stars I see tonight

Josh Corman is a connection-seeking man in an over-connected world, and much of his melancholy mood stems from the lonely nature of creating art on his own. This is an appropriate theme for Gordon-Levitt to explore, as he co-founded the online collaborative platform HitRecord in 2005 with his brother, Dan Gordon-Levitt. With hundreds of creative contributors, HitRecord produced short films, music and prose, as well as an Emmy-winning show that spanned two seasons.

It was through the collaborative process on HitRecord that Gordon-Levitt began experimenting with animation and green screens (both appear in Mr. Corman). “There’s a series of green screen footage where Josh is daydreaming, and you get to see in a big, cinematic way his feelings that are too strong or too powerful to really capture with realism,” says Gordon-Levitt. “The way we would do it on HitRecord is a little different from what we did on Mr. Corman. We would put the [footage of actors shot in front of a greenscreen] online for everyone to see, even if it wasn’t over, then people would add [their own] visuals. Gordon-Levitt notes that the photo-collage sequences in Mr. Corman were made “in a more orderly fashion”, but it refers to one of HitRecord’s short films, First stars I see tonight (which features actress Elle Fanning), as an example of a multimedia process.

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First stars I see tonight
Courtesy photo

“Take the time” from The Books

Although he spends his days teaching fifth graders, much 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 could do in his bedroom.

Gordon-Levitt points to the experimental duo The Books as an influence on Josh’s music. The New York-based group, consisting of guitarist and vocalist Nick Zammuto and cellist Paul de Jong, released four albums between the group’s founding in 2000 and its split in 2012. Their songs are a mix of folk melodies and samples. from cassettes purchased from thrift. stores; avoiding traditional percussion instruments, the group preferred to use everyday objects instead of drums. Gordon-Levitt calls the song “Take Time”, from the band’s second album, The pink lemon, like the path to Josh’s musical sound. “The Books is music that someone could do in a bedroom,” he says, “but it’s incredibly expensive, creative, and beautiful.”

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“Take the time” from The Books
Courtesy photo

Punch drunk love

Paul Thomas Anderson’s fourth feature film was his third (after Boogie evenings and Magnolia) located in the San Fernando Valley, where he grew up. For Gordon-Levitt, the idiosyncratic romantic comedy – which starred Adam Sandler in his first dramatic role as a clumsy, anxiety-riddled man alongside Emily Watson – changed his perspective on how he viewed. the Los Angeles area where he grew up. “He finds cinematic beauty in a place that may seem mundane,” Gordon-Levitt notes. “If you stood in the alley where the Adam Sandler character works, you probably wouldn’t be like, ‘Wow, that would be a beautiful place for a movie.’ “

Gordon-Levitt credits Anderson’s particular view of the valley for inspiring 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 says. “I like the idea that, depending on your perspective, a place that seems ordinary or not particularly special can take on so much beauty.” Gordon-Levitt adds that this is the “life lesson” of his series: “Mr. Corman is to have a negative outlook versus a positive outlook. It’s about taking the mundane and making it beautiful.

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Punch drunk 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-track – that’s what we called them back then,” he recalls when he started recording his own songs, long before the devices digital recordings are commonplace. “You would record on a tape – just a normal blank tape – but this machine [would allow you to] record four different tracks on one [tape]. “

Josh composes new music throughout Mr. Corman in an effort to work through his anxious mind. Gordon-Levitt admits that it was his own passion for music that influenced this element of Josh’s character. “I recorded a lot of little songs from the age of 15. I’ve always loved doing it – I still love doing it, ”he says. “This hobby that I have has become an important part of Mr. Corman and the character of Josh. If you took this 15-year-old and walked quickly through his adult life, that would be Josh in many ways.

As Josh composes his music (each episode begins with Josh tinkering around in his bedroom, albeit on a computer rather than an analog four-track), we slowly hear what he was working on with the series finale. “All of these parts,” he says, “are actually part of one 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.

About Monty S. Maynard

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