Meet the Jury: VICE’s Dersu Rhodes on why ADCAN matters now more than ever

Interview by Ashley Nowicki


We’re thrilled to kick off our inaugural jury series with the unforgettable Dersu Rhodes, who is currently the Design Director for VICE Media in Los Angeles and the Co-Founder of Peace in Noise.


Dersu and Dean Bradshaw directing their short Dreamer which is now in post production.


Why do you think something like ADCAN is needed, especially right now?


Communities like ADCAN are necessary now more than ever because there’s so much at stake for many different groups of people who have been fighting for their rights for decades. These days, a ton of money and creative resources are being thrown at products and services that don’t actually serve the best interest of the people or our planet. Creativity can easily be misdirected when it’s thrown at problems that aren’t really problems. Many organizations have lost perspective on what matters.


ADCAN is trying to fix that by creating a space where creative minds can direct their energy at important issues by using their storytelling skills to help influence positive behavior, perspectives and change. Filmmaking, in my mind, is the most effective platform for change because it’s a medium everyone relates to. Not everyone may understand fine art or be an expert in technology but it’s easy to engage with film, allowing ourselves to be moved by it. Your mission at ADCAN is really exciting because you are focused on empowering young creatives, in many ways, while giving smaller charities and nonprofits a network of creatives to connect with.



On set during the filming of The Therapist Main Titles for VICELAND.


You launched NightCause back in February, a monthly event showcasing well known DJ’s from the around the world, with 100% of the proceeds going towards a cause of the DJ’s choice. What have you learned so far?


NightCause was birthed out of Peace in Noise and started super underground. We began partnering with different brands and things were going great but it got to the point where the parties became more stressful than enjoyable so we had to rethink our approach. So my partner and I started talking about what we were missing.


When the parties were about promoting ourselves as DJ’s, it was too much pressure to deliver an incredible experience every single time. We thought it’d be more interesting to make it about the impact the DJ community could have as a collective whole, by giving all of the money away to benefit the cause each DJ cares about the most. So far, we’ve raised almost $20,000 with DJ’s like TÂCHES, Hoj and Marques Wyatt. We’ve raised money for the Los Angeles Covenant House who provides shelter for homeless children, the Standing Rock Support Fund, the Oakland Fire Relief Fund and more. As soon as it was about the greater good with an emphasis on offline community building, everything fell into place.



Courtesy of Peace In Noise.


So what’s next for NightCause?


The goal is to expand it into a festival. Ideally, we’d be able to wipe out an entire water shortage in a region of Africa with just one NightCause event. People go to these different music festivals and while they are fun, it’s becoming harder to disregard the fact that the $6,000 spent could have provided food for a group of homeless LA teens for the next six weeks. I believe this is the future of fundraising. Tricking the system so that the fundraising is organic and intertwined with unique experiences. It’s donating without the actual donation being at the forefront of the interaction.


And honestly, this is what ADCAN is doing as well. We are all focused on getting an issue resolved in one way or another. The days of people donating money over the phone and shit is over. Ads with little kids starving for UNICEF don’t work and force people to turn away awkwardly with guilt instead of bringing them into the conversation. This is also how I feel about global warming. Let’s figure out ways to tell a supportive story without sending everyone into a depressive state of mind.



TACHES performing for April’s NightCause party.


What advice do you have for filmmakers submitting work this year?


Do it for yourself. And do it because you really care about one of the causes. I feel similarly about DJ’ing. If you are playing a set for the crowd but you aren’t really feeling it, the set falls flat. But as soon as you play for yourself, your audience feels it and authentically connect with what you’re doing. I’m looking for filmmakers who do the same, introducing new ideas and new ways of thinking, creating different lenses for ideas to be shown through. It’s how we bridge gaps of thinking in our society.


Outside of that, fall in love with the story first and then find your call to action. Content tends to speak to people who are already aware of the issue but how do you reach those who wouldn’t normally be watching? As an environmentalist, I’m going to care about national parks. But how do we create something that truly resonates with people outside of this demographic?


In the VICE digital documentary, Polar Bear Man, you learn about a guy who gets attacked by a Polar Bear while camping. This is the hook because you want to learn about the attack and hear the rest of the story. Then the audience discovers that the reason the bears were in the area is because of the changing climate and their movement south is because of the lack of food. You could be someone who doesn’t care at all about global warming but then suddenly you’ve learned more about it’s direct impact and it gets you thinking. That is where the impact lies. Capturing the attention of people and activating them without them knowing it.



Dersu art directing The Board starring Diplo for Virtue/VICE.


What’s the most impactful content you’ve seen lately?


I saw this piece by Michael Lawrence for Toronto that blew my mind. I’m also very proud of what VICE did for VICELAND Episode 1 of RISE.




* If you’d also like to use your creativity as a force for good, download the ADCAN awards briefs here. Deadline for entries is August 15th 2017.


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