Steven Starr was born on Long Island. Starr started his career in high school as a volunteer journalist at WLIR in New York, pursued a degree in Radio, TV and Film at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and worked his way through college as a campus journalist, a DJ, CBS Records college rep, and helped promote concerts for Bob Marley & The Wailers.
After starting in the mail room at the William Morris Agency in 1980, Starr launched their new media (home video and audiobooks) division in 1983. He went on to package television and screenplays, then headed the New York Motion Picture department under Sue Mengers. His clients over the years included Larry David, Ang Lee, Andy Warhol, Ziggy Marley, Sandra Bernhard, Andy Grove, Joseph Papp, Will Smith and Tim Robbins.
Starr left Morris in 1991 to produce Johnny Suede, winner of the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival, and to write, direct and produce Joey Breaker, winner of the Audience Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. He then co-created and produced the Ace Award series nominee The State for MTV and CBS, and collaborated with the Marley family on a variety of estate projects, including a Bob Marley biopic.
Starr went on to focus full-time on media democratization in 1999, as a co-founder of the Los Angeles Independent Media Center, and founding CEO of AntEye.com, a user-generated video site where video creators, voted on by their peers, were awarded micro-pilot budgets in various categories. Despite thousands of submissions and a first-look partnership with HBO, bandwidth costs were prohibitive, and by mid-2000 AntEye became unsustainable.
Starr then co-founded Uprizer with Freenet Project founder Ian Clarke and Rob Kramer. A pioneer in P2P and funded by Intel, the goal was to launch a zero-cost bandwidth solution for independent creators. After Hummer-Winblad was named in the Napster lawsuits, Uprizer re-oriented as an enterprise software solution, Starr and Clarke departed to continue work on Freenet, and Uprizer sold to Redux Holdings.
The Pacifica Foundation then approached Starr to reorganize KPFK, the largest progressive radio signal in the US. After helping to restore community and financial controls, he started ChangeTv, a user-generated digital cable network designed to filter online video onto cable and reward creators, advised by John Perry Barlow and Amnesty International's Jack Healy.
When financing proved difficult, Starr repurposed ChangeTv, bringing on Ian Clarke, Andrew Clarke, Oliver Luckett and Downhill Battle as consultants, focusing on how to reward online video creators in direct proportion to virality. After raising capital from the syndicate that funded Skype, Clarke and Luckett became co-founders and the Revver beta launched on October 29, 2005. Revver split advertising revenue 50/50 with creators, and gave 20% of advertising revenue to syndicators. Revver enabled redistribution under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Creative Commons License.
In 2006, Revver was awarded the Most Influential Independent Website by Television Week, nominated for an Advanced Technology Emmy Award, and honored as one of the 100 most promising startups by Red Herring. Revver's creator-centric business model had significant impact, forcing many video sites to begin offering revenue share to creators, including YouTube. In 2007, Revver announced it had paid out its first million dollars to online creators. In February 2008, Revver was sold to LiveUniverse, which abandoned the creator/syndicator revshare model, starting a precipitous decline in users.
FLOW: For Love Of Water
Starr went on to finalize production of Irena Salina's feature-length global water crisis documentary FLOW: For Love Of Water, and launch a Right To Water campaign to add a 31st article to the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article31.org. FLOW premiered as a Grand Jury Prize nominee at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival Competition, going on to win a variety of festival awards, including the International Jury Prize at the Mumbai International Film Festival and the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary at the United Nations Film Festival. FLOW was released theatrically by Oscilloscope Labs in September, 2008, and has since served as a water activist tool for the global Right To Water movement.
FLOW was invited to screen for the UN General Assembly on the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, where the first 50,000 signatories to Article31 were presented to the President of the General Assembly, Father Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann. On July 28, 2010 a resolution was presented by Bolivia and co-sponsored by 35 countries, calling on the General Assembly to recognize the Right To Water. Despite opposition from the U.S., the U.K. and their allies, the resolution passed with the support of 122 countries, representing over 5 billion people. In 2010, a French court rejected a defamation lawsuit against FLOW brought by Suez Environnement, one of the largest water companies in the world. In 2012, Suez lost again on appeal and was forced by the court pay legal fees and damages.
Starr then co-executive produced and organized theatrical distribution for the Academy Award-nominated, urban farming documentary The Garden, released in April 2009.
Starr then joined CitizenGlobal to collaborate on the development of a media co-creation platform, working with Ward Cunningham among others, where he ultimately became the CEO.
He went on to organize social media initiatives for XPrize, Sierra Club, Fremantle, Univision, Sesame Street, eBay, and Congo Woman’s Relief with Voice Of America and the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
Starr then formed StarrWorks, a media production company, and is currently in development on a variety of projects, while providing mentorship to startup CEO's.
After going back to school for a Master's Degree in Spiritual Psychology, Starr broke a lifelong silence to share his childhood experiences at The Fessenden School as the lead of a 2016 Boston Globe Spotlight Team expose on sexual abuse, involving over 70 boarding schools and hundreds of victims. He then keynoted with Spotlight at the 2017 National Sexual Assault Conference in Washington D.C., and has been working with sexual abuse survivors ever since.
- Joey Breaker
- Report to the Pacifica National Board 3.9.02
- Revver Zooms in on Net Video Sharing
- Revver Creative Commons interview
- Wall Street Journal Interview
- Interview w/Jason Calacanis
- FLOW: For Love Of Water
- Creator Diplomacy: Changing the Face America Shows the World
- Article31: The Right To Water
- Occupy Wall Street: Can filmmaking site unify the movement?