How Trevor Clark Succeeded on his Personal Project in Uganda
Trevor Clark (www.trevorclarkphoto.com) was recently highlighted in Photo District News (PDN) for his use of off-camera lighting in his adventure and outdoor photography. Trevor seems to be the quintessential on-the-road and shooting-all-the-time kind of photographer. Trevor’s recent personal project of shooting a still and video story on an American kayaker who returned to medicine to set up a clinic in Uganda was a time-consuming gamble into a big risk/big return situation. Trevor, like many photographers and cinematographers, will sacrifice seriously to make projects with which they have a deep personal connection. We’re glad once again to highlight some of the great work that Trevor does, especially when all his chips are on the table personally, and he produces something fantastic. We asked him to give us some insight into a personal project, into starting a Kickstarter campaign, and how it all came together.
PHOTOGRAPHING WITH THE TIME YOU HAVE
“The main reason for me starting up this project was that it was a story I wanted to share. I had known about Jessie Stone and her work in Uganda, but didn’t really get the full gist of what she was doing until I met her at a mutual friend’s wedding in Mexico (yep, the kayaking world is pretty small) nearly two years prior to this project. It was really there, in a quick conversation about her work, that I really started to understand and from that moment on, I knew I was going to make it happen. I waited for the right time, pitched the idea to editors and still, nothing was happening. That’s when I decided to just go for it. I guess another reason for going when I did is that at that time, I was in a lull with no jobs on the horizon. A lot of people would think that a time like that is when you buckle down, hound your clients and work on new clients, but in my short time, I have always just kept working. I don’t know if that is the best approach or not, but looking back on it, it was much better than sitting in front of the computer and emailing and making calls. I think when you get that feeling you just have to act on it.
“One last reason for working on this project is that the story is directly in line with the types of stories I have always wanted to shoot. Yes, it is a story that involves adventure sports, but it is so much more. It is a story that means something to people and has the potential to help. Having been a witness to the things that Jessie handles everyday, I can honestly say that she is truly making a difference and that the people of Uganda need her. If sharing her story helps garner more attention and help in their direction, then that is what it is all about.
OVERCOMING PROBLEMS AND KICKSTARTING THE CAMPAIGN
“There are always a mountain of issues when you embark on something yourself. I was actually already committed to the project by the time I decided to set up the Kickstarter campaign. It really was an afterthought, kind of a Hail Mary. At the time, Kickstarter was still fairly new, and so was the idea of crowd sourcing / micro funding. I actually didn’t know all that much about it except that it seemed like a pretty interesting way to fund a project if it all worked.
“I had already committed, bought plane tickets, taken immunizations and the whole deal when I set this up. Because of that and the nature of what my limited research on the subject taught me, I set the fundraising end date for a few weeks after my planned return. It seemed like projects that had around 45 days or so were getting funded, so I set mine for some arbitrary number around 52 days or something like that.
“As far as an angle and marketing strategy on the project, I just pleaded the honest truth and made it kind of fun. My video for the campaign was just my hands flipping through one of my portfolio books with some African sounding drum beats in the background. Still, I really thought out what went on each page told everyone that I was going no matter what, funding or no funding. It was the truth and I think people appreciated the sincerity as well as the commitment. And the fact that I mentioned I might have to move back into my van if the funding didn’t go through didn’t hurt. That was true too!
“I asked for $8,500 as my best estimate for hard costs plus, multimedia editor and the rewards package for donors. I’m not sure how I did it, but that estimate was dead on. The project was funded with $8,650 just hours before the deadline (you have to get all of the goal pledged by the deadline or you get nothing) and I was able to take it from there.
LICENSING THE PROJECT
“So far the usage rates have been worked out on an individual level as this project has actually seen a few other publications and outlets at this point. It has ranged from the audio being licensed for an outdoor podcast to typical image usage rates based on the publication to web usage for the video and so forth. CNN does pay to license most of their stories, but this one being under the non-profit “Impact Your World” category does not fall under that umbrella. I don’t give any work away on principle, but earning money on this one was never the goal from the beginning. It was always about reaching the most people.
ADVICE FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS ON PERSONAL PROJECTS
“I would say that you need to really take scope of what you are getting into before you start the process and be willing to see it through. I was completely committed from the beginning and at this point, this project has gone further than I could have ever imagined. That is mostly due to the amount of work that was put into getting it out there on the back end, so you really need to be away of how much work you have left after the shooting and editing is finished. It’s tough when you are also trying to manage all of the paying jobs you need to put energy into shooting or getting in order to keep it all going.
“If you are aware and passionate about your own intentions and can keep that in mind all the way through, then you will have no problem seeing it to the end.”