Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Expeditions and Documentaries: Ways Of Funding Them

Today when I was out walking with my good friends Abdi and Ali, I was filming them outside the local mosque, when they suddenly spurted out:

“We want to go to Libya and do a documentary about how they treat our women who has fled the war. Show the world the atrocities. But you need to tell us how to do it, it seems easy!”

“Well” , I said with a smile: “It is a similar approach to both how to do Expeditions and a documentary.  First, you need to start from the beginning. Find a good idea you believe in, not what you think others might like, and start working on realizing it. Both need a lot of basic training. Once you have done that, you have to find a way of funding your idea. That is if you are not rich.”

That made them smile!

And, there is no doubt about it, as regards to doing a documentary or an Expedition, or both at the same time, finding funding takes most of the time during the preparations and causes the biggest angst and worry. Today the predominant ways to find funds are, as I see it, two. (And, please, though it may seem like I judge, I don´t. I just prefer my own way to do things. And want to explain why I do it that way, which might be of help for the reader. But the main idea is to get the funds to get out there and change the world, so any way is good!)

First and the most popular, is the Anglo-Saxon way which is by far the most popular. It is the commercial one which involves you most likely looking like a formula one driver and you being covered by logos. Or your kit. Or the credits in your documentary. Or you do it for some charity and get donations.


Or, the second way, is to do it through tax funded services like Public Service TV or EU funds. This takes much more time but you need less logos and most of the time you come out looking like a normal human being. I always aim for this one, but I also have some commercial contacts. preferably one or two. In my case, Kensington Tours. Less is better I think.

A third way, but less used except for a few Brits, is personal wealth or a private donor.

What way you choose has to do with what you want to do. If your Expedition or documentary is about yourself and very little else, the first one is the one to choose. Within the genre of Expedition and adventure, this is more for the athlete, climber and solo artist. If your Expedition or documentary is about other items of life with you as second to this, looking like a formula one driver is an obstacle, but can still work. Most people globally are very kind to other people´s eccentricities.

One can also do a combination of the three. And there´s a lot of good sponsors out there, who understand that having their logo to be seen everywhere is just a sign of complete lack of  understanding how most people see life. Small logos are arriving by the day, I am happy to say. Overexposure is one thing I personally want to avoid more than a deadly strain of malaria. But than again, it depends what you are doing.  And what you want to achieve.

Initially when I started doing what i have done professionally since 1986, I had a period when i thought the Formula One variety was my main goal. It was a time of personal disaster. Today I just want to get just enough funds to be able to do what i love to do, tell stories about people I meet whilst on a journey. And, i have to say, I have met the best partners from all those three versions mentioned above. But things take time. Have patience. And enjoy life. If possible. I don´t too much, I am afraid. Just my nature.

But most of all, just get out there!

*About sponsorship, I have published quite a lot. See here!


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