As a filmmaker I try to do enough well-paid work that I can afford to do pro-bono or discounted work for worthy causes and organizations.
Location: Washington, D.C.
Twitter Handle: @rcshore
What was the first charitable gift you ever gave?:
When we were kids, my sister and I would walk over to the local supermarket and volunteer for the Humane Society. It may have been that we just really wanted a pet dog, but we raised and collected money and gave our time to a cause, and that was my first experience of active service. We eventually ended up getting a dog by telling my parents we were doing a study on handwriting and fooling them into signing a contract that required them to get us a dog. I suppose they respected the pluck and determination.
What is your charity of choice?:
I give to the Southern Poverty Law Center and The Washington Project for the Arts. The SPLC is a badass progressive organization that makes big impacts fighting hate and bigotry. The WPA supports the professional, artistic, and business development of local artists in and around Washington, DC.
You spent time in the US Peace Corps giving back. Tell us about that experience.:
I served two and a half years in the US Peace Corps in Mongolia after college teaching English and doing tourism development. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and the Peace Corps was a way to use the few skills I had to provide some modicum of help to communities that needed it, while providing for me the most profound personal, social, and professional growth experiences of my life. Recognizing that both are at play is important. So many young people like me go into Peace Corps with a messianic or superhero complex thinking that they’re going to save the world by teaching English or puttering around in a garden.
That’s setting unrealistic expectations for one’s self and for the organization. Peace Corps has gotten pretty good over the years of asking the host country about their needs first, matching people and skills to those needs, and maintaining realistic expectations and sufficient humility in their goals. From my experience, the people I served with were some of the smartest, kindest, most impressive people I’ve ever met. As Colin Powell said [paraphrasing]: “So long as it’s not used as such, the Peace Corps is the most powerful tool for US Diplomacy that we’ve got.”
Who inspires you to give?:
Anne Mahlum. She’s my girlfriend, but she’s also one of the most generous and charitably-ingenious people I’ve ever met. She started Back on My Feet when she was in her mid 20s without knowing much of anything about poverty and homelessness. Seeing how she grew and matured that organization and herself at such a young age and the impacts it had on individuals’ lives is simply stunning.
What motivates you to give?:
First, Ira Glass’ guilt-of-the-sublime during NPR membership drives. Secondly, injustice to underrepresented and underserved populations. Third, fields like art and education which society considers “hardship careers” — fields where professionals should suffer for their work or just do it “because they care.” I prefer that public funding be used to support good people and good causes, but we live in a highly individualist society that has demonized taxes and things-public. Charitable giving is one of the few levers of direct agency I have to pull, even if I think it’s not an ideal way to run/fund/support a society.
How do you give of your time?:
As a filmmaker I try to do enough well-paid work that I can afford to do pro-bono or discounted work for worthy causes and organizations. So maybe I do a shoot for a sports event or corporate brand — something that makes a good paycheck and that still let’s me sleep at night — so that I can do a video on something I really care about for free or at cost. Someone’s got to buy the guns for the revolution, right?
Recently I was able to do a video for the 11th Street Bridge Park Project at cost for a good friend and someone whose work I greatly admire. It’s an amazing architectural and social project that takes an existing structure and transforms it into a literal and metaphorical bridge between communities that have been separated by bodies of water and opportunity for decades. It’s great to be in a position to make products for causes that I care about and also make a living.