Last spring I was a showcasing artist at the Raw Artists ‘REVOLUTION’ event at club Rumor in Boston. I showcased two of my short films, ‘Ice Cream For Breakfast‘ (2013) which landed me a semi-finalist spot for the Adobe Design Achievement Awards the previous summer, and ‘The Robber‘ (2011), recipient of ‘Boston Local Student Spotlight’ at the 2013 Filmshift Festival. I screened my films, sold my art print work, and was asked to be part of several future shows and productions. I met some great artists, and made back all of the money I put into the show due to ticket sales. I also managed to get a clip light, so I’d call it a win-win!
Or so I thought - the pre-production was stressful, and unprofessional. But then, there was the showcase.
RAW Artists is a company that holds art shows throughout the United States and abroad. They offer artists a free artist interview uploaded to the RAW Youtube channel, promotional headshots taken the night of the event, and artists can sell their work at the showcase. You have to apply to be a showcasing artist with RAW, and if they accept you - great! You have to pay $300.
On the one hand it makes sense - a company is supporting you by showing your art, so the least you can do is support the gallery by promoting the show, yourself. And if the showcase was run with any degree of professionalism, I wouldn't have anything further to say.
The day of the event, I was able to show up to the venue at 1pm because I was a filmmaker, and didn't 'need the time to setup' like the "visual artists." When I arrived, everyone was setting up their booths, their art, getting into nice make-up and outfits, and the producer was giving models and designers a walk-through in the space.
Luckily, pizza and drinks were delivered, which delighted the artists. I was happy to see that my calls to the Director of RAW U.S. shows had an effect. The talent should always be given food and refreshments, especially if they're already investing $300 in your production, and they're expected to stay in the gallery space for a total of 10-13 hours.
I printed copies of my bio, info. about my film ‘My Big Bad Wolf‘ (2013), and info. about the two short films I screened – ‘The Robber’ (2011) and ‘Ice Cream for Breakfast’ (2013). Conveniently, we were able to accept cash and credit card for art print purchases, thanks to my Square Reader!
Unfortunately, my entire booth area was sticky and smelled like urine - and this is because the carpeting and booth was covered in old beer from a previous club event.
Artists were individually called to the center of the room to be photographed by Greg Caparell Photography, and to be interviewed on-camera for their 'complimentary RAW artist video.' My boyfriend had accompanied me, and managed to get a photo of my ‘artist interview’ before the show.
Apparently the event started late – but I didn’t even notice until a few people asked, "When is your first film showing? I thought it was supposed to be at 8:15?" I had printed and displayed the showtimes for my showcasing films, but this was now obsolete. Luckily, I was able to sell my art prints and entertained people through my laptop, which displayed two of my short films playing in a loop, along with ‘Giraffe World’ and the trailer for ‘My Big Bad Wolf’ (2013).
However, it was a hard sell - the music was much too loud; you’re trying to talk over the blaring electronic music for four hours, selling yourself and your work. When I had attended a ‘RAW’ event months earlier to check it out, the music was so loud I couldn't talk to anyone at this 'networking' event. I mentioned the loud music to the event coordinator – but he never responded. Most of my customers, or people who simply stopped to chat for a few seconds - commented on how they felt bad that I had to yell over the music just to talk to them, and they also acknowledged it was too loud and they weren't able to focus or talk with others.
It was soon announced that artists would be introducing themselves in the main room, and artists should line-up if they would like to do so. This was difficult for artists whose booths were located in different rooms, or upstairs. In fact, I almost missed my chance at an introduction because the MC wasn't calling artists over by name, and didn't notify the other filmmaker at the event that he could introduce himself.
The venue was not setup for filmmakers, and at the time 'Filmmaker' was a new category of art RAW had added to its repertoire. The films would be run through a laptop and projected onto a wall. No, the videos weren't projected onto a professional screen, or even a white sheet - but were projected directly onto the wall:
As you can see, the films were projected onto the wall, two projections playing side-by-side as if there are two screens. In theory, I think this is supposed to allow people to see the film from different areas of the room.
However, other showcasing artists had booths just beneath the wall space being used for film projection, which largely interfered with the films because these were all 3D artists, and they stacked their work vertically. Not only did this interfere with the filmmakers' work, but the fire alarm was smack-dab in the middle of one projection screen. And, sadly, the audio was slight out-of-sync, which the technician blamed on my editing. Finally, and the worst part - no one dimmed the lights when the film screening began, so the videos looked pale and washed-out.
If RAW truly wants to incorporate filmmakers and cater to all different artists, they need to figure out how to properly showcase films in each venue, accommodating everyone.
I'd never heard of RAW Artists prior to an email from a scout. None of my artist friends - no one I knew at MassArt - had been part of RAW. I asked friends about it before joining the showcase, and they told me how much of a 'scheme' it is, and they had heard that it was very unprofessional.
I tried it for myself, blew time, energy and money on what should have been a very fun and happy experience, handled by professionals so I didn't have to help produce the show, myself.
Ashley Berger-Rivera Photography's 'My RAW Artist Showcase Experience!!'
Depth of Field's 'My First Raw Event - aka...'
Isthmus' 'For and Against RAW: Natural Born Artists' - are the group's loud, colorful art parties a way to exploit young creatives?
Kirk Stewart's 'My Experience as a RAW Artist'
L.A. Weekly's 'Controversial Promoters RAW Put Bands In Front of Audiences - For A Fee'
Meryl Pataky's 'My RAW Artist Experience'
See also this informative expose featured in CityBeat Cincinnati's 'Controversial Los Angeles-based organization RAW:NATURAL BORN ARTISTS relaunches a dubious pay-to-play operation in Cincinnati'
While RAW had many downsides and wasted much time and energy throughout the process, I met a few new artists when walking around prior to the show.
Please feel free to share your personal experience with RAW and additional links to others' experiences with the organization!