I’ve told the story countless times of my friend Liana and how a sudden illness caused a chain of events and now she is in the hospital being treated. By following tweets from Scott Bourne, it appears that tonight (Sunday the 19th) her condition worsened and she is now in ICU. Having told the story there were a few things I omitted that made a huge difference in my efforts to raise money for a cause which she approved of.
1. I am not paid by Podango or Liana for my help
2. I never intended to benefit from this venture financially
3. I never mislead or lied about anything when I was handling this crisis.
However, as the weekend unfolded, I came under fire from people both on stage and behind the scenes. This blog post will be about my effort to fulfill a wish from a friend and the fire I came under as a result. Less than 24 hours after hearing that the studio space Liana was President of would be closing down I pleaded for that not to happen and for options. Doug of Podango gave me a few options and I went with the route of collecting contracts from commercial entities that wanted to use the space but that was an uphill battle and did not equal results.
I spoke to Liana while she was in the hospital about a donation or charity kind of plan and she disapproved. Liana did not want handouts or donations. She did however say that if we offered people something of value in exchange for their donations, that would be acceptable. I envisioned the title, “charter member” for those who donate and that we make the space a place for independent filmmakers, audio engineers who are still in school and podcasters to come and create great content in a relaxed environment. She loved it and we chatted briefly about forming a not-for-profit organization and how being involved with our neighbor, the SF School of Digital Filmmaking would be a great in to market this space.
I went with it and built out the infrastructure across the web. I called Liana Saturday afternoon around 6PM and said that I was going to move forward with a telethon and she said, “ok let’s do it.” and she graciously thanked me for my help and for everyone’s help. I later learned Melissa, a friend of Liana and member of Girls Gone Geek, had also spoken to Liana and received the same approval regarding an Internet Telethon. With that, we moved forward beginning at 6:30PM PST via Ustream.TV.
After 2 hours, we had gathered nearly $1,000 in donations. We were telling people to not donate and instead help spread the word about the studio space so we could also find potential corporate sponsors for our space to help cover most costs. The whole time I continued to say that Liana asked for this and that I was not asking for money and only doing this to help out a friend. Unfortunately, this statement is what caused the most problems. By making the benefit sound like Liana’s health and wellbeing and saving the studio were one in the same, I came under fire by parties that thought it was fishy and completely amiss from what should be the focus and that was Liana’s speedy recovery and her health.
Either way, I continued my campaign and by 5PM (22 hours later) on Sunday we had reached $2,000 dollars in donations. I might also add that these donations were more like pledges. I couldn’t touch the funds that you sent and in order to approve them I had to attach a bank account to the Paypal account to even accept the money so the donations would sit in a form of escrow and would be easily refunded if our plan didn’t work.
It was shortly after we broke $2200 dollars in pledges that I saw a tweet from Scott Bourne, a close friend of Liana’s, that she had been taken to The ICU and her condition was serious. At this moment, things changed. This entire rally that was now at hour 23 had to change the course. The request Liana had given to me that she wanted the studio to stay alive was still in my mind but her illness was worsening and I had some decisions to make.
At this time, our rally to save the studio because Liana asked us to became a rally to save Liana and the studio. We didn’t properly identify the needs of this effort and confusion hit and that’s when people began to ask what we were actually asking money for? The mob mentality broke and it was me against the world. Those that had been with me since hour one (which started on Friday by the way when I heard the studio would be closed) understood that I was simply fulfilling a request from my friend but others saw this as something totally different and each person interpreted things differently.
I took a step back, gathered my thoughts and let some individuals who had donated take over the room. I went home since I had not been home in two days and checked in to the room. My friend Kolin was fending off a mob of people talking about the future of their donations and the studio, I saw Leo Laporte tweeting about the separation of the studios and Liana’s wellness and I noticed that my efforts were noble but were not delivered properly and the confusing that ensued was not reversible.
At the same time, getting in contact with the CEO of the film school to discuss the price of taking over the lease was impossible on the weekend and that discussion was a key aspect in moving forward with buying the equipment from Podango and taking over the space as an independent studio. Since negotiations weren’t happening and the clock was ticking I had to communicate with those in support of the studio’s success and fulfilling Liana’s request to keep it alive. The issue is with Liana’s current condition, the studio would certainly not be on her mind. The clock was running out for us and we couldn’t move forward with any negotiations without her. With her wellness as my top priority, I made a tough decision to go against her wishes and scrap the contribution and fundraiser efforts.
I knew that people were behind this because of Liana and because they believed in Liana’s idea of having a community co-working studio but I visited the idea that if we ask each donor if they’d like a refund or have their money go to Liana I received some criticism from people saying that if I did that, even asking people what they wanted to do meant that I had misleaded everyone (including donors) and that I would be a liar for a crook. At the same time, more people were getting suspicious with Liana’s recent move to ICU, the chances of reviving the studios in time were getting slim so I decided the following:
1. Announce that we were ending the fundraising event on the web and Ustream.TV
2. Returning every penny to every single contributor (which has been completed)
3. Letting everyone know to send your full support and well-wishes to Liana and not the studio. Liana needs our prayers right now and we need to focus our good thoughts to her recovery.
My effort to fulfill Liana’s wish and save the studio was a failure. My 48 hour journey was nearly successful but at the end of the day, my friend’s health comes first and I must admit that when I ended the telethon at 6PM, I sat in front of the camera and told everyone that we had missed the point and that this had gone on too far. Liana needed our support right now and we’re trying to save a building. The diggs, tweets and links / donations needs to stop and we need to move forward with focusing on Liana’s recovery and not the saving of this space. I walked away and, yes, this grown man cried. I sobbed over my friend because for the first time in my life, I realized that I had a friend that wasn’t well and I was afraid. I’ve never had a friend like Liana and I was wrong the whole time for not focusing more on her than some building. The money has been refunded and I will now focus all efforts on Liana’s health.
I want to send out a huge thanks to everyone who supported us throughout this 48 hour sleep-deprived journey. I met some amazing people who are not greedy and care only for other people. I’ve spoken to over 500 people via phone, email, IM, Twitter and chat room over the past 2 days and everyone is in full support of Liana and their donation was for a studio that was operated by Liana. In their minds, it was a package deal and the space couldn’t exist without her. I feel that I have made the right decision. I hope I have and I owe so much to the people that supported me this weekend. I’m now shedding tears of joy knowing that there are some truly amazing people in this world. Thank you. We raised $2,645 dollars in contributions. I’m astonished and in awe. This concludes hour 42 of no sleep.
Now please drop Liana a line and let’s wish her a speedy recovery.