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Niche Vlogs get some Fund-Finding Help

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Journalist and educator Sandeep Junnarkar and photographer Srinivas Kuruganti have put together a project, Lives in Focus, which explores the difficulties faced by families when a member has been incarcerated. Junnarkar teaches at the City University of New York, which has a long tradition of advocacy and activism on behalf of New York City’s working class. There are already some compelling stories on the site, told in photos, audio and video.

lives_in_focus.jpgIt’s the kind of project that’s well suited to the web, utilizing multimedia and reaching out to a small but distinct community. But it’s not the kind of project that’s easy to find funding for — ‘viral’ comedy clips and stealth advertising is attracting the easy money right now. Enter Have Money Will Vlog, a site that’s had great success in raising up to $3,000 in a matter of weeks to fund projects. With the help of ‘advocate’ and co-founder Jay Dedman, Junnarkar has put together a pitch for the project and is accepting donations towards a goal of $2,500.

It was at last year’s Vloggercon where Dedman and friends started thinking about how to help out other vloggers. He thought about the limits that self-funding placed on citizen journalism. “Mainstream news has the money to do investigative journalism,” he pointed out. The solution came when they asked the obvious question: “Why don’t we just sponsor the things we want to see?”

People looking for funding are referred to a wiki, where they can read over the rules and suggestions. They are encouraged to find an ‘advocate’ among the site’s members who, if interested, will help them craft their project concept and their pitch for donations — similar to how an agent or producer would work with a screenwriter or director before shopping a concept to investors.

“If you can’t get them to fall in love with it, then maybe it’s not worth it,” said Dedman, and he suggested that those seeking support find an advocate who shares similar interests with the producer or projects. Dedman further pointed out that there’s no money behind HMWV. “We’re basically just a filter.” Everyone involved with the site, including advocates, volunteer their time, and donations go directly to the recipients.

Funded projects have included Lost in Light, which is asking for old 8mm home movies to work with, and American King, from the prolific St. Claire Shores, Mich. team behind Human Dog Labs. HMWV has evolved into what could prove a model for funding work that, while it may have only niche appeal and no profit potential, serves important cultural, educational and public interests.