Bryn Mooser: Award-Winning Filmmaker and Co-Founder of RYOT [Issue 03 Exclusive]
The word “ryot” is a word that means Indian peasant or tenant farmer; but for Bryn Mooser, it stands in for a connection between hard work and action, growth, and communication: ryot and riot.
Bryn is the co-founder of RYOT, which among other things, is the first news website to link every single story to an action that readers can take. For example, if you’re reading a story about conflicts in Syria, at the top and bottom of the page (next to the social sharing buttons) is a button labeled “Click here to take action,” and you’re automatically given options to take immediate action, which include donating to vetted aid organizations on the ground in Syria and signing a petition to the UN Secretary General. According to Bryn and the website, this kind of involvement is the future of news; not just reading passively, but also taking action within stories as they unfold.
Bryn is also an award-winning filmmaker, with Baseball in the Time of Cholera (produced by Olivia Wilde) and the more recent Rider and the Storm, which premiered at the TriBeCa Film Festival last April. His most recent film, Body Team 12, premiered at this year’s Tribeca film festival, which was profiling a heroic group of Liberian Red Cross workers tasked with collecting the dead during the height of the Ebola outbreak. He was named one of Esquire Magazine’s “2012 Americans of the Year” for his work on relief efforts after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, and he played an instrumental role in Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ)’s building of a secondary school in Port-au-Prince. It was while he was working for APJ that Bryn met David Darg, future co-founder at RYOT, who shared his desire to raise the profile of humanitarian causes, as well as practical, on-the-ground experience in humanitarian work.
Promoting positive social change is Bryn’s modus operandi; to him, this is a given, a mark of his generation as much as anything. Millennials are RYOT’s target demographic, a fact that isn’t surprising considering how much getting socially and digitally involved—with brands, with causes, with each other—has become a matter of course for the younger, uber-wired generations. When I ask him how he sees news evolving with tech, he admits that because it is evolving so quickly it’s tough to predict, but he’s sure it will be for the better.
“Take Haiti, for example,” he told me, “I’ve been involved in humanitarian work there for awhile now. People see pictures, and they think it’s a hopeless situation… It’s frustrating because while the circumstances are depressing, the people there shine. They are the best. I was telling a friend (who happens to be a billionaire), about one of the kids there, and long story short, my friend ended up connecting her with one of the kids because even many Haitians have Facebook. So, I connected them, and they now speak on an almost daily basis – they’ve created this beautiful friendship. You would never have predicted it, but connecting people is the only way everyone is going to be able to open their eyes and truly see the world… and technology definitely helps make that possible.”
It is worth pointing out at this point that while the web might provide new platforms and bigger networks for involvement, RYOT is based on something timeless: the desire to help others.
So, what keeps this engine running in the long term? Bryn’s personal motivation is largely a result of his upbringing. In his formative years, he lived in Venice Beach, Spanish Harlem, an island off the coast of Maine, and Zimbabwe. Once he was out on his own, he spent several years serving in the Peace Corps and some time hitchhiking from Bangkok to Berlin, before landing in Haiti after the earthquake to serve as the Haiti County Director for APJ. To say he has been prepared for his role today with diversity and perspective his entire life would be a major understatement. Diversity and perspective are crucial to the kind of social entrepreneur that Bryn has become, driven to connect people who would believe themselves to be worlds apart.
In the day-to-day, like most entrepreneurs, in addition to RYOT News, both Bryn and co-founder David Darg juggle RYOT Films, the film production element of the project. As if that wasn’t enough, there is also the affiliated RYOT Creative, a creative services agency for cause-related marketing materials. Also, they oversee the RYOT Foundation, which supports youth programs and provides disaster relief around the world. They’ve earned the support of a number of celebrity advocates, including Ian Somerhalder, Olivia Wilde and Sophia Bush, but the credit for most of the hard work and certainly the passion behind the disruptive RYOT News force, goes to Bryn, David, and the 22 employees who keep the lights on and the world connecting.
Speaking to Bryn was creatively inspiring and awe-inspiring in equal parts, and the conversation cast the news cycle in a new light, or rather, a new era. Relying on facts generally isn’t effective when it comes to inciting action from the public on worthy causes, but empowering people to get involved in sustainable ways is something that can work. It relies on a growing sense of vastly networked relationships with the world at large that is simply part of life for Millennials: news isn’t just print on a page or images on a screen, but a story unfolding all around us. www.ryot.org