Non-profit tech advice helps local independent film society enter the app business

As more Canadian not-for-profit arts organizations make the leap from paper-based systems to online tools, new opportunities for collaborating, sharing and innovating are emerging. Such is the case for the Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta (FAVA), whose efforts to build and expand a software tool for sharing its videos and services has created a national community of media organizations. Collectively, they are building a system to make original Canadian content more accessible to all.

FilmReel is an app that allows film co-ops to easily capture, store and exhibit videos, as well as manage film equipment rentals, membership invoices and payments, and the logging of volunteer hours. Video housed in the app can be embedded on the co-op’s website and shared via social media, reducing the need to upload it to a third-party site. (The software includes a data storage solution for filmmakers looking to store terabytes of video.)

The tool, which was presented at Startup Edmonton’s Launch Party this past October, received funding through government grants, as well as vital digital support from Cybera, Alberta’s not-for-profit technology accelerator.

The idea for the app came as FAVA began upgrading its website, FAVATV.com.

“We wanted to upgrade our movie database to digitally store the 35 years of films we had collected, and realized we needed to improve our website to make these videos more accessible,” says Andrew Scholotiuk, Director of FAVA TV. “It was expensive and complicated to use other video sharing websites that would connect to our site, so we thought: ‘Why not create our own software solution to draw videos from our database to our website?’.”

Since FAVA began using its new software, Scholotiuk says they have seen a 20% growth in membership and 300% increase in revenue. “We quickly realized we had a tool that could be useful to other film societies across Canada,” he adds. “Now, we’re developing community interest in new films, and building momentum for upcoming videos. We’re also getting feedback and ideas from other co-ops to expand the software, so it’s a collective build.” 

Given the scale and complexity involved in expanding the app, FAVA’s team approached Cybera for technical know-how.

“Cybera advised us on how to get started and what to be aware of, how to make the app easy to share, how to create the documentation to guide the developers we hired, and some privacy best practices to keep in mind,” says Scholotiuk. “They were extremely helpful in showing us (a group of filmmakers who had no idea how to code) what path to take.”

“It is great to see smaller groups like the Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta embrace the idea of creating their own software solutions,” says Robin Winsor, President and CEO of Cybera. “In our company, we’re passionate about technology, and eager to spread the message to all Albertans about the digital solutions that exist to improve work and play. The app that FAVA has developed also demonstrates the community-building benefits of such technologies.”

FilmReel has been tested by seven film co-ops across Canada, and Scholotiuk says 10 others have expressed interest in getting started with the software. FAVA has also been approached by radio stations looking to catalogue and store their music files using FilmReel. They are now exploring new funding opportunities to expand the capabilities of the app for other sectors. 

For more information, visit Filmreel.ca.