This absolutely bonkers project is what kickstarted me on the journey of being a self-directed postgraduate with a self-declared master’s degree…

The Miracle of Crowdfunding was the name of a short campaign film that would have headlined a crowdfunding effort I was going to run to fund a traditionally taught master’s degree that I was planning to go back to university to study.

Formulated and filmed over three months, it was a very ambitious project that quickly evolved from a very simple crowdfunding campaign, with a 3-minute headline video, to a much more complex campaign with multiple campaign videos, a website and a wide-ranging marketing plan.

The original plan had been to run the 30-day crowdfunding campaign in 2014 but this was pushed back into 2015 to give me more time to thoroughly plan out the campaign and to get all the project’s materials finished.

Ultimately, I ended up abandoning the crowdfunding campaign in 2015 after it became redundant when I hit on the much more enticing idea of building my own master’s degree, which is how my MTA Portfolio was born.

Why I Wanted to Crowdfund my Tuition Fee

Because I was entitled.

Just a bit and it comes across in what I filmed for the project.

I was very arrogant at the time and I definitely could’ve been sprinkled with a bit more humility.

It’s for this reason that I’m glad I didn’t end up running the campaign because my entitlement throughout probably would’ve been one of the reasons why it wouldn’t have succeeded.

Or maybe it would have succeeded?

 

Because it the tuition fee was £6,420.

I didn’t have that money and I had no chance of saving it up any time soon.

 

Because government backed postgraduate loans didn’t exist at that point (not until 2016).

I wasn’t keen on taking out an additional loan to fund my studies and doubted I would be able to get a loan anyway.

 

Because I could be very creative throughout the process of doing it.

Aside from raising the money I needed to cover my tuition fee, it was just an excuse to do some more filmmaking.

I had done a lot of filmmaking during my BA (Hons) and I was just itching to get my teeth stuck into another filmmaking project after I graduated.

I was also very enticed with using my filmmaking skills to create a crowdfunding campaign film because it was a different type of creative challenge.

 

Because I liked the challenge of doing it a different way.

It wasn’t just the different creativity the project stimulated but I liked that I was going to be raising the money for my tuition fee in a non-traditional way.

I’ve never been keen on following the crowd and if I can go somewhere by the less trodden path, I absolutely will.

 

Because I wanted to be enterprising.

I had ended up being very enterprising with my BA (Hons) and I wanted to use this enterprising drive to set me up for undertaking my master’s degree, which itself was also a very enterprising degree.

The Entrepreneurship of Crowdfunding

Creative Technologies and Enterprise was the name of the Masters of Science degree I had been accepted on.

This course is designed for people who already have a grounding in computing and business skills (whether through study or experience), and are seeking to develop their creative and research abilities in order to adapt to the digital economy or prepare themselves for future research in this field. Future industries depend upon people who are equipped with creative ideas, entrepreneurial skills and technological knowledge. Studying Creative Technology and Enterprise will prepare you for a rapidly-changing global digital economy in which your ability to adapt on-the-fly and make creative contributions will be your major resource.” – CTE Course Booklet

I was keen to crowdfund my master’s degree because I wanted the means of funding my postgraduate studies to be true to the enterprising focus of my masters.

I had also spent a good year familising myself with crowdfuding and how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign – link to blog post.

I had originally planned to run my masters crowdfunding campaign on StudentFunder.

StudentFunder was a crowdfunding platform that was founded in 2012 to enable students to access fair finance for funding their postgraduate studies (but it later folded in 2017 due to losing its competitive edge thanks to the introduction of government-backed postgraduate loans in 2016).

The StudentFunder model was very simple: You would have to crowdfund one half of your tuition fee on the StudentFunder platform and, if that was successful, StudentFunder would then loan you the other half of the tuition fee amount which you would have to pay back in fair instalments.

I had been accepted as a part-time postgraduate which meant that I would be studying my master’s degree over two years.

My original plan for crowdfunding my masters would have been to have done it via two different crowdfunding campaigns over two years…

Year 1 Tuition Fee – £3,210 – Half crowdfund it and half take a loan out it on Student Funder

Year 2 Tuition Fee – £3,210 – Fully crowdfund it independently on either GoFundMe or IndieGoGo.

I wanted to secure the tuition fee funding via StudentFunder for year 1 because the backing of a specifically postgraduate student funding institution like StudentFunder would have imbued my crowdfunding campaign with an added legitimacy that would have made the whole endeavour easier to see though to fruition.

Then I would have built on the legitimate success I had achieved in the first StudentFunder campaign to bring the second independent crowdfunding campaign to an equal triumph.

The second crowdfunding effort, and main campaign film, would have been called The Masters of Crowdfunding.

Masters because it relates to the master’s degree I was studying, but also masters because I would have already had one successful crowdfunding effort under my belt by this point.

One can only be called a master when one can do something one their own independent of assistance from others.

Plural because again I wanted to apply it to anyone and say anyone could be doing what I’m doing.

I wanted to fund the second year’s tuition independently of StudentFunder because it would have further built on and demonstrated the entrepreneurial nature of my master’s degree.

Bare in mind, by the time I would have initiated the second crowdfunding campaign, I would already have been well into my first year studies which would have required me to undertake projects of an enterprising nature.

I also didn’t want to have to take out a second StudentFunder loans (which they may not even have allowed me to take out a second one).

Finally, I wasn’t just orchestrating these crowdfunding campaigns to fund my postgraduate studies, I was also do them to demonstrate the potential of crowdfunding of as a creative and enterprising means of securing funding for all types of endeavours.

With my own case, I was keen to demonstrate that a master’s degree tuition fee could be raised either by an academic-aligned platform like StudentFunder or with a more independent and wide-ranging focused platforms like GoFundMe or IndieGoGo.

The fact that crowdfunding can be used to provide the financial assistance to gain entrance to what was previously financially insurmountable and impossible to access – That’s the miracle of crowdfunding. Roll credits.

Making a Killer Campaign Film

I wanted my crowdfunding campaign to stand out.

I needed my crowdfunding campaign to stand out.

Crowdfunding campaigns of any nature are hard enough to sell to patrons.

But they’re even harder when you are using it to fund a tuition fee from which the patron will get almost no perks or benefits!

The only real selling point I had to exploit were in my desires to demonstrate the potential crowdfunding enabled anyone to unlock by showcasing how this crowdfunding campaign would allow me to unlock my own potential via my master’s degree.

The best means I had my disposal of demonstrating the potential I had to offer before I had even studied my masters was to showcase my myself, my skills and my ambitions in the campaign video.

Most of the student focused crowdfunding campaigns I had witness had been low quality webcam jobs with tired looking students pleading to the camera.

Mine absolutely could not be one of those!

Mine needed to be engaging, entertaining, educating and all tied up in a confident and vibrant form that absolutely demonstrated the competency I had already developed as a visual storyteller thanks to my First Class BA (Hons) in Creative Writing with Film and Scree Studies.

If my campaign video was a high-quality short film that stood out from all the rest, it would make the whole of my crowdfunding campaign stand out and it would stand a vastly greater chance of achieving it’s funding target.

This is why I decided to make a campaign film, opposed to a campaign video.

I approached it as a filmmaker about to embark on making a short film.

I also knew that I couldn’t do it on my own which is why I employed the help of my colleague George Oram who I already worked with on a couple of filmmaking projects.

IMAGE – George

George was a year behind me with his BA (Hons) which meant that he was still attending university and came with the advantage of still having access to all the university’s filmmaking equipment.

The time scale was for bringing the film and the rest of the campaign together was very tight.

I hadn’t decided I was going to crowdfund my master’s degree until the end of May 2014, my degree was due to start in October 2014 and I still had to allow 30-days in which to run the actual crowdfunding campaign.

But George was very keen to do some more filmmaking and was fully onboard, so I very quickly got to writing a script.

I didn’t massively overthink it, I just worked with the message I wanted to convey – Raising the money to cover my tuition fee so I could unlock my potential with my master’s degree and also educate about crowdfunding and demonstrate how it can be used to help others to unlock their potential.

Then I just endeavoured to convey that message in the most visually interesting and realistically filmable way possible with a non-existent budget.

I was going to study my master’s degree at Bath Spa University, which is the same university where I studied my BA (Hons), so I used the university campus, the city of Bath and the surrounding countryside as my filming sets.

I finished the first draft on 17/06/2014 and we started filming on the same day.

I then continued to rewrite the script while we filmed the footage for it.

I finished the final ninth draft on 15/07/2014 by which time we had already done 11 days of filming in various locations.

The process of filming the earlier drafts just kept stimulating new ideas!

The final day of filming occurred on 15/08/2014 by which time we had done 23 days of filming in both Bath and Bristol.

Expanding the Campaign Film into a Multi-Channelled Marketing Effort

When I made the decision that I was going to crowdfund my master’s degree, I didn’t give much thought to the actual crowdfunding campaign beyond knowing I was going to do it on StudentFunder and it was going to have an absolutely killer campaign film headlining it.

However, I did start to give more thought and planning to the rest of the campaign during the filming of the campaign film.

Beyond the campaign film, I knew that I would have to put together an absolutely top-notch campaign page on StudentFunder that I would promote through social media and with in-person outreach.

But if I wanted to run a successful 30-day crowdfunding campaign then I needed additional content and further channels of outreach for attracting new patrons and promoting the campaign throughout.

As we were filming the main campaign film, I conceived of additional video content that fitted within a 30-day marketing campaign calendar.

The additional content not only further explored my reasoning for crowdfunding my master’s degree, but also fulfilled my objective of educating why crowdfunding was such an amazing tool to employ for unlocking potential.

Roughly, the video marketing calendar would have run thus…

BEFORE THE START OF THE CAMPAIGN

  1. Miracle Masters Me – The Teaser for the Miracle of Crowdfunding 

 

THE FIRST 10 DAYS

  1. Day 1 – The Miracle of Crowdfunding: My Masters Campaign Film – Comfortably Concise Version
  2. Day 2 – The Miracle of Crowdfunding: My Masters Campaign Film – Epically Uncut Version
  3. Day 3 – Crowdfunding Potential: The Example of the Miracle of Crowdfunding
  4. Day 5 – Crowdfunding Incentives: The Perks of the Miracle of Crowdfunding
  5. Day 7 – Crowdfunding Revealed: The Research of the Miracle of Crowdfunding 

 

THE MIDDLE 10 DAYS

  1. Day 10 – Crowdfunding Goal: The Masterplan of the Miracle of Crowdfunding 
  2. Day 13 – Crowdfunding Failure: The Longevity of the Miracle of Crowdfunding
  3. Day 16 – A Day in the Life of the Box: The Reality of the Miracle of Crowdfunding 
  4. Day 20 – Crowdfunding Aspirations: The Dream of the Miracle of Crowdfunding 

 

THE LAST 10 DAYS

  1. Day 22 – Making a Masters Campaign Package: The Making of the Miracle of Crowdfunding, Part 1 
  2. Day 24 – Let’s Do It Again: The Bloopers of the Miracle of Crowdfunding 
  3. Day 26 – I’ve Made Some Changes: The Alternatives of the Miracle of Crowdfunding 
  4. Day 28 – Re-Making a Masters Campaign Film: The Making of the Miracle of Crowdfunding, Part 2
  5. Day 29 – Audio Commentary for The Miracle of Crowdfunding: My Masters Campaign Film – Epically Uncut Version

 

AFTER OR DURING THE CAMPAIGN (depending on when and if financial goal was reached)

  1. The Miracle Realised: The Conclusion of the Miracle of Crowdfunding
  2. The Miracle Not Realised: The Continuation of the Miracle of Crowdfunding – This would have been posted if the campaign had not funded its full amount and would have laid the groundwork for another crowdfunding campaign.

 

AFTER THE CAMPAIGN

  1. The Masters is a Go – The Coda for The Miracle of Crowdfunding

A 2-3 minute video that would act as a tease for my Masters course and be lead in for The Masters of Crowdfunding – the crowdfunding campaign for my second year. It would involve popping over to Corsham campus and grabbing a few shots of where I will be studying; as well as a short scene with myself.

 

Like the main campaign film, I also wrote scripts for…

  • Miracle Masters Me – The Teaser for the Miracle of Crowdfunding –
  • The Miracle Realised: The Conclusion of the Miracle of Crowdfunding

The Miracle Not Realised: The Continuation of the Miracle of Crowdfunding did not have a script written for it. Rather, I filmed a few alternate takes that would have fitted within what was scripted and shot for the The Miracle Realised version.

What footage we shot for the rest of the videos was briefly outlined prior to filming and then mostly improvised.

We did shoot a lot of this material – link to blog post

If You Want Something Done Right, Build It Yourself

I’ve always enjoyed building things as it satisfies my natural inclination to be creative.

I also like the freedom to be in control of what I’m making.

However, at some point, either myself or someone else needs to reign me in because I will just keep expanding, evolving and complexifying things.

My original plan had been to run my 30-Day campaign at the end of August 2014 (that would ideally would’ve been successful) to allow me to start the first year of my master’s degree at the end of September 2014.

But, by the time I entered August 2014, it was becoming painfully clear that I had bitten off more than I could chew with The Miracle of Crowdfunding.

You can certainly see that in some of the footage I shot, I was very stressed and under a lot of pressure.

IMAGE – Still of me under pressure

There was no way I would have the full campaign, with its videos, website and full marketing plan, brought together by the end of August.

So I resorted to Plan B and deferred the start of my master’s degree to the following September in 2015.

This bought me another year to get my campaign in good shape.

This also gave me the spring and summer of 2015 to film any missing footage.

But a lot of new creativity and learning occurred between September 2014 and September 2015.

As I headed into 2015, I was actively working on three additional creative projects: the Breaking Cinema podcast, The Cinema Complex documentary and my 365 FRAMES 2015 video a day project.

As I worked on these other projects and the scope of my ambitions grew, I found my attention drifting further and further away from The Miracle of Crowdfunding.

I was also doing a lot of studying via MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) while I was developing these other projects.

As part of my research into crowdfunding and marketing, I had started studying MOOCs in September 2013 and I continued to do so all throughout 2014, even when I was working on The Miracle of Crowdfunding.

By the time I had entered 2015, I had studied over 40 MOOCs and I increasingly started to view my postgraduate portfolio of MOOCs as another creative project in its own right.

And the more MOOCs I studied, the more I started to realise that I could quite easily cover the full curriculum of my MSc in Creative Tech and Enterprise.

In fact, I could satisfy the curriculum of any master’s degree program that took my fancy.

I had looked at a lot of masters programs with very diverse disciplines of focus before I accepted the offer to study the MSc in Creative Tech and Enterprise.

While I was very keen to undertake my MSc which was very much positioned as a transdisciplinary degree, I had still been slightly begrudging about studying it.

The fact of the matter was there were other disciplines beyond creative tech and enterprise that I wanted to study.

I wanted to study a master’s degree that would set me up for life in the personal, professional and planetary senses.

I wanted to study a master’s degree that did not exist.

But it did exist in a heavily fragmented form across countless MOOCs.

MOOCs that I could study at my own pace and which I could piece together however I saw fit as part of an expansive postgraduate portfolio.

An expansive portfolio that could exist on its own website as an interactive and explorable degree diploma with a range of creative practical projects that would demonstrate the wealth of my learning.

And that was the lightbulb moment.

I was going to build my own master’s degree.

As soon as I hit that idea both my MSc and crowdfunding campaign became completely redundant.

I withdrew from my MSc in 2015.

Then I spent the rest of the year building out my postgraduate portfolio of MOOCs while also giving thought to how I was going to bring the vast curriculum into an easily summarizable self-declared master’s degree.

It wasn’t until 2016 that I finally declared my postgraduate portfolio as being my Master of Transdisciplinary Application a.k.a. my MTA Portfolio.

Even beyond that point my MTA has continued to evolve and has slowly found its manifestation as an explorable and interactive degree certificate on ibuiltmyown.education.

Far from being a wasted effort, The Miracle of Crowdfunding served as an incubator for an even better creative project.

For me, that’s the true miracle of The Miracle of Crowdfunding – it gave birth to my MTA Portfolio and ibuiltmyown.education.

Creativity never ends, it just evolves.

And that’s why if you want something done right, you need to build it yourself.

Through the creative process of evolution, you too will also evolve.