(10 Min Read with a cocktail, 8 Min without)
Whitney Chamberlin is one of the pioneers of the event/experience/community that is Yeah Field Trip. And after attending Field Trip this past year and spending some time with Whitney, it's clear to me that Field Trip is not just another venture in his long line of successful businesses, it's a cumulation of his life's work (so far), his interests, relationships, experiences and passions. And lucky for us, he's found a way to bring them to life.
Enjoy the interview. I sure did.
Chris - Lennd
Photo Collage: @whitneykentchamberlin
For those of you who are not familiar with Yeah Field Trip, well, it's like camp for some of the best photographers, videographers and creative humans in the world. And who doesn't like camp, annnnd lots of impromptu photoshoots.
Photo Cred: @ryanlongnecker
LET'S SET THE SCENE
Whether he knows it or not, our interview started in El Capitan Canyon Campground in Santa Barbara, the week of Field Trip. I had just walked out of a panel on Instagram with Michael Oneal & Paul Octavious (if the names don't ring a bell, just check your Instagram: @moneal + @pauloctavious). I remember telling him about the incredible experience and immediately saw that Cheshire Cat-like grin of satisfaction on his face. As if he new it all along.
"Welcome to Field Trip."
Photo Cred: @ryanlongnecker at @yeahfieldtrip
Fastforward, 4 months later....
So Whitney, where did you grow up?
Up to the age of 12 I was raised in Kirkland, WA (behind the San Michelle winery) and then moved to Seattle.
Big Family, Small Family
If I had more time I would explain that I was a momma's boy. I would discuss the man who I thought was my father, and how I discovered he wasn't my real father when I was 12. I thought my brothers and sisters were mine, but came to realize they were not blood relatives at all. I have half-brothers and half-sisters that I've met only 3 times in my life but am now getting to know. So big family small family? I don't even know how to describe my family.
Wow, I appreciate you opening up like that. Says a lot.
This definitely isn't a sob story, it's just reality. And I'm quite grateful for everything that has happened in my past. Wouldn't be the man I am without it.
Photo & photoshop cred: @whitneykentchamberlin
And if your friends were a little tipsy (2-3 pints) how would they describe you now?
I took you literally on this one. So I got them drunk to find out.
of course you did.
Turns out 2-3 pints was way too much for them. Really hard to understand what they were saying. There were lots of "I love you man"s and "like a brother" type stuff.
So what’s your spirit animal?
A coyote, because I do most of my dreaming at night. But when I’m in a relationship, an eagle. And if you wanna know why, you should look up both these spirit animals yourself. It’s kinda fun.
Where do you think your entrepreneur spirit comes from?
The spirit part comes from growing up in that dysfunctional home and having to dream about what I really wanted. It comes from being in survival mode. I was constantly dreaming up stories of the ways I thought my life should be.
And the entrepreneurial side comes from my work with bands. You had to do everything possible to get your name out there. I had to put up flyers and posters and was constantly competing for the stage and the lights. I was also blessed to be surrounded by great mentors and to be close to people that made it. I was mentored by one of my favorite hotel entrepreneurs and was given budgets to produce dreams.
Photoshop and Photo Cred: @Whitneykentchamberlin
So at this stage in your career, what is the best piece of advice you have received?
Transparency and honesty create community and respect.
In your work-life are you insecure about anything?
I’m insecure about losing my mojo, my excitement. About losing my mind. Sometimes when I go running I close my eyes and a whole world is playing out in my head, and I wonder if there’s gonna be sometime when all I wanna do is close my eyes. It worries me.
Wel Whitney, I think your own advice is perfect here (picture below). If you keep following it, something tells me you have nothing to worry about.
Words by @whitneykentchamberlin Photo by: @briankwanphoto
And if you could interview one artist (living or dead) who would it be and what would you ask them?
I probably would ask that guy that created and designed life as we know it, what's his name again? God? I think other people have other names for it. And my question would be: What's next? I'm ready.
Photo Cred: Bill Gates guru @MaharishiMaheshYogi (no he's not on Instagram) & Alex Calderwood
Big Picture: what is Yeah Field Trip?
It's not up to me. I literally take what happens at field trip, when I put my ear to the ground and when I ask questions, last year I heard a bunch of things that were in my heart and outwardly about humanitarian efforts. This year, instead of looking outwardly, we're going to look inward - passion projects, personal growth.
In your mind, what does Yeah Field Trip (the organization) look like in 5 years?
Look at the image below. There’s 300+ people. I want to squeeze everyone’s brain and figure out the algorithm of what they all want for the world.
As a brand, what is your promise to the community?
To produce what they're asking for. To set aside the "I can do it my own way" attitude, and to listen to what people want. To continue to create.
Photo Cred: @jeffnewsom of the yeahfieldtrippers of 2015
What have been 2-3 of the biggest operational challenges in producing Yeah Field Trip?
One: Finances. We literally spend every single dollar that comes through the door. Field Trip is not a money-maker for me. It's a passion project. It's surrounding myself with great people to work with me. It's part of an organism of things that I do. The team that helps produce Field Trip - they all wear three different hats a day. Field Trip is one that is personally rewarding.
Another challenge is that I get so many requests for teachers that there’s a long waiting list of people I feel should teach.
Then there's marketing. How we market Field Trip sounds too good to be true because we honestly believe it is. How do you explain to someone "You’re going to learn things that will change your life and have fun doing it"? And you’re gonna dance to the best music.. the list goes on.. this all happens at Field Trip, but I don’t wanna sound conceited or desperate, like I'm overselling it. How do you get that message out in an honest and believable way? How do you say that you’re going to get re-energized without connoting the most dishonest tropes of advertising?
Something tells me that the pictures and videos you have are all the marketing you need.
Photo Cred: The @yeahfieldtrip Instagram and Jaime Thrower Photo
Pretty much 90% of the attendees were photographers (which made for a really cool time. Especially since I was one of the non-photographers). Are you thinking about ways to incorporate other creative communities into Field Trip (or is this just a photographer thing)?
I look at Field Trip as a magazine rack. Its mostly full of photo magazines, but this year we're going to put in a few surprises. However, it's generally for the photo/video community - that's the common thread. If you come as an amateur you would get a college level amount of information over the weekend.
Photo Cred: @JennaKutcher from a very hands on @yeahfieldtrip class
Why do you think Field Trip has proven to be so successful (at least in the eyes of the participants), so quickly?
The roll-out of Field Trip has been 10 years long. I've been planting seeds along the way. From small group trips where myself, Justin Lyons and James Moes where plotting where this should be years ago, to throwing large dance parties in Vegas (so people can understand you can just cut loose and have a good time). The whole Flash Dance - Smilebooth - Field Trip Team has been creating extracurricular activities for over 10 years. The baby just grew up.
And no matter what, this baby still turned into a dance party with this crew.
Photo Cred: @ryanlongnecker & Dance Cred: @pauloctavious
There were so many incredible panel discussions, what’s been one of your favorites (yes you have to pick) and what has been a crowd favorite?
Crowd favorite - panel on Passion Projects. My personal favorite was whatever Yan Palmer was on because I'm in love with her.
That's right. Sing it from the mountain top Whit.
Photo Cred: @RyanLongnecker
From a production standpoint: What 2-3 things would you focused more time on, the first year of Field Trip?
Signage, and communications with the teachers. Maybe even having a day that they come in early. Def a couple different food options. I think I want to do camper trailers for families in a completely different area this year.
Design Cred: The @yeahfieldtrip Instagram
In five years from now, what are you going to be most proud of regarding Field Trip?
We're changing the way that conferences happen. I work in the event producing business. We have been recognized for creating a new experience for people. These things are happening all over the world in all different styles now. I almost feel bad for the Hilton hotel ballroom event producer... but not really.
I also want to be supporting people's careers and keeping them motivated to stay working on something they love.
I’m taking book recommendations, any suggestions?
I feel like podcasts have temporarily set up shop in the bookish part of my mind. "You Made It Weird" with Pete Holmes. The Peter Rollins episode is a great one - about an hour in it gets really good. They talk about burning man, religion.. if anyone knows this guy I want him at Field Trip. I’m about to dive into his books. So if anyone wants to read it to me let me know.
Who should I interview next? What two to three questions or stories should I ask them about?
I think I'm doing your job for you... Just kidding! Logan Cole or Brian Marrow or Yan Palmer.
Logan: talk about what he does in his free time and where he travels. He actually has an extremely empathetic heart.
Photo Cred: @kellyboitano Unicorn Cred:@LoganCole
Brian: He's like Bill Nye meets Hugh Hefner. So, you figure that out.
Photo Cred: Brian Morrow @dhridge
Yan: You could ask this girl the most simple question, and she'll give you the most brilliant answer. I'm so blessed to have her in my life.
Photo & PhotoShop Cred: @whitneykentchamberlin and @yanpalmer
One of my biggest things that I've learned is honesty over avoidance.
First off, a special thanks goes out to Whitney's long-time friend, Michael Antonio for his help on the interview. Secondly, I have to say that sitting down with Whitney, reminded me that we all have a capacity for creativity, but it only manifests in those who have a grand enough desire to see their creation come to life. That desire has to be greater than the obstacles life throws at us and greater than our own worst enemy: Our insecurity. But it's those like Whitney Chamberlin, who put their entire self and their work out into world for feedback, for praise and even for harsh critique, that get to flex that creative muscle.
For those who get this far, the challenge is to keep going. Yet for Whitney, it's how far can he go.
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