Dave Ambrose

Dave Ambrose, Co-founder of Art Not War

“Re-evaluate the worth of your content in terms of authenticity. And ask yourselves, “Why do you want to use video? What type of media might serve you best? Sometimes the best impact is not through media, but creative action like a protest or a concert.”

Meet Dave Ambrose. Dave is the co-founder of Art Not War, a creative agency that specializes in digital strategy, production, and PR for progressive organizations and causes; and the co-founder of OnStack, a brand new video collaboration platform where people can make video petitions and build communities online from video. Dave’s most recent documentary, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: Billions and Ballot Bandits, tracks Greg Palast’s investigative journalism on voter suppression. (Look for a future screening of an updated cut at Civic Hall!)

What Does He Do?

Dave came up in the film industry as a freelance shooter and editor, producer, and as a development executive in Los Angeles. When he returned to New York City in 2011, he started making content with Laura Dawn at MoveOn, working on such projects as Van Jones’ Rebuild the Dream. Laura and Daron Murphy invited Dave to start Art Not War later that year — focusing on both strategy and production — and they’ve since worked for a who’s who in progressive and social justice orgs, including NARAL, Emily’s List, and SEIU.

Today with video considered a silver bullet for all that ails us, Dave has a few thoughts for social justice organizations: “Re-evaluate the worth of your content in terms of authenticity. And ask yourselves, “Why do you want to use video? What type of media might serve you best? Sometimes the best impact is not through media, but creative action like a protest or a concert.”

What Project Is He Working On?

Dave joined the Civic Hall community specifically to work on OnStack, which he recently demoed at the New York Tech Alliance.

“I made OnStack with the professional organizer in mind, knowing the tools that they were looking for to create campaigns. We recognized that it is time-consuming and expensive for orgs to solicit these videos through their email lists, as is figuring out how to curate and repackage them. In some cases they receive so many stories that most are on the cutting room floor, missing the viral hit that could have aided their campaign. I see OnStack now as a tool to collect stories and push them out to Facebook and Twitter. Recently, we took our stack and uploaded it to FB Live, making it collaborative. OnStack is in its infancy; as its user base grows we hope it turns into a platform to explore different video communities.”

How Did He Come to Civic Hall?

During Civic Hall’s first year, Dave was consulting for First Look Media and frequently visited our Fifth Avenue space to collaborate as a guest of member Laura Dawn. When Dave became a formal member this past winter he struck lightning on his first day, at our bi-weekly “What’s Your Week,” meeting everyone who would ultimately become part of Action Blitz, which came together to create media and assets for a roster of nonprofits who are fighting for the New York Healthcare Act, which would enshrine universal healthcare in New York.

“On June 3rd we gathered together at Civic Hall with about fifty creative professionals including programmers, filmmakers, graphic designers, coders, and volunteer OnStack story collectors, where we took to the streets and collected over fifty stories from New Yorkers about their personal reasons why they wanted universal healthcare.”

What is His Ask of the Community?

“I want to help you make Stacks – to gather stories and use them for furthering your progressive causes.”

Dave thinks of the June 3rd Action Blitz as a case study for OnStack. With The New York Health Act just a single state senator shy of becoming law, Action Blitz wants your healthcare stories. And if you don’t live in New York, your voice is still needed: Seventeen states have similar bills working their way through state legislatures.

Action Blitz expects a raft of assets — many of them first created during the June 3rd Hackathon — to be released tomorrow, at a ProgHacknight at ThoughtWorks. By summer’s end, it expects to see the release of social media assets, in-depth healthcare story interviews, animated infographics, and a handful of tech apps.