ANOTHER MARKET: KIDS
Believe it or not, there is another market for the travel adventure documentary, TAD film producer/lecturer.
For the past 40 years I’ve been educating students, yes students… to be more exact, kids. It is just possible some of you might benefit from what I have learned, but you’ve got to like working with a younger generation.
In this present age, I would have never assumed that I could pack hundreds of middle school students into an auditorium, turn out the lights and narrate a film without mass hysteria breaking out.
But that’s exactly what I have done as part of the old Audubon Wildlife Film Series. When we realized this could be done, my wife, Judy and I set up a non-profit organization here in Miami. Our vision was a school assembly series large enough to support our family and us. It was a big vision, but four decades later I can report that vision materialized. As of today we have reached 1.7 million Miami students in grades 4-12. Judy and I are now retired from the presentations, and our son, Richard has taken over the work and he is very gratified by the experience.
In fairness, I have to say that a large series like ours has several hurdles. I wouldn’t want to try this unless I lived in a high-density area. Miami has the fourth largest public school system in the United States. With several hundred schools to operate in… we have an ideal situation.
Starting of a non-profit organization takes time, but it wasn’t that difficult. In our case, we had a lawyer friend on our board of directors. He was able to take us through the process pro bono.
More daunting of course is the money. We decided that we would not approach the schools for funding. The school financial directors would never understand why we needed as much as we did, which was at least $800 a day. It was a lot of money then and in today’s dollar over $3000 per day.
We decided to raise the money from foundations, corporations and individuals. For this you need connections. Influential board members can be helpful in gaining the necessary introductions. Foundations generally give money to people and not causes. But first, you, as the director, have to get your foot in the door. Once in, we sold a vision for children. Again let me repeat, in general, foundations give to people, not a cause, therefore an impressive resume is vital.
In every established city there are foundations set up to benefit the local area. Some are open to proposals for education in science, the arts, etc. You have to find out what foundations are in your locale and find out what their criteria are. In our case we got an introduction to a woman who ran a large foundation that benefited environmental education. That 30K matching grant, which we have held onto for three decades, has enabled us to raise other monies toward our annual budget of $70,000. The key is keeping everyone happy with what you are doing – the exciting films you are making, the results of teacher evaluations, and your grand vision for the future. Keeping a pool of foundations onboard was necessary for the long haul. You don’t want to be swamped with fund raising. Fortunately we were able to do just that.
Many topics are of interest in the field of education, but school systems have educational benchmarks established by their state. Films that are attractive to teachers, whether in science or social studies, are needed to satisfy specific benchmarks. For each film we have a Teacher Supplement, which covers that.
Our film entitled Rainforests of the Maya is a good model of what works today. This 36-minute presentation, which we narrate in person, blends rainforest biology with archeology describing the ancient Maya. We show how the Maya related to their environment and why, according to current theories, the Maya civilization collapsed. Teachers love this sort of thing because it is interdisciplinary and satisfies benchmarks. The kids love it because jaguars, tree frogs and the giant stone temples are fascinating. What we have going today is similar to National Geographic Live, but geared to students.