Matt Harding is ready to reunite the world, again, with the help of his goofy dance. But this time he needs some help.
The 39-year-old Seattle resident, whose inspiring, globetrotting videos have racked up tens of millions of views and won fans around the world, has launched a new Kickstarter campaign, seeking to raise at least $125,000 to fund a new “Where the Heck is Matt” video in 2016.
In the past, Harding has funded his videos with corporate sponsors and out of his own pocket, but this time he is involving the community directly. In an interview with GeekWire (podcast below), Harding explained why he decided to launch another around-the-world video project.
“I’m one degree from all these people all over the world. I think there’s this incredibly powerful desire that we all have,” he said. “There’s this kind of loneliness in everybody. I think technology is a huge factor in this, where we’re all connected in ways we’ve never been connected before but isolated in ways we’ve never been isolated before. Technology, it’s double-edged.”
“This is a positive,” he said of the videos. “This is the positive side of what technology can do, to make you feel more connected to other people, to the world, to communities. I think that’s why it’s fun for other people, why it’s fun for me.”
Backers of the project on Kickstarter will effectively be making a vote, through their contributions, for their town or city to be included in the new video. Harding is also inviting everyone, regardless of whether they back the project, to create a video clip of themselves as a pitch for him to dance with them.
Here is his Kickstarter video, outlining the basics of the project.
And yes, Harding’s fans will notice that it’s no longer “Where the Hell is Matt.”
We talked with Harding about that change and the new Kickstarter campaign in this podcast. We also discussed some of the unexpected locations on his own itinerary this time around. Listen below, and continue reading for edited excerpts.
Todd Bishop: You’re launching a Kickstarter to fund your next video. How much will you try to raise?
Matt Harding: The goal is $125,000.
Q: How does that compare to your past video budgets?
Matt Harding: That’s pretty much what I spent to make the last one. That was something I felt comfortable doing at the time, not being a dad. Now, if I were to invest in that again, with two young kids at home, that would be pretty irresponsible.
Crowdfunding is this whole other philosophy. It’s about getting support and interacting with a community which is what my videos have always been about. I was urged to it for a long time. I’ve come around and we figured out a way of doing this that I’m really, genuinely excited about.
Q: Tell us about that.
Matt Harding: There are two ways for people to participate. From the beginning, I’ve been really, really worried about it becoming all about money and saying, “If you have more money, you get to have this influence.” That’s not what it’s about and that’s not how I want this to work. On the other hand, I do need money or else I can’t do this. What anybody can do is submit a video. My hashtag is #dancewithmatt. Submit a video anywhere, social media, as long as it’s got that hashtag. Just make a dancing video in your home. We’re going to see all of them and if I like it, I want to fly out or drive out or take a train to you wherever you are, and knock on your door and come in and dance.
Q: Do you have to donate at a certain level through?
Matt Harding: No. You don’t have to donate. You don’t have to back the campaign. If you’ve got a dance you want to do, put it on YouTube. There’s a watermark. You have to hold a sign at the beginning that says where you are so we know you didn’t just pull any old video and say it’s yours. You have to be holding a sign that says this is my town. Toss the sign aside. Start dancing. Upload it to Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, wherever you want to upload the hashtag, we’ll see it and we will pick ones for me to go out and dance with.
Q: What’s the other way that people can take part?
Matt Harding: Back the campaign. By backing the campaign, you get a vote. I’ve been working with Kickstarter — they have been very nice to work with. I had a really good experience with them that I did not expect. … It’s still surprising when anyone talks to me. … If you back the campaign, that’s going to count as a vote for wherever you are. Wherever your Kickstarter profile says you are, we’re going to count that as a vote for that town or city. Then at the end of the campaign, if we’re backed, I’ll be going to the top 5 cities, and put them in the video and I’m going to dance all over the place in those towns.
Q: When you did the 2012 video, it was your most impactful in a lot of ways, because of the message that it sent. What do you have to say now? What is your pitch to the Kickstarter backers to say, “This is why the world needs another Matt Harding dancing video.”
Matt Harding: That’s a good question and it’s a tough one. I feel like I got the “message-y” message out with the last one. I said, “Here’s the thing about the world that I realized that I think a lot of people are missing and I want to share that.” I’m always reluctant to be too message-y. I think, maybe I did get a little too message-y on the last one because I feel self conscious. I don’t want to be preachy. I don’t want to tell people what to do or how to think. But I really felt strongly about that. Now I kind of feel like we’re all here and we can do this and it’s really fun so why not. That’s kind of where I’m at in doing this. I have a really good time making these videos. I get out of my shelf. I get out of my comfort zone. I have a lot of great memorable experience personally, selfishly. I have a lot of fun doing this. It’s fun for a lot of other people.
I think there’s this thing, it’s like 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon, like, “I’ve danced with that guy.” He danced with those Huli wigman in Papua New Guinea. He danced with that really nice lady in North Korea. He danced with all these people all over the world. I’m one degree from all these people all over the world. I think there’s this incredibly powerful desire that we all have. There’s this kind of loneliness in everybody. I think technology is a huge factor in this, where we’re all connected in ways we’ve never been connected before but isolated in ways we’ve never been isolated before. Technology, it’s double-edged. This is a positive. This is the positive side of what technology can do to make you feel more connected to other people, to the world, to communities. I think that’s why it’s fun for other people, why it’s fun for me.
Q: You’ve been known for many years under the site, at least for the project name, “Where the Hell is Matt?” No more. Tell us that story.
Matt Harding: No more. There’s been people who’ve been wanting me to do this for a long time. Mainly, school teachers and pastors. They liked the video a lot. But it’s called, “Where the Hell is Matt?” That’s problematic. That’s technically problematic for schools. I didn’t know “hell” was a swear word when I started this. I really didn’t.
Q: So it’s now “Where the Heck is Matt.”
Matt Harding: I’m getting used to it. I like the word heck. I always have.
Q: It’s a little more fun, actually.
Matt Harding: When I’m talking to my kids, I say, “What the heck are you doing?” I don’t say, “What the hell are you doing?” Yeah, Where the Heck is Matt? Once I looked at it and got comfortable with it, I feel food with Where the Heck is Matt? We’ve made that change. But I mean, the real reason was, bottom line, I needed a new fucking name. I called the whole video Where the Hell is Matt? Then I call the next one “Where the Hell is Matt 2008.” Then there was “Where the Hell is Matt 2012.” That’s not just very sticky. I needed a new name. “Where the Hell is Matt 2016,” I just couldn’t begin. “Where the Heck is Matt?”gives me a name that is distinct but I don’t lose the recognition.
Q: Is there a country that you have not yet visited, or a city that you haven’t yet been to that you hope to visit on Where the Heck is Matt?
Matt Harding: Yeah, I’ve got two big ones that have been driving me nuts this whole time I’ve been trying to get to, Iran and Cuba.
Q: Whoa. Cuba just became a lot easier.
Matt Harding: Yeah, Cuba, I have no concerns about going to Cuba now. Iran, I don’t keep up with the news. It seems to change every week. … Now, it’s kind of feeling like, “Uh oh, I might need to hurry and get over there and get that one in the can.” But yeah, I’ve always wanted to include Iran. It’s like this whole other world that we see through a prism of delusion. From what I’ve seen, actually the people and the places in Iran pretty normal, pretty real life thing going on there. But there’s this huge separation between the US and Iran. We really seem to hate each other, for these reasons that I think most people on the ground don’t really fully get, something about nuclear, something.
Anyway, I really want to get into Iran. Then Cuba, I was this close to going on the last video but Melissa was pregnant at the time. We didn’t have a hotel set up. I was like, “I’d go but I don’t want to take my pregnant partner with when we don’t have a hotel.”
Q: The ultimate coup would be to get Raul Castro to dance with you.
Matt Harding: That would be quite a get.
Q: No, it would be a coup.
Matt Harding: You’re making a pun. I missed it. Well done. I was thinking the coup that I always had on the back of my head, really that tops Cuba, is dancing in outer space. I’m waiting for those doors to open.
Q: You said you’re 39? That is entirely feasible (in your lifetime).
Matt Harding: It’s totally feasible. Mars is feasible.
Q: Whoa. You’ve gotta kind of buddy up to Elon Musk on that one, I think.
Matt Harding: One thing I’ve learned from the last 10 years is, don’t doubt. Nothing is impossible.