The Other Side is an in-production documentary short film covering Sarah Thomas' upcoming English Channel quadruple crossing attempt scheduled for September 2019—that’s four consecutive crossings without stopping—an 84-mile round-trip swim that could take upwards of 50 hours to complete.
Production has already begun on the documentary, and we are turning to Kickstarter to help us fund the effort during the two-week swim window that she has to make this attempt. The money from this Kickstarter will be used for all UK-based logistics (which includes driving back and forth between UK & France, hunting down Sarah & her crew on a chartered boat, etc.) and covering all the costs of needing to stay in the UK while awaiting a passable weather window for the swim attempt.
It is important to note that this Kickstarter is dedicated solely to funding the documentary project itself. We are working closely with Sarah as she prepares for her swim. But the logistics of her trip, and her crew are independent of this project.
This is an impossibly difficult swim! We have no idea whether Sarah will complete it or not. But we are making this documentary to cover the attempt, and will frame the story around both the effort and the results.
How do you top an epic swim such as Lake Champlain? Sarah's answer was to try to become the first person to make the unprecedented third turn in the English Channel to complete a fourth crossing. At 84 miles, an English Channel Quad is a staggering feat made more difficult by unpredictable weather, a vast amount of shipping traffic, and cold water. The fact that no human has yet completed a four-way only adds to the allure of the swim. The nature of the ultra-swimmer is to break new ground and achieve something new; while training for her Lake Champlain swim, Sarah put down a deposit with an English Channel pilot and was slated to make history in the Channel in summer 2018.
But then, not four months after setting the record for the longest current-neutral swim in Champlain, Sarah discovered she’d have to face another adversary before she could make history in the English Channel—cancer. She was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer that had already begun spreading to the lymph nodes under her strong and well-traveled arm.
Since completing active treatment for triple-negative breast cancer in summer 2018, Sarah has, through excruciatingly hard work and intense dedication, steadily rebuilt the stamina she once maintained so easily. Cancer changed her life and her body, but it didn’t alter her love of swimming. Her unwavering commitment to the goal of completing a four-way English Channel crossing--and doing so as soon as possible, lest cancer creep back into her life--helped her battle to the other side of her cancer experience.
How better to celebrate beating cancer than by turning the English Channel into your own personal lap pool?
Though people have long stood on the shores of England and France and gazed at the chalky cliffs on the other side, the first swim across the English Channel wouldn’t transpire until 1875. That’s when Captain Matthew Webb, a merchant seaman and accomplished swimmer from Shropshire, England got across in 21 hours and 45 minutes using a steady breaststroke while wearing a woolen swimming costume and slurping beef tea and brandy for warmth. Since then, about 1,800 swimmers have swum solo across the Channel.
Endurance athletes being what they are, more is always better, so in 1961, Antonio Abertondo of Argentina made the first double crossing of the Channel in 43 hours, 10 minutes. Twenty years later, Jon Erikson of Chicago raised the stakes again, making a triple crossing in a lickety-split 38 hours, 27 minutes. Since then, only three other swimmers have completed the grueling triple crossing, and none have even attempted a fourth leg.
Jon Washer is a freelance photographer and videographer in the Boston area. He primarily spends his time taking pictures of food for local restaurants and delivery services, and photographing pro wrestling for a local independent promotion. He spends as much of his free time travelling and doing landscape photography as he is able. He has been a full-time photography professional for 5 years, and has been passionate about film and photography since studying it at Northwestern University 20 years ago. He lives in a tiny house with his fiancée and two miniature wolves.
Elaine K. Howley is an award-winning freelance journalist based in the Boston area. Her work—often focused on health, sports, and history topics—has appeared in a range of publications including U.S. News & World Report, SWIMMER magazine, UK-based Outdoor Swimmer magazine, and many others. A graduate of Georgetown University and Emerson College, Elaine served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Ukraine and loves to travel. She’s also an avid marathon swimmer who’s completed a solo crossing of the English Channel (just one way!) and several other major waterways. She lives in Waltham with her husband and two cats.
Without knowing how the two weeks in the UK will play out, we are limiting our Kickstarter rewards to be entirely based on known quantities that we can provide for our amazing supporters. We will 100% have a documentary short film to offer should this Kickstarter succeed, but we cannot possibly advertise what it will contain, other than the honest coverage of a superhuman athletic endeavor.
Because we don’t know exactly how this adventure is going to pan out, we are offering as much art as we can muster! See below for a listing of all the take home rewards!
Postcards from The Other Side ($20 pledge or $12 add-on for higher tier pledges) - A set of 2 collectible postcards sporting views of the English Channel from both the UK and French coastlines! Obviously, these images cannot be produced until we are on location for the filming of the documentary, but we have been pre-scouting some ideal locations for some wonderful sunrise/sunset photos. For backers at higher tiers, these will be available via Backerkit as a $12 add-on with no additional shipping costs (unless no other items being shipped). Photography by Jon Washer.
Training Grounds - Photo Print ($99 pledge, also in $200 VIP package) - This limited edition, signed, photo print was taken during the pre-production visit to Sarah as she trained in the mountain lakes of Colorado at the start of the production. The photo is of Castle Mountain at Lake Wellington in Bailey, CO. Taken by Jon Washer. The edition will be limited to 100 total prints between the various Kickstarter rewards and will be printed at 11"x17". Photography by Jon Washer.
The Channel - Photo Print ($99 pledge, also in $200 VIP package) - This limited edition, signed, photo print will be taken* in the Dover vicinity (or potentially France depending on what we find for shots!), overlooking the English Channel. Taken by Jon Washer. The edition will be limited to 100 total prints between the various Kickstarter rewards and will be printed at 11"x17".
*Obviously, we cannot provide a sample image for this reward as it won't be captured until we all get to the UK. However, upon seeing the final image, you will have the option of changing to the Training Grounds photo, or applying the value to another reward tier.
VIP Supporter Production Photo Book ($250 pledge) - During the swim window, and the production of The Other Side, we will be taking both behind-the-scenes photos as well as additional landscapes and other photographs. These will be compiled into a printed, 24-page, 8" x 8" (appx. depending on final printing service) softcover photo journal outlining the entire story of the adventure in covering Sarah's swim.
Along with the digital access, credits, thank yous, and other rewards, we hope to provide our supporters with as much fun stuff for helping make this project a reality!
Thank you so much for your interest, and please let us know if you have any questions!
Stretch Goal #1 - Unlocks at $9500
Guest artist portrait of Sarah Thomas - We are very excited to announce that award winning photographer, James Musselwhite, has signed on to do a portrait shoot with Sarah once we've arrive in the UK. All backers that have pledged at $50 or higher* will receive an 8x10 print of this portrait along with their other Kickstarter rewards.
*Note that if you have paid for shipping on any other reward, these will be added to that shipment at no extra cost. If you are backing for a reward that didn't already include shipping, you will be able to purchase the shipping to get this reward for $5 for US deliveries, and $10 for the rest of the world.
Stretch Goal #2 - Unlocks at $12,500
A View From The Other Side - Our second stretch goal will unlock a short series of 4 on-location mini videos filmed during the production of The Other Side. We will release all four videos during the production trip* and they will be available for all backers at all tiers to view!
These videos will cover a range of topics from the production: swim logistics, training, as well as production for the various photography rewards for this Kickstarter campaign. All four of these videos will be available as digital downloads when the main film releases (for all backers who have purchased at the appropriate tier).
*Note - We will aim to release these on a regular schedule during the production, but may be limited during the actual swim attempt which will obviously dominate our time and filming.
Stretch Goal #3 - Unlocks at $16,500
Break On Through! - To celebrate tripling our goal, we will upgrade the second stretch goal from 4 mini videos to a daily vlog covering small bits of each day of Sarah's 2-week swim window. These will post exclusively for backers to view during the swim window (Sept 8th - Sept 21) on a daily schedule. If you want to keep track of the production, and watch the story unfold live, this is the easiest way, short of being in Dover!
After the production, we will release these videos on Youtube as parting of the post-production marketing of The Other Side.
Stretch Goal #4 - Unlocks at $20,000
The Quad - Much like Sarah is attempting to swim the English Channel four times (a Channel Quad), our final stretch goal offering will celebrate us "quad"ing our original goal of $5000! The stretch goal will unlock a very special longform article written by 'The Other Side' co-producer, and marathon swimmer, Elaine K Howley. This story will put words to Sarah's swim, and her backstory, and will be delivered digitally to all backers of this project, at any tier. With photography & graphic design by Jon Washer, this will be a really special addition to The Other Side as a creative coverage of Sarah Thomas and her attempt at history.
Printed copies of Elaine's story will be compiled and available for purchase at a later date for the true collector!
Risks and challenges
The biggest risk we must address is that there is a very real chance that Sarah will not get to even start the swim if the weather window she needs doesn’t materialize. It happens. We are all at the mercy of Mother Nature, and when has anyone ever wanted to bet on British weather? We will be producing the documentary entirely regardless of the outcome of the swim. The story we get is the story we will present. However, if she isn't afforded the chance to even attempt the swim, it would be a very safe bet that all of us will be back in the UK for round two as soon as we are able.
In addition, we are a very small film crew (two people, effectively) with an even smaller budget. This will allow for a ton of malleability during the filming, but also some limitations.
At all times, Sarah's personal safety (and the safety of her crew and pilot on her guide boat) comes before anything this documentary hopes to present, so we cannot allow the production to interfere with her training and preparation once we all arrive in the UK, or the swim attempt as it progresses.
We are aiming for a 30-minute runtime with this documentary, but the content entirely depends on what we can cover during two weeks in the UK.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)