A personal note on failure

It’s easy to share accomplishments and exciting updates, but sharing our failures does not come as naturally. Yet entrepreneurs fail constantly. The best of them dust themselves off, learn their lessons, swallow their pride, and get back at it again. 

Almost two years ago we set off on a crazy challenge: to create a TV show that would help change the narrative served up to us by the mainstream media; to change the conversation from all that is going wrong with the world to all that people are doing about it. We wanted to make social innovation exciting; to take it off the pages of obscure publications like the Stanford Social Innovation Review and bring it to life for all to see and understand on TV or online.

As entrepreneurs do, we hustled. We hustled hard. We networked, crowdfunded, pitched to the media and to pretty much everyone who would listen. People – many of whom we know, many who were complete strangers – showed up for us in a huge way. Our Kickstarter raised 250%, was shared thousands of times, and we got a bunch of media coverage.

Feeling excited, honoured and slightly terrified, we set out to shoot the pilot episode – our first foray into documentary. The experience was as incredible as it was challenging, from the logistics of filming in a country emerging out of decades of dictatorship, to crafting the best story we could during countless late nights with our editor. It took over our lives, and we loved it.

The end result was a pilot episode, released a year ago this month. UPLIFT: Myanmar got us a shopping agreement with the amazing Toronto and L.A.-based production company The ShootingStar Film Co (CNN, Travel Channel, National Geographic, Esquire TV, and more) to develop UPLIFT into a TV series. Together, we planned an entire season of UPLIFT, created budgets and pitching materials, and pitched to every broadcaster we thought might be a good fit.

In the end, none of those efforts came to fruition, though, to be sure, we had some hopeful moments: we were offered $100K from a private investor were the show to go into production, and a U.S. network invited us to pitch them a similar show around peace & human rights… which we created and then the network unexpectedly shut down.

The pilot on Youtube has nearly 23K views. On one hand it feels awesome to know it reached that many people; on the other, let’s be honest, it’s a far cry from the numbers we quietly dreamed of. It’s been a mind-blowing, formative and thrilling journey. It’s also been an exhausting one, and sometimes it feels like we let our backers and ourselves down.

The experience has shaped us in many ways. Barnabe has spent many months working on a Solutions Journalism accelerator at CSI to support solutions journalists and media entrepreneurs, and there’s no doubt the experience of making UPLIFT inspired this work. Nisha is determined that “education through entertainment” is a way forward, and is working on ways to work her PhD studies into the next show we write.

But as for UPLIFT, well, at some point you’ve knocked on so many doors you’re just not sure what more you can do.

We’re posting the pilot on Facebook to say farewell to this project and a HUGE thank you to the many, many people who helped and encouraged us. It doesn’t mean we won’t make a show about how people are responding to social and environmental challenges one day; it just means that for now, it doesn’t look like it will be UPLIFT.

Anyways, the point of this post, to cut it off before it drags on any longer, is just to say this: we failed. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but we failed. We know there are many entrepreneurs and artists who get how that feels.

So there it is. This project is over, but we’re definitely not done yet.

 <3 Barnabe & Nisha 

Social Innovation and the Future of Journalism

There’s a fixture at my local pub, let’s call him Joe, who possesses an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the latest and greatest tragedies. Last month’s shooting in the area? Don’t get him started. He’ll tell you the number of shots fired, how many police cruisers arrived on the scene, and that so far there have been no arrests. Did you hear about the most recent terror threat? Yesterday’s awful car crash? Trump’s tweets? Synthetic marijuana? Keep Reading

UPLIFT partners with The ShootingStar Film Co. for groundbreaking TV series

We’re thrilled to announce that UPLIFT has signed with The ShootingStar Film Co. to develop the series and bring it to broadcasters!

The ShootingStar Film Co. brings an amazing breadth of experience to the table, having worked across the globe from the bustling streets of New Delhi to the Bayous of Louisiana. This team has produced projects in over 50 countries worldwide creating strong, story-driven projects that cater to local and international audiences with content airing in over 130 countries with broadcast partners such as Scripps Travel Channel International, National Geographic Channels, CNN, Sundance, BBC, Arte, Canal +, NBCUniversal / Esquire Network, and Netflix.

We've been working together to evolve the concept and turn UPLIFT into a groundbreaking television series, which takes viewers to the frontlines of social and environmental challenges to meet the entrepreneurs and innovators working on solutions. From the migrant crisis to the war on drugs to human trafficking to inequality, UPLIFT will bring the issues to life as we embark on intimate journeys and spend time with those affected and those tackling these issues head on.

We believe that through immersive, intimate storytelling we can show viewers the realities too often ignored or glossed over by the mainstream media. We’ll get to understand the challenges people face by experiencing a part of their life alongside them, hearing their stories in their own words, and getting our hands dirty with the entrepreneurs, innovators, community builders, artists and activists working to make the world a better place.

This journey started with a wild idea and a Kickstarter campaign. We shot and produced the pilot episode in Myanmar along with filmmaker Greg Francis. The pilot was very well received, and a recent screening attracted a packed house. We’re now working on taking UPLIFT to the next level with the incredible team at The ShootingStar Film Co.

UPLIFT is about the amazing things that happen after the news cameras leave. We hope that in 2016 we’ll get our cameras rolling and start bringing these stories to your screens as never before. Stay tuned!

<3,

Nisha and Barnabe

More About UPLIFT:

The news tends to focus on conflict and controversy, bombarding people with all that’s going wrong in the world and rarely covering what’s being done about it. Social entrepreneurs, couple and hosts Barnabe and Nisha spent years living in conflict zones, going beyond the headlines. They want to share a fresh perspective: Yes, the world is messed up… so what are people doing about it? Learn more about the series.

Come to UPLIFT's Changemaker Mixer

Almost exactly one year since the Kickstarter campaign that launched UPLIFT, the Changemaker Mixer event is here!

The Changemaker Mixer event is your chance to hear from amazing Toronto-based innovators, activists and entrepreneurs, to network with other socially-conscious peeps, and to get some as of yet unannounced and really exciting updates about UPLIFT's progress towards becoming a groundbreaking TV series! Get your tickets here!

A handful of Toronto changemakers will take the stage for 5 minutes each to talk about how they're tackling different social and environmental issues, followed by drinks, snacks, music and a chance to meet some awesome people. RSVP now!

SEE YOU SOON!

Watch the pilot episode of UPLIFT!

We’re thrilled to present the pilot episode of UPLIFT!

For the very first episode of UPLIFT, we headed to Myanmar. This war-torn country is slowly emerging out of decades of dictatorship and repression. People have risked everything to make change happen, and now, it seems, change has finally come. We went to get an on-the-ground perspective from the people who live there, and to meet those putting it all on the line to build a better Myanmar.

We hope you enjoy the pilot and please share it on your social media networks!

We’re working to find the right production company and broadcaster to turn UPLIFT into a groundbreaking series that takes viewers to the frontlines of social and environmental challenges to meet the entrepreneurs and innovators working on solutions.

It’s been one hell of a journey from wild idea to Kickstarter to pilot episode, and we’re just getting started. We could never have gotten this far without the support of our amazing Kickstarter backers. Thank you!

What's been going on? A lot! Here's an update.

We hope you're having an amazing summer. We've been keeping really busy and thought it was time we gave you an update!

The pilot episode: We've been working away at the pilot episode and it's all coming together. The three of us (Nisha, Barnabe and Greg), have been in editing mode and we're happy to say we're almost there! Once we have it picture locked, we're going to get feedback from some key people, then do one more pass through the episode before doing colour and sound mixing. Then we'll share it with you and the rest of planet earth!

Pitching: A lot of our time has also gone into pitching. We put together our package with the sizzle reel and sent it to production companies in Canada and the U.S. we felt would be a good fit. We had to rethink the concept and tweak it depending on who we were pitching to. We're now in talks with a couple companies, and though it's still too early to announce anything, there have been some encouraging developments!

Our one-pager: As part of pitching, we put together what's referred to as a "one-pager" (though it's way longer than that), which breaks down many aspects of the show for producers and broadcasters. We included a detailed summary of each episode in a potential first season. We did a lot of research to craft amazing stories featuring groundbreaking social entrepreneurs and innovators around the world. The season would have us look at women's rights and human trafficking in India, the Syrian refugee crisis in Turkey (including a startup using drones to deliver humanitarian supplies in Syria), bottom-up development in Rwanda, conflict resolution in Lebanon, inequality in Brazil, and much more.

Rewards and event for our Kickstarter backers: We are going to plan the event as soon as we finish the pilot and all the remaining rewards will be sent out as well.

Other news: Barnabe was selected as an Ariane de Rothschild Fellow and will head to Cambridge University for two weeks in July along with social entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world to delve into the intersection of entrepreneurship, conflict resolution and cultural dialogue. Already, we've met a startup through the fellowship we want to feature in the Turkey/Syria episode, and it will be a great opportunity to further evolve UPLIFT's concept and business model. Also, Greg and Barnabe worked closely with the team at the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) to produce this pretty awesome short doc about CSI's work catalyzing social innovation in Toronto and around the world.

So all in all, we haven't stopped. More to come soon... We're very excited!

With our love and gratitude,

Nisha

The sizzle reel is out!

It's been a little while!

We've had our heads down working on the pilot episode, but we took a break to get this sizzle reel ready so we can start pitching to producers.

When we finished shooting in Myanmar at the beginning of the year, we were ready to go to the next country and film another episode. When you discover a country through the eyes of its social entrepreneurs and innovators, you get to not only understand a society's challenges but to glimpse at its highest potential.

Which is a pretty nice change. Negative sensationalism in news seems to be getting worse at a time when we actually have the means to solve many of the problems we face. But finding solutions will require a default to optimism, empathy and a focus on creativity, collaboration and experimentation.

We know that generally millennials care about issues, want to be entertained even when it comes to news, and we want to talk about what actions can be taken to solve problems rather than to just be told how messed up everything is.

That's what UPLIFT's about. Getting real with people around the world, and getting to know those determined to leave the planet better off than how they found it.

So check it out, and spread the word.

XO



Back from Burma! Post-production begins!

Wow, what a trip! We’re back after an intense, whirlwind three weeks shooting the pilot of UPLIFT in Myanmar. It surpassed our expectations, challenged us, and we’ve come back with amazing footage (shout out to our talented cinematographer, Greg Francis)!

Up until a few years ago, Myanmar (formerly Burma) was diplomatically isolated due to the rampant human rights violations of the military dictatorship. Popular uprisings were brutally put down, but eventually the junta took steps toward democratic reforms, including the release of political prisoners and freedom of the press. The international community lifted economic sanctions, and today things are changing at breakneck speed. The traffic in Yangon, its largest city, felt worse than in Los Angeles, yet there were hardly any cars there only a few years ago. Yangon is bustling with activity and is modernizing, but when you dig a little, you find out that the water supply is patchy throughout the city, the sewers serve only a tiny portion of the city’s population, and electricity is unreliable. Throughout our journey we were confronted by this tension between supposed progress and entrenched problems.

In the midst of it all, what stood out most were Myanmar’s amazing people. They were incredibly warm and gentle, and very rarely put off by the presence of our camera and mics. This was astounding considering that a short while ago there were few cameras in the country and filming in the streets would have earned you the scrutiny of the state security apparatus. Back then, people feared imprisonment, torture or worse, and would not have been able to talk to us about anything political.

We filmed every single day and covered a lot of ground, traveling by plane, train, buses, cars, rickshaws and motorbikes. We wanted to understand the transformation the country is undergoing by meeting people from different ethnic backgrounds and walks of life. We spent time with changemakers working to address some of the country’s most pressing problems. They included former political prisoners, environmentalists, community organizers and design thinkers, all building up a civil society that can serve people, tackle social and environmental challenges, and act as a counterweight to the power and influence of the government—no easy task in a country like Myanmar!

We also explored mind-blowing spiritual sites like the Golden Rock, and stunning natural wonders, from deep caves to mountaintops. We see UPLIFT as a travel show with purpose, and want it to be entertaining and filled with wonder even if the challenges we look at are serious and at times daunting. To that end, this episode won’t disappoint; the sites were breathtaking!

The trip was not without its challenges. We fought food poisoning, ranging from mild to severe, as a regular part of our trip. The smoke from smoldering plastic garbage often burned our eyes and throats. Another challenge was restricted movement in parts of the country where fighting is ongoing. Finally, language often posed a barrier (there are a hundred languages spoken in Myanmar!), so getting lost was always an adventure.

We’ll be in post-production for the next couple months, with our editor working on the project full time. This is where a lot of the magic happens, as we weave an entertaining and meaningful story out of all the experiences and people we interviewed. We can't wait to share the final cut with you!

We’re sending out some of the rewards now, and those of you who get USB keys will get your rewards after the episode is complete. We’ll keep you posted on the Changemaker Mixer event taking place this summer. In the meantime, we’ll occasionally post updates and video clips on our Facebook page.

As soon as the episode is complete, we’ll share it with you and promote it online. We’ll then cut a sizzle reel and start pitching to producers in full force. Our unwavering goal continues to be to turn this project into an amazing television series that we’ll co-create with the right production company.

We wouldn’t be here without you and we feel truly blessed and honoured. Thank you for your incredible support.

See you soon!

Barnabe & Nisha

UPLIFT is heading to Burma for its pilot episode!

After weeks of careful planning and deliberation, we're shooting the pilot in... BURMA! We feel we have a story and changemakers that will make for one heck of a first episode. We'll be venturing way off the beaten path next month, taking you on an incredible journey and showing you how changemakers are tackling a cocktail of challenges for a more hopeful future in MYANMAR! We'll be posting updates on our Facebook and Twitter when we have internet access.

Planning has been extensive and going well, covering everything from what should go into our first aid kit to setting up interviews to getting insurance to lining things up for post-production when we return. 

We look forward to sharing more from the ground and when we get back. It's going to be epic!

Wishing everyone an amazing 2015,

Barnabe & Nisha

Campaign recap and a look ahead!

We want to thank you for making our one-month Kickstarter campaign one of the most exhilarating and moving experiences of our lives!

We had the pleasure of being featured on UPWORTHY

And of being interviewed on a national U.S. television show.

We even got some love over in Japan!

More importantly the outpouring of support confirmed that people are tired of bad news, and want to hear from the entrepreneurs and innovators working on solutions.

SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

FUNDING

In a couple weeks we’ll receive the funding from Kickstarter minus their fees.

The Kickstarter funding, after fees and the cost of delivering rewards, will all go towards producing the pilot.

REWARDS

The 2$ and 10$ rewards will be sent in December. The other rewards will start being shipped out in March. The Changemaker Mixer event and the dinner parties will take place sometime in the spring but you'll receive an invite to RSVP in March-April.

We'll shoot the pilot in February. We hope to have the pilot completed a month after we return, though post-production may take a bit longer to finish. Our backers will be kept in the loop and will be the first to receive the pilot!

PITCHING

Our goal is to make UPLIFT into a TV show. We’re reaching out to producers throughout the making of the pilot, and pitching in all earnestness as soon as we have the sizzle reel ready.

UPDATES

We're hard at work planning the production. We’ll be keeping our backers updated every step of the way. We may even sometimes reach out to get your input. For example, we currently have this short survey we shared on our Facebook page.

We'll post frequently to our social media. You can find us on Facebook + Twitter + You Tube + our blog on our website.

That’s all for now folks, but of course it’s really just begun.

We’re thrilled to have you with us on this journey. At the end of the day, it’s about making a TV series that inspires empathy and innovation, and that features amazing changemakers around the world.

See you soon!

We got shared on UPWORTHY!

What an amazing way to end the week...

This morning we saw that we were on the UPWORTHY homepage.

And then in the afternoon we got shared on their Facebook page... In just a couple hours, the post already had over 1,325 likes and 368 shares!

It's such a thrill to see the idea resonating! We're so motivated to make an entertaining, gritty, cinematic travel show that inspires and instigates social change here and abroad.

We're planning the logistics for the pilot, focusing on a couple possible stories in India or Lebanon.

We can't wait to get out there and start making UPLIFT!

Thank you everyone! We couldn't do it without you.

Find us on Facebook + Twitter

Canadian Screen Award-winning TV Director joins UPLIFT!

We're thrilled to announce that TV Director Jim Morrison IV has officially joined UPLIFT as Development Consultant. We also surpassed our first Kickstarter target and are on our way to our stretch goal. Help us get there! 

Who's Jim Morrison IV?

Jim brings over fifteen years industry experience and has travelled to over 40 countries around the world making music videos, commercials, TV shows and documentaries. He is the winner of two Canadian Screen Awards and currently directs a series for the Food Network that screens all over the world on National Geographic, TLC, Discovery, UKTV, and Biography. Read more about him on his website.

Jim will work with us to develop the concept, package the best possible sizzle reel, and pitch to producers and broadcasters.

Why a stretch goal?

Our first goal of $12K allows us to produce the sizzle reel and extended demo. Thank you so much to everyone who backed us! With the stretch goal we'll shoot the demo and a pilot episode.

Help us get there!

We're committed to creating a TV show that inspires and instigates positive change. Help us go the distance by backing the project and/or sharing it with your network. We have two weeks left in our campaign. Let's get there!

Thank you!

B&N

Can TV inspire and instigate positive change?

The world is more tolerant and less violent than at any other point in human history, but you wouldn’t know it from watching most mainstream media.

Despite incredible advancements and a world of unprecedented innovation and interconnectedness, the news still focuses on the problems we face and rarely on the progress we’re making. People, with all their depth and complexity, are reduced to snapshots and soundbites. We rarely see their common humanity or hear of their resilience or achievements. This approach does little to help us understand their personal experiences with a problem or to relate to them in any way, which restricts our ability to empathize and creates an Us vs. Them dichotomy.

We want to change that. So we created UPLIFT, a travel series in which we visit different countries to meet people affected by social and environmental challenges and the entrepreneurs and innovators working on solutions. Through our work and travels in conflict zones we’ve seen people step up to enormous challenges with ingenuity and tenacity. We want to share their stories.

We reached our funding target on Kickstarter in less than two weeks! We’re now aiming for our Kickstarter stretch goal, which will allow us to shoot the demo we’ll use to pitch to producers and a full pilot episode we can distribute for free online, to community groups and schools.

We’re currently working on the logistics for the pilot. There are changemakers we want to profile around the world but we’ve narrowed it down for the first episode to innovators in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar or Lebanon.

For example, much of Bangladesh gets flooded during monsoon season, disrupting lives and devastating communities. So an architect named Mohammed Rezwan created a fleet of solar-powered floating schools, libraries, farms, training centers and health clinics; turning floods into pathways to education, information and technology.

In Lebanon, a country that experienced years of civil war, Kamal Mouzawak uses the organic, sustainable food movement to support local farmers, encourage health and wellness, and break down barriers between different sectarian groups.

With your help, we’ll be in production in January-February. Back us on our Kickstarter campaign and find out more about the series, our team and the stories we want to cover!