If you could take a pill and have superhuman abilities for five minutes, would you take it no matter the risk?
That’s the powerful idea behind Netflix’s upcoming film, fittingly titled Project Power. Stacked with an all-star cast including Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback, Machine Gun Kelly and more, the action film follows a man’s quest to rescue his daughter from the sinister forces behind the drug while attempting to save his city from complete chaos.
“It’s about power, and the pill does serve as a metaphor for who has power, who doesn’t have power, is it fair who has power or what are the structures in place that keep the power where it is,” Gordon-Levitt told Billboard over the phone. “In our world, how it seems to be moving in a direction of stratification instead of equality, I think these are pertinent questions to be asking.”
With the release of the film, Netflix isn’t just showcasing superpowers in the traditional, action movie type of way. The streaming service is teaming up with Gordon-Levitt’s HitRecord, an online community for creative collaboration, encouraging the strength of innovation by calling on individuals worldwide to think about what their “powers” are in today’s society.
The result will be an original song and video to accompany the film, entirely created by people all over the world, no matter professional background, talent level or social media numbers. Additionally, according to HitRecord’s website, the company will be “making six social ‘Power’ stories that we’ll release on our social platforms, and there are open challenges for artists (and non-artists) of all kinds to contribute to. You could take a photo, shoot a video, or just hop on camera and share your thoughts.”
(By the way, the project is still open. You can see details here.)
“We advertise so much in the amount of followers you have, then you hear that producers are looking at that and casting directors are looking at that. You do kind of get in your head about those things,” Fishback told Billboard of the art-focused nature of HitRecord’s project. “I have so many talented friends who one, aren’t even on social media and two, maybe don’t have what people would consider a lot of followers. It is not a reflection on your talent and what you’re capable of. I love that Joe and the company opened it up to these ‘everyday’ people, because the everyday people are actually so inspired. We have so many rappers and singers making beautiful songs. Sometimes they’re talking about the famous life, but there are a lot more songs out there that are universal to people about love, family and heartbreak, and it’s not really about the amount of followers you have. It’s about the life experience you’ve had.”
“The concept of power can mean so many different things,” Gordon-Levitt mirrored. “I really like the idea of getting lots of different takes on that theme, because power can just evoke so many different ideas. You can think about yourself having power, or you could think of what power means in the world. What’s exciting about opening up the creative process is, people have different associations with the word power and that concept that I couldn’t think of. That’s kind of the beauty of opening it up. You get surprised. When there’s a diverse variety of perspectives, people come in with unexpected ideas and, putting it into a song that has the opportunity for lots of different people to rap on it, the idea is to make room for that wide variety of perspective.”
As for what the 500 Days of Summer actor hopes HitRecord participants experience during the open call, is a sense of fulfillment in simply making art and a pure, incorruptible love for creativity. “The truth is, that [fame] only really happens to such a tiny, tiny fraction of people. While it seems like it’s been opened up and democratized now because of the Internet, and that’s true, the Internet is less exclusive than Hollywood. It’s still a very, very, very small fraction of people who are actually going to become rich and famous from being an artist.”
“To me, I know it’s maybe hard for me to say this, because I have the ridiculously rare privilege of being professionally successful and achieved some level of high profile through acting,” he continued. “I’m here to tell you, from this rarified privilege, what makes me genuinely happy is not the money and it’s not the renown or the high profile. I’m not saying that stuff is not nice, yeah, being able to support my family is very important to me. But what really makes me happy at the end of the day about art is the making of the art itself, the creative process.”
“There’s not enough emphasis on that in the culture today, and I’m worried about a world where everybody can quantify their success as an artist through likes and followers and views and numbers like that,” he continued. “It’s not to say you should ignore those things, but it’s important to also have a fulfillment that’s independent of those metrics […] It’s just important, especially for younger people whose whole lives have been subjected to these types of numbers, measuring their own creativity against these numbers, to know that’s not all there is.”
With the theme of power being so prominent for the film and HitRecord’s project, the question needed to be asked: What are Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Dominique Fishback’s power?
“Because power is actually tapped into your chemical makeup, and enhances who you are inside, I could lean into what me and [my Project Power character] Robin have in common, which is spoken word, rhyme and lyricism,” Fishback replied. “I would have a pill that when I take it, it would give my word the power to be incantations. It’s a bit of a cheat, but I found a loophole and I’m sticking to it.”
“I like the power of empathy. I won’t say I’m perfect at it, because I don’t have a superpower,” Gordon-Levitt chimed in. “But it’s something I’ve tried to hone in on throughout my life because it’s what you do as an actor. You try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagine what it’s like to be someone other than yourself, and imagine what it’s like to feel something different than what you feel or perceive things differently than how you perceive them.”
Project Power is out August 14 on Netflix.