Passion: Finding and elevating the worthy stories behind people, products, causes, and businesses
Tim Doerfler is a man of many multimedia talents. I’ve known him for almost 20 years, and I know that he is creative, motivated, and has a super generous heart. So, it was no surprise that when I messaged him out of the blue for a conversation and a shoot, his immediate response was a simple, “Heck yes.”
However, when I walked into Tim’s office, I honestly wasn’t sure what passion he’d share… because he is always capable of doing so many different things. I just knew that he is a passionate person, and he loves whatever he does. That’s easy to see through the way he selects and creates projects with cinematography.
As we began talking, I realized there were so many similarities between his passion and the things that excite me about photography and storytelling. It was inspiring to talk with someone who is much further down the road that I can vaguely envision for myself someday.
Tim has found a unique way to weave together his passions of videography, editing, and storytelling. Professionally, he stepped out and created his own business identity as Soapboxr Creative, where he now focuses his work on elevating the stories of his clients through high quality cinematography.
I’ve always been drawn to Tim’s selection of people, companies, and nonprofits that he highlights with his work. Prior to the creation of Soapboxr, I can recall being blown away by a series of documentary videos he created of a local World War II veteran, Billie J. McFarren. Tim’s style, choice of subject, and quality of work is one-of-a-kind and makes him the obvious choice for so many people, businesses, and nonprofits to have him tell their stories.
As I walked away from our conversation, I found myself wondering what this path would look like for me, and others, if we chose to step out and fully pursue our creative endeavors with the optimism and hope that Tim has for Soapboxr. And I don’t think that was accidental… Tim’s passion is lifting up worthy stories, and he can’t do that without some level of infectious optimism and belief in the greater story in each of us.
“The idea behind my name of ‘Soapboxr’ is that I may not be the best person to get up and give my own opinion, but I am good at taking your story and elevating it so it can resonate with other people. I do that through the highest quality video possible. Even though it may just be telling an individual’s story, I am choosing to deliver it with cinema-quality equipment and technique. And for me, the more positive the message – with a feel-good spin – the more excited I get about it.”
“As a business owner, I created a ‘one-for-one’ campaign early on in this endeavor. Whenever I complete a certain amount of finished footage for a paying client, I allocate the same amount of footage for no cost to a non-profit or a client who may not be able to afford it.”
“As I get more emotionally invested in the edit, the end result gets better and better, and I know that. So, that’s why a lot of my recent projects have been involved with foster care. I never had any experience or intent to work with foster care organizations, but when I first worked with one, I just couldn’t help myself from getting excited about elevating their stories.”
“One organization I began working with is called ‘Fostering Hope.’ They started a program where they wanted to change the way the State packs a foster child’s belongings during a transition. These kids were packing their things in trash bags, because trash bags are affordable and are in abundant supply. However, there is a subliminal message in the convenient, cheap trash bag… it tells a kid that their belongings are garbage. So, Fostering Hope started packing duffel bags with clothes, comfort items, age-appropriate hygiene items, and giving them to kids. Now, when the children are done using some of the stuff, they also have a cool duffel bag to pack their belongings when they move from one place to another.”
"When I shoot an event, its momentum is very important to me. I’m going to bring a cinema-quality camera and lights, and a broadcast level mic… and by the way, I am going to turn around a first-version of the product in 24 hours. So, I’ll shoot the event, go home and work 10 hours on it, and send the first version of the video back over to the client. This way, they can keep the urgency of the message of the event at the forefront of everyone’s minds."
“Recently, I was interviewing a lady who works for a very large company, but she only saw the product for what it was monetarily, as a profit. She couldn’t see the story, and I thought.. Well, there’s gotta be a story. So, I asked her to tell me about how the original thing came to be. There’s a reason it exists, even if it was only because there was a gap in the economy. There has to be a story somewhere that people can identify with. Nearly every business, even ones with the oddest products, has an answer to the question, “Why does this product exist?’ and there’s usually a compelling story behind it. And that’s what I am excited about… elevating the story.”
“It’s really easy for people to falsely claim, especially with corporations, that it’s always greed-driven and profit-driven. For example, I worked at JM Smucker for a while. If you look at the history, Jerome Smucker was passionate about apple butter, and he had a cart and he made apple butter and sold it. That’s all he cared about. Then, some partners came along and explained that they could grow this thing if they were to buy into fruit spreads. The company keeps growing and evolving, and now they’re worth billions of dollars. It doesn’t matter where they are now… you can say that they are profit-driven if you want to.. it doesn’t matter. Because, the actual story is with Jerome.”
“Even the people on the floor of a factory, you can ask, “What is your story, why are you here? Did you go to school for engineering? Is this part of your plan? Is this just something you’re doing for a bit? Do you love the product?” Either way, there’s a story there that’s compelling and someone will be inspired by.”
“For me, it’s purely the love of digging down.. Sometimes the further I have to dig, the more rewarding it is. I just did a shoot and rebrand with a judo-academy in Chagrin Falls. My first thought was, ‘What’s the story of the guy who owns this place?’ I was talking to him, and after a while, I found out that he’s been training with the top names of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for years, and he takes regular trips to Asian countries to study with actual Grand Masters. He’s built a good reputation, but he has never sought someone to help him create a brand around it. He has an incredible story. He’s been doing it for 28 years, and no one has uncovered it and elevated it to show that his impressive reputation is the reason why people will spend good money to go there and train. It was always just about ‘Jason’s Gym,’ but if you didn’t know Jason, you wouldn't know what he can do, and his passion, and his commitment to the Martial Arts Way, the culture. For Jason, it isn’t about being macho and knowing you can kick everyone’s butt, it’s a way of life. If you are training this way, then you should be eating better, doing better for yourself, doing better in your community. That’s the martial arts way, it’s a lifestyle. Someone just needs to unearth that story.”
“I love having a large range of sizes of brands. From a multimillion dollar company, to a Mennonite lady that lives a few houses down from me. Either way, I am going to provide the full-brand treatment. Any level of business, or production, or service has that worthwhile story.”
“I’ve had a lot of interaction with musicians and reality-tv show stars, and to find out behind the scenes how kind and generous they are is awesome. When you treat people like actual people, they love it and are willing to tell you some of their story. It’s really interesting to interact with a celebrity type of person, and then find out how normal they are, how awesome they are, and how generous they are. I shot a stadium event with Vanilla Ice, and we were messing around and started trying to kick field goals as just something to do. In that moment, you see that he’s a real human, and has strengths and also things he’s not very good at, like kicking a field goal.
I just shot an interview with the CEO of a large company yesterday. And just seeing how small the world is, even though it’s huge, is really exciting to me. I love working with people that I would otherwise never have access to, and realizing they are normal people and the only reason I don’t typically have access is because they are living in a different world than I am, not because they are better than everyone.
One of my favorite parts of seeing that celebrity lifestyle.. is actually not living it. I get the best of both worlds.. I get to see it a little bit, but I get to go home to my bed and my wife and my kids. I’m having a great time doing exactly what I’m doing.”