Student partners with NIIC venture lab to create film

Matthew Burris

HUNTINGTON, Ind. Huntington University junior Matt Burris is partnering with the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center's student venture lab to make his feature film "The Axe Murders on 9."

Burris, a film production major who moved to Fort Wayne in 2009, drove past the NIIC building every day and was curious about what exactly they did in there. So, one day, he walked in and found out. Through the NIIC's student venture lab, Burris became the first filmmaker to be sponsored. He now has his own film company, Signed Visuals.

"It was a classic case of being in the right place at the right time," he said. "They wanted to branch into more creative ventures, and I'm a filmmaker."

Burris went through a three-level process to persuade investors to fund his film. The NIIC's venture lab functions through an equity investment, and they prefer sponsoring projects that are new, different and innovative. Burris said the NIIC was especially helpful in guiding him on how to present creative ideas through a business framework and communicate his ideas to business-minded people.

"I had no business training before I started working with the NIIC," Burris said. "Over the course of the last few years, they coached me through the process, and I have critical business skills now that I lacked before."
Karl LaPan, president and CEO of the NIIC, saw how Burris fit with the venture lab's vision.

"Our program is designed to give students the opportunity to experience the successes and disappointments of advancing one's dreams to the stage where the idea first meets the customer and the marketplace," LaPan said. "Ventures, like Matt's Signed Visuals, provide an important experiential launch pad to give birth to a student's business idea or concept, and to be able to say unequivocally, anything is possible with persistence, determination and passion."

Burris, through the venture lab's sponsorship, has raised $10,000 to make "The Axe Murders on 9." This Hitchcock-inspired thriller follows the story of Tawny whose ill-dated stop off Highway 9 locks her in a trap set by an axe-swinging maniac. Tawny must think her way out before her friends step into harm's way.
Burris hopes to film the project this summer.

"Matt's dedication and hard work is paying off as the student venture lab supports the completion of the shooting of his new movie," LaPan said. "Simply put, we invest in the potential of people like Matt."

For more information on the film, visit

For more information about the NIIC's Student Venture Lab, visit