On their website, the Media Rise Festival states “our mission is to promote the creation and consumption of meaningful media to accelerate social change.” A noble cause for sure.
Benevolent media founder Erica Schlaikjer wears many hats as an organizer, producer and promoter of Media Rise (alongside Mandar Apte and Dr. Srivi Ramasubramian), and as such she modeled pitch night after a similar event she had hosted in the past. Presenters were given less than 5 minutes to convince judges Darius Graham (Founder and Director, DC Social Innovation Project), Nicole Aguirre (CEO, Worn Creative), and Kate Watts (Managing Director of the Washington Huge, Inc. office) that their project was worth the $1000 prize, much needed (if meager) funding for their respective projects. The night’s big winner was Clarence Wardell III of TinyGive, which empowers twitter users to make tiny donations simply by tweeting. Pretty neat idea.
An audience award was given for an app that translates words into sign language (this presenter definitely had the most friends in attendance on Friday night, he repeatedly taught us all how to make signs for “beer” and “party”), but also worth mentioning was the pitch given by performance artist Gregg Deal for his work, “The Last American Indian on Earth.” Gregg’s work revolves around his Native American ancestry and the performance of certain stereotypical American Indian archetypes. The work is intentionally provocative, and was a welcome shot in the arm to a batch of presentations that were otherwise tech-heavy.
All in all, it was impressive mix of artists and business people coming together. However, for a festival that bills itself as a promotor of meaningful media, the Media Rise Festival felt perhaps more driven by throwing another great art party than anything else. Not necessarily a bad thing, but certainly art is not the only outlet for meaningful media? Other events throughout the weekend, such as Media Rise’s own version of the 48-hour film festival, perhaps packed more of a documentary punch, but from what I saw on Friday night, there could have been a few more multimedia storytellers in the room. And yeah, I’m biased, so don’t let my salt ruin your food for thought. Do enjoy the photos.
More photos by Ben Droz: