No fair! You used your skills!


A filmmaker from LA named Angela Kholer won both the $10,000 jury prize and the $10,000 audience award in the “Your Amazon Ad” contest.   On the contest page there’s a little story about how the video was created.  Their concept was to do an Ad for the Amazon Kindle:

“On a plane from Japan to Thailand, we brainstormed ideas and sketched out little stories that our character could fall into following different literary genres. We scribbled out pictures on napkins and made a flip-book, putting the little scenes in different orders. The day of the shoot, we gutted a pillow to make clouds and smoke (a last-minute addition) and did the commercial in one seven-hour take.”

Here’s the video.  I can’t embed it so click on the image to view it:

amazonPretty f#%&ing amazing right?

In all, the filmmakers shot more than 300 frames for their human stop-motion animation. That was a huge amount of effort and those folks certainly earned their winnings.  However…there seem to be a lot of disgruntled people on the Amazon contest site.  Some of the other contestants are upset about Amazon’s choices for the finalist slots.  People are complaining that the five finalist videos (which you can see here) are too good!!  Ha!  Is that a refreshing change or what!?  Usually other contestants are mad because the winning videos suck.  In this case, contestants are mad because Amazon only selected videos that seemed (to commenters on the contest site) to have been created by professional filmmakers.

I have actually seen these types of complaints before.  Non-pro video contestants feel like they are given false hope by contest organizers.  They assume the contest will be for amateurs only so they shoot a video with their Flip camera and assume they have a shot at winning a big pile of cash.  But then when a slick, HD video is selected as the winner they feel like the “little guys” never really had a shot at winning.

I can sort of understand this line of thought but yo…..$20,000 was up for grabs!  It always amazes me that in every big contest half the entries will be poorly shot, badly lit and have terrible sound.  Why would Amazon want to give thousands of dollars to an amateur-looking video?

Even though so much money was at stake there seems to be a real “anti-budget” mentality in the discussion boards on the contest site.  Contestants who didn’t have much money to spend feel that people who are already rich enough to own high-end cameras had an unfair advantage.  There’s even one discussion where contestants proudly compare their hyper-low budgets.

Like I said, I get the frustration but “best video wins” is the name of the game.  If you’re new to video contests here is one thing you must lean and accept:  Production Quality DOES matter.  You don’t need a super expensive HD camera and full crew though.  I once won $5,000 in a contest using a $250 camera from Walmart…which I returned after the shoot.

Videos need to be compressed to be posted to the web and that compression really levels the playing field.  As long as you can SEE all the action that is taking place in your video and as long as you can HEAR everything that is going on and as long as the script is good enough that the viewer CARES about what is happening then you will have a shot at winning.  You just need to learn how to make the most out of the gear you have.  Just look at the video that started this discussion.  Did it really take a lot of money or expensive gear to shoot that?  No way.  The only things it took was creativity and ingenuity.  As long as you have plenty of that you’ll be a serious contender in any contest you enter.

3 thoughts on “No fair! You used your skills!

  1. The fact of the matter is that folks doing this sort of competitive video stuff online are getting better and better. While some people see it as a way to advance their creativity and commercial reel to get work – the fact is that a lot of professionals are out of work right now and are entering these things in their spare time. As you said, when there’s *real* money on the table – the quality is going to naturally go up. The more people know about these assignments, the better the entrants.

    All that being said, I would never discourage people from entering because they didn’t have thousands of dollars in top-end gear. The most important thing about any of these contests and assignments – by FAR – is the message. If you can get the brand’s message NAILED with reasonable production values and a tight edit -you’re golden. Don’t sweat the HD stuff.

  2. I have done lots of contests, and read lots of contests rules. I have NEVER seen a rule that says “Amateurs Only”. But everybody always gets mad when the good looking one wins.

    However, that being said. When I entered the Heinz $57,000 contest. There were a lot of really good entries. Im sure some had very large budgets. and some looked very slick, and pro. But in the end, the one that one, was some dude who filmed his kids in his kitchen eating a hotdog!!!! Looks like he must of spent his whole budget of $8 on dogs and buns!

    -David Rorie

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