How to Write a Project Proposal
So now we're going to get to the last part of today's talk of the part that I'm hoping is going to really give you the most value all right, so how do you write a project proposal and I'm gonna talk to you tomorrow about grants and we'll talk more and more about project proposals but fundamentally you're trying to convince strangers to anoint you to publish the work to exhibit the work, to hire you to do something any of those things and frankly you have to do it all in writing how do you write a project proposal? This is by no means the only way it's what has worked for me over the years and so that's why I'm gonna walk you through which worked successfully for me something unoriginal like a title okay foreclosed dreams it can be a short is that it can be a little longer sometimes I call it foreclose dreams where I say the foreclosure crisis or the ghosts of the people left the ghosts photographed after the houses or cleaned up before the after the foreclosure sorry um but it's a real...
simple one sentence description and something ideal about your approach to it an introduction set the cedar set the scene for the reader ideally using quotes, poetry or something in order to entice the reader into fully immersing themselves in your proposal for quite a while I had a philip larkin poet poem called home was just three sentences, but you read it and you really got kind of gloomy in a good way about home. What is the project actually, about historical backgrounds? Quotes from experts, et cetera, this is really, really important, okay, don't take this wrong, but the end user doesn't care what you think. But if you say for example, cindy, if you say how many hundreds of bridges were possibly bridges in this country are in this state that's, that's important that's really important? How many frankly, millions of families are going through what you're going to that's really important? You can say, I think a million families in america is going to this or the I'm not sure the alzheimer's association american actually say no it's one point for me. Whoa it's really impressive, it's really important, okay, my foreclosure crisis I had it was unfortunately very easy to get these numbers and now the next part of your project proposal and you're not these aren't bullet points. You don't literally write them out, but you want to justify the top justify the project? Why is the topic important now? You've probably seen in the last few years has been a runner projects people photographing world war two veterans and he's a very smart photographers for a very simple reason that those guys and they are mostly but not all guys are aging and they're dying it's just the fact of life and so it's a narrow window so you're able to convince somebody that this is something that has to be done now which some degree goes also to your project you have there are specific events there so why is the topic important now continuing in writing the project puzzle why is the topic important to the outlet you're submitting the project too? I'm being a little sarcastic here but you don't send something on oil drilling to the sierra club unless you're saying something about the problem of oil drilling or you're pointing out something different so who is the outlet and why are you submitting it to them? This is really important this goes back to our very primary mission why are you the best person to do the project? Okay over the years I've talked about this in the nineties I had a subject matter expertise in the middle east macarthur foundation gave me a big wad of money to validate that I had the subject matter expertise the last decade or so I've had a subject matter expertise in the middle e in south asia my apologies and I could be wrong, but I didn't hear anybody among the four of you who has a subject matter expertise in south asia, right? Okay, so that puts me in advantage for certain projects in this category why you're the best person, okay, um, why is it important to me? Why is this the most important thing that I want to do that's in the justifications as well? Are there any special technical, conceptual or presentation issues that you need to explain to the potential outlet for your work? That's a fancy way of saying I'm going to be doing panorama is, for example, because it's a project on bridges and but I just had to be horizontal for example, I'm going to be doing square format using the whole good format like I showed you before. So the idea is you're telling the people who are reviewing this a risk the potential recipient you are choosing to use black and white color square portrait ce the pairings that I'd showed you before my wives video that I did of minor showed you my you're choosing that format to create the story that, in theory, they're interested in ideally in your list, you're going to then describe images that you'll create list situations, your photograph and concepts that you'll be illustrating so the a d this might be the concept is I don't know loneliness, and somehow you're gonna photograph intersect traffic intersections that night, and I'm being a little simplistic, but you're trying to create images in the viewers head to words, which I know is a challenge, and with a quote that leaves the reader with the feeling for the topic. You are trying to use words, and this is hard for us as photographers to create images in the minds of the reviewers, and most of your reviewers are, unfortunately, word people, and they're not image people, so the writing should be edited and revised many times. Okay, I'm going to actually talk tomorrow about grants and having reviewed some grant proposals and things like typos and misspellings and misuse of grammar, all that stuff immediately you're out, you're out the door. Ok, lorenzo's, you're shaking your head and so attentive to detail, it has to be revised and many times over and you three are very lucky. You're all the same school. The first thing you could do probably is handed to each other and you just picking on you love your proposal, but cindy is shall look at it analytically. Anybody will look at it analytically except your family, your family can't. Do be that aggressive, but almost anybody else he handed to them there right away say I don't get there that's unclear that's badly done and you need to do that a lot and I do that I'm very fortunate do that with my wife a lot we go back and forth with our project for puzzles a lot these are only guidelines don't literally right those out like that okay, don't put, they're not bullet point don't put titles, but they're just the buttons you want to push and you think about it. The title tells review with the project's about the fact that you've got facts and statistics and stuff makes it more important. You've been explaining why it's important now why you're the best person for why they should do it and then you kind of give them some images and they're going at least put you into let's talk about this more pile and that's our first job is to get from the out piled into the let's talk about it more pile all right, you need to practice what I call situation editing in orderto home the idea okay? And I'll describe situation anything here in just a minute it's a really important process it's hard to do on your own stuff, but the sooner you learn how to do it for your own healthy, the better off you'll be real simple question can you get access? Doesn't matter how brilliant ideas if you cann't get access to it it doesn't matter what are the visuals are the people you want to photograph accessible are they alive? Began to go back world war two soldiers because apparently the last world war soldiers died reese only they don't exist there's nothing you can do there with that. So what are the visuals? Um what can you bring to it? That is new this is an ever harder challenge. Okay that's why with the foreclosure project I got lucky with the israeli palestinian thing I got lucky. Part of it is luck favors the prepared but part of it is also I kept working on it so I came up with a different point of view and what is your point of view? What are you going to ten say about it so it's not just a photo story as an a b, c and d but do you love the train station like I showed you the train station pictures before? Are you trying to create empathy with families going through this experience what's your point of view these are the kinds of things when you're writing out that project proposal you write it out and then you go back you say, do I have to excuse me? Do I have these things am I going to get these things? One of the things to think about your project proposal is if you don't have it now, is it possible in the future you could actually talk about to date? I've done this by long term goal is to do that all right? When you start your project proposal and you start passing it around among your peers, you are welcome to make up statistics and numbers when you send it out in the real world, you have to have really statistics and real numbers okay, so when you're just starting this for yourself and you start sharing your immediate circle, you could fib a little bit, but you really don't want to put it out there without really numbers because somebody is going to look at it's probably gonna say, wow, that's incredible and then they're going to go find out yeah, so the idea in this situation editing is to write out your idea and revise it and then do it again and then do it again and then do it again and then at some point time you want to pass it to other people, but it should go through two or three passes just yourself one of the important things about editing situation a project proposal is you want to write it out, go through this checklist, revise it and then put it aside for a week okay, because at the end of that first day you're going to be thinking you got a be tired be you're going to think it's brilliant and we played you gonna look at you? Well that's good, but it wasn't brilliant and then you're gonna go back to this list and you're gonna make it better you're going to make it better and again as I said, edit it down and then repeated edit it down and then repeated your short term gold nine times out of ten for a project proposal is to get it one page we'll talk when we do grant writing and stuff about the different variations or when you go longer, but your initial proposal nine times out of ten is one page that's the most that people who reviewed these things will actually read and to get them to even read that as a challenge. All right, a good project proposal can do things like helping you in crowdfunding kick starters and all this um this is not a crowdfunding seminar. One of the things when you're writing that proposal is to actually keep the future in mind I've done, I want to do and in the long term you may not talk that much about the future of the project proposal, but you want to have it in there and you're thinking in terms of how you structure in which a plan and then another thing is, keep in mind the integration of this project in future projects, for example, pretty much every project we've been talking about each one of you, it sounds like there's a project you're working on now, but almost all of them have this potential to be something that you expand on goes off this direction in that direction, so it's not that you'd necessarily incorporate where you're going in the future into the proposal now, but you want to be kind of thinking, I don't want to say at the end of this is the last one I'm doing sort of the obvious thing I only want to do this you wanted more like, like, I'm staying with my foreclose dreams I've done seventeen states, my goal is to get to thirty when I get to thirty, and maybe I'll revisit that, so you're following me on that so far, this is an answer to your question. Three questions about that project proposal writing I know I went to it very fast, it's part of the bonus material that you download that you that you can get when you buy the class. But your homework for tonight is obviously to start working on one of those, but was there any part that I went through that was unusually fast? Stur didn't get clear, I don't have a question do you have to find a current social written some sort of current social relevance tip for it to be a good project? I mean because do you understand what I'm saying? Yeah, I understand exactly okay one of the things that I didn't do and I apologize I forgot about this if you'd kind of have this idea that some of these projects are more sort of documentary commercial uh windows referencing sort of the reality and I'm going to do this kind of divide this way the thing about facts and quotes and statistics is a very, very and this larger context is really important if you're doing something that's not so overtly that way, which is a little closer this idea of a mirror you don't necessarily need factual quotes or statistics but a lot of times you do things like referencing other media referencing the history of art, referencing the history of dance in your case so somebody who looks it is going to say this work isn't in a vacuum there's this whole history behind it it doesn't have the same history of say, my middle eastern project which is a political serious events that happen but you always want to put it in context because somebody looking at is going to say, oh yeah there's all this other stuff people everybody cares about this subject so you do after reference but it's not necessarily the factual statistical numbers that we might have had with some of these other projects, but I think you do because you're putting in a context where people see there's a larger interest yet all right, that was one of the tricks of the game here is you got to come up with three before I move onto the next thing could be a statement whatever. Well, it's, just interesting. I can see all the possibilities like, just, you know, with my dad's health going down, you know, just the health care issues medicaid, baby boomers I mean, it's, just all these possibilities that's absolutely true at some point in time, you're going to have to focus it in because the funny thing is you're absolutely correct it's this enormous issue, but if you can figure out some way to make it so somebody that a more intimate scale and something somebody can connect to yes, it speaks to this whole social problem we're having but it's a way that they can also connect to pay attention to keep interested, etcetera. Yeah. So it's it's a weird dichotomy because you do want to do this, but you also kind of want to do that right, which is from almost all the projects that everybody's talking about there's that weird balancing act, big picture and then granular like that's precisely correct that I can't says to one more. Well, it's like the bridge, I never I mean, I thought, okay, well, let's, go ahead and do the south park bridge and I I didn't think of going out outside the box and then after thinking about it a little bit, the I five bridge, when it collapsed everything, and then they start really talking about and they started investigating the other bridges that we're older and everything else, and which ones were they gonna have to shut down in order to keep him safe and everything? Um but I never thought about it being a bigger picture, but then again, you've got to bring it back down again, right against disease, that's in balancing the clothes in the statistics and numbers and your proposal are pretty straightforward. You know, when these bridges, how many there are a number of people going to be impacted, that's all relatively straightforward information that's the big picture, but the granular is how it's going to disrupt these people's lives and those two together and make it into a story where I can say I never looked at bridge is that way, and we have this large problem, and suddenly you've moved from the I kind of don't get it too. Oh, yeah, let's spend some more time with it. That's the category were always trying to get well in. A lot of people just thought that it was going to hurt the community, not the businesses. That's that was exactly what they kept saying over there with the south park was just going to die. That was it. And the businesses and everything hang hung tai good for them. They kept going. They interviewed one of the guys yesterday. He opened a month before it closed and he's still there and course, now they're they're bringing back rationing and they're starting to do more there, the county's actually helping them advertise and everything. So hopefully with the other communities that effects no, they'll try to do the same thing, right? I mean, your job is to then figure out what can you photograph at those different points in that experience? So I had to finish for the collective project shows the successes, their failures that people who've adapted people haven't adapted. What still going on and then collected collected leads to sort of portrayal about something that's sort of unique to here, but really is part of this larger discussion. I'm still paying attention so that's where we're making progress good lawyers just kind of look back and it was like okay it's pretty much the who what where when and why of a subject that you want to go and take party um I guess my my biggest question is just tryingto how deep our guest do you go as deep as you can continually ask yourself questions or make sure you don't want to just okay well title, you get the title but then are you constantly asking yourself questions to get to a deeper part of that photo essay to make sure that you're covering a majority of base so that I mean you don't want to go up and just have like a superficial proposal and he's like ok next you know you want to be able to get I guess are you trying to give them so I was going to get them in a sense too much information so they know exactly almost like a business proposal so you might have seen your question I mean the short answer long answer so good like this number one right now we're just talking about hey having to write it down be to apply that thing about situation anything's feel learned to look at it analytically see to start passing it around and then d what's going through this whole thing off because then you're going to start photographing and I guarantee you if you work hard it will change from what your idea of what it wass from what it was as an idea tto what the reality on the ground is has to change because nobody is that good at predicting it and that's a normal part of the process so you're pretty much saying do your proposal first before you go in shoot well, do you know proposal first and then I'm going to talk a little bit more about executing tomorrow then you start and then you come back to your proposal and then you do some more shooting and then okay, okay, yeah it's and then at some point time one of the questions was already when do you put it out there? We're after you've had a couple cycles of that and you feel like, okay, I'm actually having a connect rather than disconnect between what I thought I was going to get and what I'm really getting there kind of feeding into each other better better now you're getting the point where you should start putting it out there but what you write and what you shoot, they have to eventually a line knowing that they'll start apart and eventually that now you're getting somewhere from their forward ok, good let's cool all right? So then I'm going to just go for a little bit further and in the bonus pack and would you guys have are a whole bunch of written project proposals? And I think that their value not because I wrote them that's, not why they're value their value. Because I got through the hurdles that we just discussed. I had an idea. I wrote it out. I went out and took some pictures. I put this thing in front of perfect strangers, and they gave me money or exhibition. They anointed me and looking at other people's project proposals and see how they explained their work in writing is enormously value valuable. Ah, lot of that stuff is available on the web. You can go to a lot of sites of grants of people who give grants and foundations stuff like that and see who previous winners are. And you really want to do your homework and find out what were their project proposals. How did they explain it? How did they get over the hurdles that we just discussed? A disconnect between what you think you're doing and the reality on the ground. Okay, and so this, for example, is the pesticide poisoning of farm workers in california. We talked about the work earlier and what you get in there and you get four pages this's the long version paid three or four and then for a four. And it goes into a lot of detail, and you are correct most your project proposals aren't four pages long, this particular one, they asked for a syriza questions, so it ended up being four pages here's, the one page summary, which you will eventually get to a cz. Well, you have the one page summary, which is what you aspire to do in the longer version it's like the movie, the long version, or the short person so that's in there. And I encourage youto look at these, partly for your own education. This one, for example, the pesticide project actually came from something that I read called silent spring, of your racial carson's book called silent spring. It was actually on ddt in eggs, in bird eggs and wild bird eggs, and how defect affected the structure of the shells on these birds who were not having difficult being being born altogether. The eggs never fully solidified, so they were actually never born at all. And so that was one of the things that led to my interest in that. So I'm using a reference point in answer to your question, um, this is a more recent project, which I'll show you a couple of days or tomorrow, I think, on the struggle of commercial fisherman in new england, this is the one page version this is something that came off of that a project that I'll show you tomorrow called cheap food at the cost of cheap lives, and this was paralleling the experience of fishermen and farmworkers in a recent project on immigrants from south asia like my wife, people from india, pakistan's for lanka, bangladesh who are recent immigrants to the u s and this was the idea of the changing face of america with different immigrant populations. And so this is one of three pages and the idea again after the class is over gets his pdf read to it slowly I hope you like the writing, I'm sure you'll find typos. I'm not terribly worried about that, but again remember with the mission that I'm trying to do, I'm trying to convince people that I have access to these communities, which I do through my wife, okay, I know how to photograph because I had this other track record this is important because the ethnic makeup of america's changing all of those things and what I'm arguing in the proposal, if I did a reasonably good job in this case in three pages, they put me in the yes were maybe gonna look at it pile, which is sort of all you can ask, um this is a one page version of the south asian immigrants to the u s and it's also region specific I've made it new england only I'm continually evolving and tweaking my proposals based on either the outlet, the end user who the funder is which is something you'll eventually get to do is well so here's your homework all right, you're called action all right? And this actually is for both ian studio audience and for the online audience write down five ideas for possible projects remember what I said before just right up don't think don't analyze don't talk yourself out of anything don't have any in depth conversations just write out an idea or two okay, right ideal you're right out five evaluate them based on the proposal writing out proposal writing outline that I just explained, you know the topic, the history wire, you the best person to do it and then that one about situation editing do you have the access etcetera, etcetera? So you want to go back to those notes and take those five and my guess is you're going to start with five, then you're going to end up with four than you can end up with three you working your way down to one or two okay, expand on the one or two that meet most of quite here that I talked about like you can access it, it has a point of view all the things that we've been talking about all day today expand on them, analyze them critically and you want to work your way down tto one that's the goal, and then you can send that proposal to creative life by nine p m pacific time two homework at creative live dot com and I will review the top three on the air tomorrow so the people who send them in will be really excited that there's stuff will be up there. On the other hand, I'll be saying that see things about it to make it better. But the idea behind this is just start writing out notes what? Or maybe five projects I want to do? You should include, of course what you work now. But maybe what are some other ones you have in mind in the future? Maybe they used some of the things that you're talking about in terms of family, in terms of your interest in athletes. So they may be going out there then the next question again? Yeah, what's your point of view. The things I talked about before. How do you make it interesting to a larger audience? Are there any history? Fax those kinds of things, and then that situation editing thing right talks about paring down, I can't get access that was out. Or I can get access. Okay, is there something that's visual about it? Well, there's, nothing actually to visualize. Because it's all in somebody's memory, for example. Okay, that one's out and you just keep pairing him down, paring them down, paring down, and eventually you'll end up with one project proposal. Okay. And the idea behind this is that what you're supposed to do for your homework tonight? And then in the future, I'm assuming what your take is a skill in the next time you come up with a project, you're interested, you walk through this exact same exercise, you go back to the project proposals of mind that I gave you, and which are also going to start doing after this is every time you go to an exhibition or a gallery, receive mother something other successful project, you're going to read the artist's statement or you gonna photocopy it or you're going to download it. You're going to put in your folder and go back and re read it again? How did that person solve all the problems that we just discussed? How did they get past the gatekeepers? What was the language they use? What was the historical context or in the case that you were talking about what sort of artistic context? All those things, what did they do to convince two people who are doing the anointing to make them the ones? All right, so that's, basically, what your homework iss any questions out there from the ether world there? Jim, I'm a little chime in on the homework questions, but we have a couple of content questions do you want to hit on those great photo maker would like to know. Do you ever contact multiple clients to pitch photo essays on the same topic? I don't know, I can't figure out an intelligent I'm saying, why not accept that? Probably it's, that thing about the project evolving from when I have this one idea toe when it reaches a certain point in time? Um, and then it's also that embargo issue, so I actually don't I can't really think of a strong argument against pitching multiple people, except for the fact that a lot of people, that idea with will want to have some kind of exclusivity, so they're using at first, and so you run into that problem. I think that the exclusivity thing is dying, people care less and less about that. Increasingly, if you see a lot of people were doing photo essay, sometimes they'll do almost like campaigns where they'll watch it with multiple people. And you were talking about a trade group that was following you which was it was the michael j fox ok, so people like that when they when they do projects like this, you'll notice that they actually had the opposite there trying to get it into multiple outlets that's not something that I'm that experience with so it's something that the answer to the question would be no it's not something that I've done though I see a lot of people who do it it's also a function of how much sort of marketing muscle and free time do I have which is limited any other questions there? Yeah ok eso people are asking about project proposals and kathy has had a question I was asked by a magazine photo editor to submit an artist's statement is that the same as a proposal? And if it's not what's the difference well artist statement would typically go closer to what gwen is talking about where it's talking about the work in the context of the larger sort of artistic media other media that have done the same things and things like that where a project proposal is more likely to say this is what I want to do going forward an artist statement typically is referring to stuff that's already been done if I had to divide them and then the other division of course is that mirrors and windows thing in the sense that artist proposals typically talking as much about the authorship of the person who's doing the work as it is about the content where project proposal is typically saying to an end user, this is how I can solve the problem you have. This is how we can tell the story that you want to tell together what of folks are asking, how do you know when your projects are done? Um, how do you know when your projects are done? That is such a great question um a really long answer sometimes it's a function of access and the ability to continue doing it sometimes it's a function of the limits of things like money and time. The foreclosure project is an example of what I mostly encounter, and I think this is really the answer. Is that there's a perception in this country that the foreclosure crisis has ebbed? And if you look at the hard numbers out there, it's not really too. They're still awful lot of people who are really having a very difficult time, but in the larger media there, things air improving so it's becoming a harder sell for me, and I'm still continuing to do it, and I'm hoping that through the pitch I did a little while ago and maybe through your help, I'll continue to pick up states, but I can see that the end is in sight because it's going to get harder and harder to convince people that this is something that they should be interested in. I really have nothing to complain about. I've done very well with it has been a fascinating experience. I've had a lot of outlets, but a lot of times that same milieu that I talked about that helps you to get you out there may also leave you, and then you're really fighting sort of these larger trends and so that's for me always been the biggest thing about knowing when the project was done was larger discussion, like the israeli palestinian thing, I had a great run from ninety three to about ninety six, and then when things started going back to the much more unpleasant situation that they are about ninety six, ninety seven, the interest in that work, abs, and it was not something that I wanted to happen, but it was beyond my control. So it's a chicken and egg thing about what's going on out there, what's he interest out there and how much further you can go before he kind of just have to give up. Great. Fantastic. Well, are we ready to talk about our next segment? I think we are. I just want to circle back to everybody one last time to write. So I understand your homework, right? You gotta write a project proposal and it's probably going to be writing out for five of them, just a sentence or two. One of them, it should be what you're doing, but don't get limited by that. Okay, the project proposal, the project you've done you brought into this class because it was started before this class may have sort of historical problems that we can't resolve. What I want you to think about is if everything went perfectly, where would I go forward next to what would be the best possible outcome? As I said before, you'll spend plenty of time in the real world sort of having difficulties, but one of them should be what's the best of all possibilities. One of them should, of course, be the one that you're working on now and then maybe a couple of other ideas and then take them to that process and get me one of them. I'm not going to make it as three or four questions, but basically any last questions about that part that's your only homework don't think about what we're doing tomorrow don't think about anything other than that and I know you got to get home tonight stuff, but just try to think about that because this is an opportunity to take something that you've been thinking about and hammered into something that's going to be the seat I mean, the actual took the second was the seed of your projects I'm standing now we planted the seed so I can tell the rents is hard work thinking, but I got a question, all right? I think we might be done for now unless there's anything else online right now, it's just one encourage folks out there were asking you to do the homework is well, so we've created a homework, a creative, live dot com, so send in those ideas, so I know we're going to touch on first thing tomorrow photographing and of course, it's a big thing here, creative life. So can we talk a little bit about what we can expect during that first segment tomorrow? Sure, I'm going to go into a lot of detail on this question of working a situation, how do you actually get, um, what you see in front of you onto the chip of the film of the paper, the way you want and at some point in time tomorrow, we're actually gonna be showing videos that we did here on sunday while I was photographing and the creative live offices and narrating as I was photographing, because, um, to try to get essentially into my head, if you can imagine such a thing. So what about photographing these air thinking process? I'm going to him. So they're actually assembling as we speak. Some short videos that I made when I was here on sunday, as I was photographing. And so a lot of tomorrow's about the process of photographing both in terms of the actual mechanics of photographing. And then it'll start going to the editing and selection, part of narrowing down.