DC, UOIT students crowdfunding to bring projects to products

DC advanced filmmaking student Amy McQuaid-England sits between two monitors, on the left is the website for her film, Aggravated Sound, and the right is a scene from the movie. Photo credit: Cecelia Feor

Crowdfunding is creeping onto campuses as students try to raise money, raise awareness and raise the quality of their ideas to bring them to market.

A couple of students at Durham College (DC) and UOIT are among those trying to raise money for businesses and ideas through websites online.

Kyle George, a fifth-year mechatronics student at UOIT, has tried to raise $100,000 (USD), in an effort to cover the costs of manufacturing Henlen smart watches.

Amy McQuaid-England, a student in the advanced filmmaking graduate certificate program at DC is trying to raise $5,000 for the final required project in her studies, in this case a movie called ‘Aggravated Sound’.

George tried to crowdfund through Kickstarter but ultimately didn’t meet his target. The idea behind Henlen smart watches was an interchangeable unit that allowed the tech to be swapped between different styles and designs of watch bodies, George says.

The team started a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising $100,000 (USD) to meet manufacturing costs.

“(It was) a feasible method to raise the funds required to manufacture the product without taking a loan or investment,” George said via email.

He says while the Kickstarter drew awareness, the monetary goal was not reached and the product didn’t get to market. The crowdfunding raised $25,000 USD.

George says crowdfunding still helped him in some way.

“As a student, we do not have access to business loans and other methods of raising funds. Crowdfunding gives the opportunity to build a business that requires upfront capital while also proving there is a market demand for your product,” he says.

Meantime, McQuaid-England is not a complete novice at filmmaking, having played writer and director before.

Her film The Garden, won an International Independent Film Award in 2016.

“That taught me to value the people that were volunteering and helping with the production,” McQuaid-England says.

The movie she is crowdfunding for on Indiegogo – Aggravated Sound – is about Molly, who has misophonia, or an aversion of sounds. She is going on a first date with Sam, a drummer who loves to eat.

She says she wants to start a conversation about crowdfunding for student films, and lay the groundwork for other students to crowdfund.

“I think we need to instil the value of creative people,” McQuaid-England says, adding people assume exposure is a form of payment, but exposure is not compensation.

To date, she has raised about $2,300 of $5,000 goal, which will be used for the location rental, props, wardrobe, paying the crew and actors and advertising.

“I just want to make sure people feel valued when they’re a part of a production I am doing,” McQuaid-England says.

Students interested in developing their school or personal projects into businesses can also solicit help on campus prior to crowdfunding.

Brilliant Catalyst works with UOIT students and faculty to develop entrepreneurial businesses. FastStart helps students at DC and UOIT develop business plans to assist market their newly-conceived products or services.

Brilliant Catalyst program officer, Jeffrey Peng, says its space acts as a gateway to activities in the community and on campus, helping students network in the region and the province.

“(Brilliant Catalyst) provides them a space to have community where they get to work with other companies, work with their team,” Peng says.

Students can receive up to $5,000 for their ideas from the Firefly Entrepreneurship Fund, but Peng says students more commonly receive $1,000-$3,000.

McQuaid-England will be writing a paper after the production of her movie about what worked, what didn’t work, and what would be done differently if she were to crowdfund again. She hopes to make it accessible for students in her program.

“You need to find your people, you need to find your village, you need to find the people that want to be interested in what you’re doing,” McQuaid-England says.

She is currently at 45 per cent of her goal. With the money she has, she has been able to pay the hairstylist, the makeup artist, the actors and the script supervisor.

McQuaid-England says she excited she’s reached this milestone, of being able to pay the non-students in the film.

“It was a good experience to go through,” she says, adding for her next campaign she would like to have more videos, such as trailers, for donors to view.