What happens when nonprofit groups working for progressive change gain access to the kind of creative firepower that giant corporations use to dominate the media with their messages? You get wildly popular Web advocacy ads like Free Range Studios' " Grocery Store Wars" and " The Meatrix," which has been viewed more than 16 million times, translated into more than 20 languages and received a 2005 Webby Award.
Jonah Sachs and Louis Fox, who grew up making films and writing stories together, founded multimedia firm Free Range Studios in 1999 to combine their penchant for the imaginative and their vision to create a more sustainable world. Since then, they've helped advocacy groups get their messages out through the Web, video, print, strategy and branding identity—they've even done former Vice President Al Gore's Web site. The firm's latest online offering, " The Story of Stuff," is a critique of consumer culture, and was named the best educational Web site by the judges' panel at the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas, in March.
The firm, which now has more than 20 employees, only works with socially responsible third-party vendors and has established a Gratitude Grant to give pro-bono services to the social-change community. Fast Company magazine named Free Range one of 50 companies saving the planet in 2007, and Wired magazine featured the firm as a leader in viral marketing.
When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? We wanted to make movies.
What are you most proud of? We've been able to make a viable for-profit business that has unwavering values and has been able to grow every year. We've never had to take venture capital to grow, and it's been nine years. That we've been able to live our values, be creative and also have a viable business at the same time makes us proud. We're also proud of a lot of the projects we've put out that have helped put some really important issues in the public eye. The issue we thought was the most invisible that we helped catapult into the public sphere was factory farming with " The Meatrix."
What's next for Free Range Studios? We're really hoping to extend " The Story of Stuff" into a story network, basically create a franchise with those characters and extend that big picture.
What is one natural product you can't live without? Fox: Organic smoky tempeh strips by LightLife.
Anything else we should know about you? Fox: I do most of the voices in the movies, including all of the first " Meatrix," except the chicken, and I did almost all of the puppets for " Store Wars." One of the first things Jonah and I did as friends was plan to do a remake of " Return of the Jedi" in third grade.
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