Free Range Studios

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Free Range Studios
Private company
Industry Film, Creative, Storytelling
Founded Washington, D.C. (1999)
Key people
Jonah Sachs, Louis Fox, McArthur

Free Range Studios is a messaging firm based in Washington, D.C. and Oakland, California. Free Range works with companies and organizations to create story-based brands, producing media in various formats from interactive and mobile to print and video. They are known for their creative services and films promoting social change.


Free Range Studios was founded by Jonah Sachs and Louis Fox in 1999 as Free Range Graphics. Sachs and Fox had been childhood collaborators on amateur film and video projects.

After years of experimenting with various media, the pair decided to form a print design firm, working exclusively for non-profits who promoted social change. Within six months of its founding, Free Range was working on national campaigns for Earthjustice, SEIU, and Amnesty International.[1]

Free Range began offering poster and brochure design, identities, annual reports and website design.

New media[edit]

In early 2000, Earthjustice, a national environmental group, approached Free Range with an idea to create a short internet cartoon about the problem of mountain top removal in West Virginia. Using Flash Animation, a rudimentary 40 second cartoon was produced. The movie explained, in cartoon format, about the problem with mountain top removal mining and then offered users the opportunity to take action to stop it.

Though simple, this type of viral activism animation was new at the time, and the novelty of it got the attention of both the general public and the social activism community. Soon, requests for similar work began coming in on several critical issues.[2]

Later that year, Free Range delivered its first Flash animation piece that would have worldwide impact. Amnesty International wanted to pressure Congress to ban "dirty diamonds" which were mined in war zones and carried the weight of human rights abuses. Free Range developed a 90 second ad that spoofed the famous De Beers shadow hands TV spot, showing the harm dirty diamonds did to African people. The piece was distributed on the internet and on DVD to members of the United States Congress. De Beers, the campaign's target, took notice, showing it at a leadership meeting; 500,000 viewers watched the movie online and soon after Congress passed a Clean Diamonds act. Within two years, the loss of dirty diamond funding contributed to the end of Sierra Leone's civil war.[3]


By 2003, Free Range was creating visual identities and conference materials for groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), International Campaign for Tibet and Annie Casey's Kids Count. The web team was also creating websites for Greenpeace, Heifer International and The Harvard Civil Rights project.[4]

The Meatrix[edit]

Free Range came into the public consciousness in 2003 with the release of The Meatrix, the result of a Free Range "Gratitude Grant"[5] awarded to the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE). Sachs and Fox had long been passionate about fighting factory farming and chose GRACE's factory farming campaign as a way of lending their support to this cause. The Meatrix, which was released the same week as The Matrix Revolutions, features Leo the Pig and Moopheus the Bull exploring the world of a factory farm. The movie, which took a humorous approach to the issue, was a success. It has been viewed over 15 million times,[6] translated into over 30 languages,[7] and featured in news outlets from the New York Times to CNN.[8]

Evolution of the firm[edit]

In 2003, they expanded their client list beyond non-profits to include socially responsible businesses and political campaigns. By 2004 Free Range was heavily involved in the political arena. After creating viral advertising for Howard Dean's primary campaign, the team was hired by John Kerry for President to help in the general election. Free Range built a suite of web advertisements, print materials and interactive web features to help with an online campaign. Also that year, Free Range created the online documentary Beyond the Fire which would be featured at Sundance[9] and take home the Best Educational Site award at the South by Southwest festival.

In 2005, Free Range created its first live action short, Store Wars, which took on the issue of organic food. The vegetable puppetry 5-minute video was seen over 10 million times online and was reported on in newspapers and television across the country.[10] That year, Sachs left DC to join Fox in California and opened a second office for the firm in Berkeley. By that year, the team reached 20 members and modified its service offering to include interactive games, complete print and identity design, web-effectiveness consulting and campaign strategy services.


In July 2012, Free Range Studios founder Jonah Sachs published his first book with Harvard Business Review Press entitled Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell -- and Live -- the Best Stories Will Rule the Future.[11] In Winning the Story Wars, Sachs argues that brands that tell value-driven stories can truly revolutionize marketing.[12]

Gratitude Grant[edit]

Each year, the Free Range Gratitude Grant gives free services to organizations with ideas to create maximum impact. Free Range also hosts "green design" events and actively researches and educates on next-generation web advocacy strategies.[13]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ "Free Range Activism: The Art of Marketing Social Change – The Satya Interview with Jonah Sachs". Satya Magazine. Retrieved September 2, 2006. 
  2. ^ "Q&A with Tate Hausman, one of the creators of "The Meatrix"". Food and Society. Retrieved September 2, 2006. 
  3. ^ "Striking Back: Activists Go High-Tech". Satya Magazine. Archived from the original on March 23, 2006. Retrieved September 2, 2006. 
  4. ^ "Heifer International: Site Redesign". Beacon Fire. Archived from the original on May 9, 2006. Retrieved September 2, 2006. 
  5. ^ "More About The Meatrix from Free Range Graphics". Media that Matters Film Festival. Retrieved September 2, 2006. 
  6. ^ "The Meatrix: About Us". GRACE. Retrieved October 9, 2012. 
  7. ^ "The Meatrix: About Us". GRACE. Retrieved October 9, 2012. 
  8. ^ "The Meatrix". a site for Truthseekers. Retrieved September 2, 2006. 
  9. ^ "Six PBS Projects – Five films and one web original – Selected for 2005 Sundance Film Festival". PBS. Retrieved September 2, 2006. 
  10. ^ "Store Wars : The Organic Rebellion". Dexigner. Retrieved September 2, 2006. 
  11. ^ Sachs, Jonah (2012). Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell -- and Live -- the Best Stories Will Rule the Future. Harvard Business Review Press. p. 272. ISBN 1422143562. 
  12. ^ Sachs, Jonah (5 May 2012). "Empowerment Marketing: Advertising To Humans As More Than Just Selfish Machines". Fast Company Co.Exist. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  13. ^ "Moos you can use". New York Daily News. Retrieved September 2, 2006. 
  14. ^ "Free Range Movie Gallery". Retrieved April 20, 2012. 

External links[edit]