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The 2016 Crash the Super Bowl contest is closed. Now I want to see your entries!

crash_the_superbowlThe deadline for the final installment of Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl contest is tonight.  Did you shoot an entry this year?  If so, I’d like to see it!  Every year I offer an open-review period for VCN fans.  If you post a link to your entry I will watch it and give you a short, honest, un-biased review.  This is a chance for you to get some feedback from someone who isn’t you best friend or mom.  If you shot an amazing entry, I will tell you so.  And if you’re entry isn’t so great, well, I’ll try and explain why it doesn’t work for me.  Here’s how to get one of my free reviews:

Step 1:  Leave a comment on this article and post your link.  Please do not post other people’s ads.  If you didn’t help make it, I can’t review it for you.

Step 2:  Within 24 hours, I’ll watch your entry and I will post a review right below your comment.  (That means I may alter the timestamp on some comments so that the order goes link, review, link, review, link review…)  Don’t worry if your comment doesn’t appear right away; first-time commenters needed to be approved before their comment goes live.

Step 3:  If you’d like to show your appreciation for the review, all I ask is that you follow VCN on twitter:

Last year I wrote about 100 reviews and it really took a toll on my brain.  So this year I will only do reviews for 8 days.  If you send me your link between now and November 23rd I promise to write a review.  One more thing: I can’t do private reviews so please don’t email me links.  Good luck everybody!  I can’t wait to see your cheesy masterpieces.


November 24th Update:

OK FOLKS, REVIEW TIME IS OVER FOR 2015! Thanks to everyone who sent me links. Some comments got stuck in my spam filter but I think I found them all. So if your link was missing, go back and see if it’s been added. If I missed your entry, please leave a comment and let me know.



Why does every Project Greenlight movie suck?

Project Greenlight is the ultimate video contest; thousands of filmmakers submit videos and one winner gets the chance to direct a “real” movie.  And if that movie is a success, the director basically wins a whole new career.  But after 14 years and 4 seasons no Project Greenlight winner has ever claimed Part Two of their prize.  That’s because all 4 Project Greenlight movies have been pretty bad.  It’s fun and interesting and exciting to see how these guys make their sausage but the actual movies that were produced, Stolen Summer (2002), The Battle of Shaker Heights (2003), Feast (2005) and now The Leisure Class (2015), were all big letdowns.

I had high hopes for this year’s winner, Jason Mann.  He seem like an deeply serious and talented filmmaker.  And he probably is.  But the film he wrote and directed this year was disappointing….and not because the car crash in the middle of the film wasn’t big enough.  The film looked beautiful and the actors were actually pretty damn good but the script was just a mess.  The story felt un-finished and the plot was practically non-existent.  Anyone who has seen the show knows that the two lead actors improvised a lot of their lines and it seems like most of the best dialogue was born on the set and not in the writer’s room.  The Leisure Class actually had a chance to be a good movie but the film’s writers Jason Mann and (Season One winner) Pete Jones just couldn’t crack the story in time.  So in the end the film felt small and rushed and incomplete.

I think I’ve watched almost every episode of Project Greenlight and after all these year’s I’ve finally figured out why the final films aren’t great.  No, the screenplays aren’t the problem.  They’re just a symptom of the problem.  The producers of Project Greenlight have set up a system that almost guarantees failure.  This year the winning director received three million dollars from HBO to produce his film.  That’s a tiny amount of money to big stars like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck but to an independent filmmaker three million bucks is a small fortune.  Some of the best movies I’ve ever seen were low budget indies that were created for a fraction of that amount.  For example, Napoleon Dynamite only cost $400,000 to make.  No, Napoleon Dynamite isn’t exactly a brilliant masterpiece but it’s a weird and original comedy that people still love.

But Napoleon Dynamite wasn’t produced by a big studio.  It was created by a bunch of crazy indie filmmakers in Idaho.  Those guys were able to make a great movie for a small amount of money because no one was forcing them to do things the right way.  And by “the right way” I mean the “professional” way.  Those filmmakers were driven by their passion and so a lot of people went with little or no pay (John Heder only got $1,000 to play Napoleon) and I’m sure the crew worked long hours without many breaks.

That might sound unprofessional but that’s part of the magic of indie filmmaking.  The people on set are their because they LOVE making movies and no one cares if they have Taco Bell for lunch three days in a row.

And that’s what’s wrong with Project Greenlight; HBO and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are trying to make a low budget film INSIDE the studio system.  They take indie directors and drop them in the middle of a “real” Hollywood movie.  As I said, three million dollars would normally feel like a fortune to a filmmaker like Jason Mann.  But three million dollars doesn’t go very far if you’re in LA and you need to rent production offices and get permits from every home owner on the block and stop shooting at exactly 9PM every night and schedule a 24 hour break for the crew after 5 days of shooting.

All of these factors were weighing down on Jason Mann and Pete Jones as they re-wrote The Leisure Class and those concerns affected their writing.  The whole movie takes place in one night in just three locations (a mansion, a party house and a dark road).  The writers clearly tried to keep things small because they knew they had to.  They knew that every new new location (or angle) meant a lengthy new set-up.  They also knew that it would take too much time to wait for the sunlight to be right in certain rooms so they just set the whole movie at night.  If you’ve seen The Leisure Class just consider this; imagine what the film would be like if the whole movie was actually just the third act of a bigger film.  What if the first act established the main characters and showed them grifting people?  What if we got to see them split up?  What if we got to see Charles meet and fall in love with Fiona?  What if we got to see other locations and events?  Basically I want you to imagine the characters from the Leisure Class in a bigger, broader version of the film.  Doesn’t that sound like a movie worth watching?

If HBO wants to try and fix Project Greenlight they should either give their next winner a whole lot more money or a whole lot less money.  If the producers want to make a studio film then they should pay what actually costs to make a studio film these days (maybe $5,000,000).  With an extra two million dollars a director can actually add a little depth and breadth to their project.  But I think a better option would be to slash the winner’s budget next time.  HBO should give the director $500,000 and then kick their ass to the curb.  The studio would set aside another $500K for stuff like insurance and post-production but the director would need to figure out the rest.  I doubt the studio’s lawyers would ever allow something like that to happen but I think it would finally make for a good show AND a good movie.


Will views and votes help you make the Crash the Super Bowl finals?

Crash the Super Bowl season (much like the Christmas season) seems to get longer every year.  It’s already November 3rd but the Doritos deadline is still 11 days away.  The season may be longer this time but the contest is progressing as it always does.  Every year in late October/early November I start seeing news stories like this:


Click this image to watch the news story

I’ll probably get a dozen google alerts for stories like that this month.  For reasons I’ve never fully understood, some filmmakers try and get “press” for their Crash the Super Bowl ads.  I think these stories happen because a lot of people don’t understand how the Crash the Super Bowl contest actually works.  The local news segments usually end with a “call to action” from the anchor; he or she will say something like “and if you want to help these young filmmakers make it to the finals you can head to and watch their entry and rate it five stars.”

Those calls to action always bug me because they show that the filmmakers (and the journalists who wrote the story) were too lazy to read the CTSB rules:  Here are the judging criteria for this year’s Crash the Super Bowl contest:


Notice that it doesn’t say anything about views or ratings?  I suppose Point #3 could be interpreted to mean views and votes but that interpretation would be wrong.  (Frito-Lay uses focus group testing to determine an ad’s public appeal)  For the record, views, votes and ratings do not “count” and they will NOT help a CTSB entry make it to the finals.  In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret; the CTSB judges don’t watch the entries on the contest website!  So they have no idea how many views or votes an entry has.

But like I said, that piece of info isn’t public knowledge.  The folks at Frito-Lay fully realize that hundreds of filmmakers desperately try and get views and 5-star ratings every year but no one from the company ever tries to correct the misunderstanding.  And I think that’s because Frito-Lay wants people to be confused.  Consider this: if views and ratings are meaningless, why does the website keep track of them?  The team that built must have realized that if they put a star-rating option, and if they ranked videos by views and votes, a lot of people would assume that views and votes mattered.  And when a filmmaker shares his entry on facebook (or on the Channel 2 news) they are giving Doritos free exposure.  A crappy, homemade Doritos commercial is still a Doritos commercial.  Maybe your Aunt Linda will remember your ad the next time she’s at the grocery store and the memory will inspire her to pick up a bag of Cool Ranch.

So if you’ve been worrying about your ad’s score or view count you can relax.  Those metrics are totally and completely meaningless.  Voting only matters after the finalists have been announced in January.  If you need more proof just watch some of the Highest Rated and Most Viewed entries on the Crash the Super Bowl site.  Do you really think any of those commercials deserve to air during the Super Bowl?

mofilm-banner-2015 joins the crowded video contest landscape

Once or twice a year I’ll get an email from someone who wants me to promote their new video contest site.  I usually don’t respond because most new contest sites fizzle out after just a few months.  In fact it seems like some sites are created totally on spec; the founders launch the site, run a few small sample contests and then try and land some real clients a few weeks down the road.

This seemed to be the case with a new “Video Contest Platform” named The Audience Awards.  I got an email from them back in August that explained how their site would work…

“Brands and film festivals use our video hosting platform and run contests for short films that already exist and/or to put out a call for video UGC content. The audience chooses the winning films.”

I looked through and though they were running a few contests.  But most of them looked like this….


It seems like every new video contest site starts off by running some type of un-branded “comedy” video competition.  When you see something like that it means the company doesn’t have any corporate partners yet and so they’re running a general contest to drum up interest.  I usually feel bad when I see contests like this because most of the time the company’s founders are just flushing their own money down the toilet.

But it looks like The Audience Awards has survived their spec phase .  Recently they launched several big-money contests that are being sponsored by an actual client.  Right now they’re offering more than $50,000 in prize money from Hilton.  So it looks like The Audience Awards will be here to stay…at least for a while.  The video contest landscape is already pretty crowded and I’m surprised anyone would try and enter that market right now.  Starting a new Video Contest site is like starting a new fast food hamburger chain; the world already has “enough” of them so they new company isn’t meeting an un-filled need.

Now having said all that, you may want to check out this new site and enter one their contests.  A brand new Contest Site won’t have many members so competition will be low.  Unfortunately voting is a big part of the assignments run by The Audience Awards but I looked at some of their small-money sample contests and it doesn’t seem like anyone has been cheating like crazy.  So maybe they’ve managed to set up a fair system.  I doubt it but hey, you never know.


Youtube’s biggest star talks about money

Has anybody else noticed that kids today are weird little creeps?  Babies are still pretty chill but kids from age 8 to 14 give me the willies.  Every time I see kids at a party or something they’re acting sketchy.  I was at a 4th of July party this year and as the fireworks were exploding over our heads I looked over and saw a cluster of 12 years olds and they we’re all staring at their phones and tablets.  At other parties I see the kids scuttling around hiding from everyone so that no one tries to take their electronic devices away.  A few years ago I was at a family BBQ and I asked my 12 year old cousin, “hey what exactly are kids doing on their phones all the time?”  His response was “watching youtube videos!!”  He started telling me about all the awesome and hilarious shows he watches on youtube.  He could barely contain his excitement as he rambled on and on and on.  I was stunned.  The modern Internet finally made sense.  Millions and Millions of weird little kids with their expensive little phones are responsible for the phenomenon known as “Youtube Stardom.”   My little cousin is the reason why a video like this can generate tens of millions of views and earn thousands of dollars in revenue.

All that ad money can really add up and some youtubers are now making millions of dollars a year.  According to Forbes, the king of Youtube is a 25 year old guy from Sweden who posts videos under the name PewDiePie.  PewDiePie’s videos have been viewed more than 10 Billion (yes, billion with a B) times and last year he made $12,000,000 in ad revenue.  Youtubers don’t usually like to talk about money because they’re worried Google might shut down their account.  But PewDiePie has decided to come forward and talk a little big about his finances. So if you want to be the next Ray Williams Johnson (and who doesn’t) you may want to watch PewDiePie’s video for some insight and inspiration.


Anti-Gay idiots are boycotting Doritos and the Crash the Super Bowl contest

Taste the Rainbow

Taste the Rainbow!

In 2012 Mike Huckabee was a semi-serious contender for the republican nomination.  But people aren’t really buying his God-Guns-Grits-and-Gravy shtick anymore.  Huckabee is once again running for president but this time he’s polling at just 3%.  Desperate times call for desperate measures so Huckabee is trying to stay relevant (or at least on TV) by picking a fight over a few thousand bags of rainbow colored Doritos.

Huckabee (who seems like more a pork rind man) is upset because Frito-Lay teamed up with the It Gets Better Project which supports LGBT youth.  If you donated $10 the company would send you a bag of super-limited edition Rainbow Doritos.  (The bags have all been claimed but you can still donate here.)  It was a cute little stunt that was meant to help a very worthy cause but gays are icky so Huckabee is calling on Christians to boycott all Frito-Lay products.

Of course Huckabee can’t come right out and tell people to boycott a company that wants to keep gay teenagers from committing suicide.  So he’s using sex columnist Dan Savage as an excuse.  Savage and his husband created the first “It Gets Better” video in 2010.  Dan Savage has said some pretty gross (but insightful and funny) stuff about hardcore anti-gay Christian politicians like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. So Huckabee sent a letter to Frito-Lay’s board of directors that said, in part:

“It is beyond me to understand how a responsible corporation would think that partnering with someone who spews the vicious vitriol that Savage does would be worthy of your corporate contributions.”

He went on to say that the board should listen to this (NSFW!) audio clip and decide if Savage represents their company’s values.  And if they still want to work with It Gets Better then “the Christian community needs to be made aware that Frito-Lay has decided to not seek their business.”

But the Dan Savage stuff is just a smokescreen.  It Gets Better was inspired by Savage’s video but the project has taken on a life of its own.  It’s now a major charitable organization and I don’t think Dan Savage actually has much to do with how it’s run.

Huckabee’s fans clearly understand that this boycott isn’t really about one guy.  These people knew Huckabee wanted to punish a company for putting a rainbow on their bag.  So a few hundred slacktavists jumped on facebook and started posting a bunch of hateful stuff about gays on Doritos’ facebook page.  Doritos keeps posting about the Crash the Super Bowl contests so these posts are being targeted by nutballs who hate Dan Savage the fact that gay people exist.  So posts like this….


Are filled with comments like these…


I have to hand it to Doritos.  No pun intended but it’s pretty bold to leave all these ugly comments on their facebook page.  All this hate demonstrates exactly why we still need organizations like It Gets Better.

As for the Crash the Super Bowl contest, I doubt any of this garbage will have much of an effect on it.  The people making jokes about “gayritos” and “queer commercials” probably don’t have the brain power necessary to create a decent 30 second ad.  Plus slacktavists have really short memories.  A lot of these folks will probably forget all about their “BOYCOTT!!!!!” in a few weeks.


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