9 Tips from the Directors of Living On One
â€œOver a billion people around the world live on a dollar a dayâ€, said Chris Temple, â€œand we couldnâ€™t understand how someone could [do] that.â€Â But when he and co-founder Zach Ingrasci set out to impact the problem, a different financial hardship nearly stopped them. â€œWe got rejected by nine different sources of fundingâ€, said Zach.
I caught-up with Zach and Chris for an interview shortly before their appearance on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose. The two Executive Directors and Co-Founders took time-out from their twenty-five city, sold out, film premiere of Living On One, a documentary film and project to raise awareness, increase engagement, and impact people living on one dollar a day or less.
Donâ€™t Let Fear Stand in the Way
â€œWe didnâ€™t get the funding until a month before [going to Guatemala]â€, said Zach.Â They had just about given up and so had friends and family.Â â€œThey said they had supported me, [but] they never thought it was actually going to happen,â€ added Chris.
But that didnâ€™t dissuade them.Â With only a portion of their budget covered, the two Claremont Mckenna College students boldly forged ahead.Â â€œIt was a risk,â€ said Chris, â€œbut this path is highly rewarding. If you have that spark, that opportunity of the moment, donâ€™t let fear stand in the wayâ€.
Start Despite Not Knowing Everything
â€œWe started off truly not knowing how to make a film,â€ added Zach.Â â€œBut the documentaries we were seeing were [what we call] â€˜Poverty Pornâ€™.â€ And the two were convinced there was a better way.Â â€œWe wanted to show more of the dignity of the poor [and] how innovative people could be.Â But also the problem as well: a better balance.â€
So they planned to live for eight weeks in a rural Guatemalan village on $1 per day.
Sharing Breeds Sustainability
â€œA lot of times people try to go it alone, and especially for students, itâ€™s useful to find someone and create a shared vision.Â Thatâ€™ll allow you to be more sustainable and find how you can create a career out of this,â€ said Chris.Â â€œAlone, itâ€™s pretty hard to push something that is unique, different, and pushes the limits,â€ added Zach.
Excite Your Peers to Prove Demand
And they interacted with their audience as well.Â â€œWe wanted to bring our peers along in a unique way,â€ said Zach.Â Each week, they posted a video from Guatemala.Â They let users ask questions and they answered them in the following weekâ€™s video.Â â€œThese short three-minute videos got 600,000 views on YouTube and it proved to us that there was a really powerful story here, and [that] it was being done in a unique way.â€
Just Go for It
After planning for eleven months, â€œwe had about a third of our budgetâ€¦ and we just decided to go for it,â€ explained Zach.Â It created a â€œsense of urgencyâ€ that later became a critical part of their success.
When the two got home, â€œwe started leveraging [our 600,000 views] to get mentors,â€ said Zach.Â Charles Tsai helped them do a TED talk in Buenos Aires. Â The result:Â â€œWe had an incredible reactionâ€¦ and we kept running with it.â€
Leverage Momentum to Gain Allies
Next, the two paired with a Stanford University professor to teach an online class in microfinance and impact investing thatâ€™s live-streamed to seventy-five campuses.Â â€œNo one is getting credit for [the course], but interest in the class [alone] is getting people to take it,â€ noted Chris.
Their authenticity and unique point of view fueled further momentum and enticed industry veterans to support their effort.Â â€œIt let us build a team around usâ€¦ of pretty powerful people in [media]â€, said Zach.Â â€œWeâ€™ve been on this national film tour in 25 major cities in the US.Â And to see 300 people cram a 200 person auditorium to watch this film about poverty is so encouraging to us.â€
Impact is 2-way
While in Guatemala, two locals helped the team manage their money and overcome obstacles, sharing meals now and then.Â Â â€œHad we not become very close with them, [the story] wouldnâ€™t be anything close to what it was,â€ highlighted Zach, â€œit really wasnâ€™t our story, it was their story.â€ Â And their relationship left a lasting impression.Â â€œ[I have] a much deeper physical and mental respect for what so many people around the world go through and born out of that is an inspiration, desire, and a need to give back,â€ said Chris.
And while many might have chosen lower cost online distribution, Chris and Zach decided to dive deep.Â â€œWe decided we could get this [film] to really big audiences, eventually through distribution,â€ said Zach, â€œwhen you [distribute] onlineâ€¦ you lose out on that.â€
With the tour, they built excitement at the grass-roots level that blossomed into even more support. â€œThe communications firm, Weber Shandwick, generously offered pro-bono support from their teams in every city that we went to.â€Â â€œOver 5,000 people viewed the film on the tour, [and weâ€™ve received] thirty-six million media impressions,â€ and that didnâ€™t even include their appearance on CBS This Morning.
In this economic downturn, students â€œhave had to become very creative with what they do,â€ said Zach, and â€œitâ€™s allowing people who are very intelligent do something different with their lives.â€ â€œAll this momentum around social entrepreneurship, especially around the younger audienceâ€¦ it is really different now.â€