I’m a storyteller focused on moving people to act.
Over the years I’ve written and directed two feature films, founded a handful of companies, developed and executed social impact campaigns for Participant Media, and produced a number of documentaries for Vice. Most recently I completed my first board game.
Foster Care Musical
The second film I directed, “Know How,” is a multiple award-winning foster care musical that helped pass watershed legislation in the United States.
Know How captures the reality of life in foster care from the point of view of those living in it. It’s not a documentary nor is it fiction. It’s a hybrid approach for using film to create social change. Instead of professional screenwriters and actors, these true stories are written and performed by a cast of ordinary foster care youth, and their performances are powerful, moving, and eye-opening. Know How is a musical that brings authentic voices and unseen stories to the screen, and emerged from the efforts of The Possibility Project, a non-profit organization in NYC that brings teenagers together to transform the negative forces in their lives into positive action through projects like this one.
Why a film by young people in foster care? Because the system doesn’t work and the human cost of its dysfunction is one few are aware of. Consider this: a few years after aging out of foster care, only 50% of young people will complete high school or a GED, 60% will be convicted of a crime, 75% will receive public assistance, and only 6% will complete a college degree. A system producing these results needs to change.
My first feature, “Second Skin,” is a documentary about massively multiplayer online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft, Everquest, and Second Life.
Second Skin takes an intimate look at three sets of computer gamers whose lives have been transformed by online virtual worlds. Massively Multiplayer Online games, or MMOs, allows millions of users to interact simultaneously in virtual spaces. Of the millions of players worldwide, 50 percent consider themselves addicted. From individuals struggling with addiction to couples who have fallen in love without meeting; from disabled players whose lives have been given new purpose to gold farmers, entrepreneurs, and widows, Second Skin opens viewers eyes to a phenomenon that may permanently change the way human beings interact.
In March 2008, Second Skin premiered opening night of SXSW. Without any news of a theatrical or DVD release, Second Skin landed extensive coverage in Newsweek, NPR, Wired, BBC, The Dr. Phil Show, Boston Globe, Variety and dozens of other major media outlets. Second Skin was also voted the #4 Documentary of 2008 by internet juggernaut Ain’t It Cool News.
Second Skin was the first widely released movie about virtual worlds.
White Roof Project
I founded White Roof Project; a nonprofit focused on curbing climate change by painting black rooftops with energy saving reflective white paint in 2010. To date the organization has activated over 1150 volunteers, coated over 496,000 square feet of rooftop, and has 175 community partners.
Millions of rooftops in America are made of tar. They absorb an enormous amount of heat during the summer months. By covering black tar roofs with a solar-reflective white coating, we immediately reduce temperatures inside and out. A White Roof Project is low-cost, easy to implement, relieves stress on the power grid, cuts down on smog, and creates tangible change for individuals, our communities, and even globally.
The statistics are as simple as they are staggering: A roof covered with solar-reflective white paint reflects up to 90% of sunlight as opposed to the 20% reflected by a traditional black roof. On a 90°F day, a black roof can be up to 180°F while a white roof stays a cool 100°F reducing cooling costs up to 40 percent.
White Roof Project has a three-pronged approach to executing its mission; 1) Educate and activate 2) Contribute to white roof science and policy, 3) Catalyze volunteers to complete painting projects in cities.
Experts estimate that implementing a white roof program in 11 large cities could save the U.S. 7 gigawatts in energy usage. That’s the equivalent of turning off 14 power plants.
My new board game, “Cool Points,” is a playful take on “winning” high school. In this absurdist, high school themed game about the ridiculous quest for social status, you play one of six rivals, each trying to rule the school. So, welcome to Van Cool High School, where being ‘cool’ is the most important thing there is.
In this school, popularity is determined by an arbitrary social currency called “Cool Points,” and all people get to partake in the social games teenagers play, by poking fun at popularity.
Cool Points debuted at Indiecade in 2016 as a “Tabletop Select,” and will be widely available in early 2017.
Director of Social Impact
For a few years, I had the privilege of developing, executing, and measuring the impact of Participant Media’s campaigns. I co-created TakePart’s first digital campaign called “Save Our Bees” which won Cynopsis’s Social Good Award for Best Environmental Campaign. My impact videos for the “Every 3 Seconds” campaign won a Silver Telly Award. Then in 2015 Participant picked up my feature “Know How,” and after the film aided in passing legislation, it won Cynopsis’s Best Branded TV Campaign.
Two major projects I’m proud of were: Helping guide the TakePart Action Platform, an innovative tool to harness large numbers of people to effect social change. And two, with others, bringing to life The Participant Index, a system that examines and scores the “social impact” of entertainment.
Producer & Director
For a spell, I produced Vice content and ended up launching their tech channel, Motherboard, with my documentary on legendary game designer Richard Garriott. That doc was later named “Best of Vice” in 2009.
Over two years I directed a number of others, including a critically acclaimed piece on Sid Meier, creator of the Civilization game series, and one of the last recorded interviews with Ralph Baer, the inventor of video games.