Two months ago Poptent and Userfarm announced that in April they’re going to join forces and launch a new crowdsourced video company named Vizy. While the architects of this plan are quick to call this move a “merger” it feels more like Userfarm (which seems to be in great shape) is absorbing Poptent (which seems to be in terrible shape). Over the last few years, a string of unfair and ill-conceived strategies managed to chase away many of Poptent’s most talented filmmakers. The brain-drain caused a drop in the quality and quantity of Poptent submissions and the drop in quality turned off potential clients. Poptent’s decline was so precipitous that today the company’s most valuable asset isn’t a physical asset at all; it’s data. The site claims to have a “community” of more than 70,000 members. So if Poptent and Userfarm merge their user data, they can claim to be the “largest community of video professionals in the world.” But of course that statement won’t exactly be accurate. What Poptent has are 70,000 accounts, not members. The vast majority of those accounts were created by spammers or by people who logged in once or twice and then never returned to the site. Based on Poptent’s public activity feed, I would estimate that the site has less than 1,000 real, active users.
But this is the 21st century and even crappy data has value. Thanks to Poptent’s massive collection of usernames and e-mail addresses, the struggling company (and a select group of employees) will get to carry on inside of this new thing called Vizy. But make no mistake; Poptent is going out of business. The company won’t exist anymore and the website will probably be deactivated. And these changes are already well underway. Userfarm is still going strong and currently has NINE public assignments up and running. But Poptent hasn’t launched a new public contest since October 2014. On top of that, Poptent’s staff members have stopped responding to posts in the website’s public forum and all of the company’s social media pages have been turned into Vizy accounts.
But here is the most disturbing sign of Poptent’s impending demise; the company has almost completely stopped paying filmmakers their prize money. Right now, dozens of members are waiting on tens of thousands of dollars (and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars) in checks from Poptent. Take for example the case of the Poptent team Indian Head Pictures. On October 29th, 2014, Poptent announced that their entry had won a $3,000 Brand Award in the Go Go Squeeze applesauce assignment:
Poptent used to send payments out within a few weeks but the guys from Indian Head Pictures have been waiting for their $3,000 for 146 days. But those filmmakers should consider themselves lucky because other Poptent members are claiming that the company owes them well over $10,000.
As you can imagine, these folks are starting to get a little nervous. The Poptent team is busy scrubbing the company’s name from every corner of the web and the site might be shut down at any moment. I’ve talked to a few people who are still waiting on some pretty big payouts and the staff has either been ignoring them or stonewalling them. These tactics are obviously unprofessional but they’re even more outrageous when you consider that the brands behind these contests have probably already paid Poptent the prize money. The brand usually pays up front so for example, Go Go Squeeze has probably already given Poptent the $3,000 that is supposed to go to the guys at Indian Head Pictures.
So why would Poptent hold on to money that belongs to other people? One Poptent member actually managed to get a response from a staff member and shared the info in the community forum. The rep said that some payments have been delayed because of the merger but after the major players meet with the investors, the company will start sending out payments later this week.
I’m sorry to say this but I’m not sure I believe that. The story just doesn’t make sense. I suspect that Poptent might be holding on to payments because they’re worried that the merger might fall apart. If that happened, Poptent would almost certainly have to shut down and declare bankruptcy. In that scenario, filmmakers would be lucky to recover a fraction of what the company owes them.
So, what should you do if Poptent still owes you money? Well, the first thing you should do is log into your “payment register” and take a screenshot. Like this:
You need to do this ASAP because if Poptent.net disappears tomorrow, your payment register will be gone for good. After you get your screenshot, start e-mailing staff members and ask where the heck your money is. SOme day you might need to prove that you actually tried to get your money. If no one writes back, call the main office and ask someone to guarantee that you’re going to get paid by a certain date. The company’s contact info is right here: http://www.poptent.com/company/contact/
Good luck everybody. Hope we all get what we’re owed. I feel like I should mention that I did try to contact several Poptent staff members before I wrote this article but no one responded to my message. I’ll post an update if I get a response or if I hear that payments are starting to go out.