The Chicago 2016 Olympics only had one winner; ME.

The Rio Olympics will be over in three days.  Thank God.  I usually enjoy the games but this year is different.  That’s because this year the Olympics are in Brazil….and not Chicago.  Most folks probably don’t remember this but eight years ago Chicago put in a bid to host the 2016 Olympics and the city made it all the way to the Top 4.  I live in the Chicago area and I thought the bid was an amazing idea.  I guess things worked out for the best but I’m still disappointed that “we” didn’t get the games.  (Most of the grimey hipsters I knew were against the whole thing for typical, dumb hipster reasons like “all the decent bars are gonna be packed for two weeks, eight years from now, man!”)

Anyway, one day, way back in the fall of 2008, I was walking through the loop and I saw a billboard that said the Chicago Bid Committee was hosting a video contest.  To enter, people had to shoot videos that explained “Why Chicago” would be a great place for the 2016 games.  First prize was a trip for two to Vancouver to see the preparations (yes, just the preparations) for the 2010 Winter Olympics.  But second prize….second prize was $5,000 in video production gear.

At that point I had entered and won just one online video contest.  I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime windfall and I didn’t realize that anyone else was running them.  I didn’t want to go to Vancouver but I sure as heck wanted to win five grand in camera gear.  So I set my sites on second prize.  There was just one problem; I didn’t own a video camera.  So I went to Walmart and bought a little handycam for $350.  I ran around town and got a bunch of footage and then I wrote some voice-over to match the footage.  Here’s my entry:

I can’t really remember what happened next but I think I made a Top 5 or Top 10.  Then there was a public vote phase that I tanked on purpose.  I told people to also vote for the video in first so that I could never pass them.  My plan worked and I wound up winning second prize.

Instead of $5,000 in production gear, the Bid Committee gave me a $5,000 gift certificate for  I used that sucker to buy myself the camera I had wanted for years, a DVX-100 plus a refurbished Mac and some lighting and audio gear.  And let me tell you, that gear changed my life.  I lost my job in early 2009 when the economy crashed but in those dark days I was able to make a nice living shooting goofy videos for online contests.  So even though Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid was a bust, it really wound up saving my ass.

Oh and camera I bought from Walmart?  Yeah, I returned it after I shot my video.  So thanks Walmart I guess you and your liberal return policies saved my ass too.



Here is the MUST ENTER video contest of the summer!

Usually when I learn about a really juicy video contest, I try to keep the news to myself.  But today I leaned about a contest that is so gigantic and that has so many prizes I figured it wouldn’t hurt to share the details.  Even though it’s only June I think we can safely call this the Must Enter contest of the summer.

NOTE:  I don’t want anyone affiliated with this contest to find and read this article.  So I’m adding hashtags to certain keywords to throw off google.

The contest in question is Lo#tus Bakeries “Your P#erfect Kick” challenge.  I’ve never heard of Lo#tus bakeries but I guess they make little cookies that go with coffee and tea.  They teamed up with a soccer star named Ed#en Ha#zard (whom I’ve also never heard of) and challenged him to kick a soccer ball futbol through a tiny opening in a giant wall of coffee cups….

Now the sponsor wants YOU to film your own creative “perfect” kick.  Ok, I know what you’re thinking; soccer is dumb.  Yeah, it is.  But you know what’s not dumb?  A trip for 2 to London.  And you know what’s really, REALLY not dumb?  50 TRIPS FOR TWO TO LONDON.

That’s right: the sponsor is going to send 100 people to London to have a meet-and-greet with Ed#en Haz#ard.  For a free trip to England you can bloody well pretend to get excited to meet a soccer player you’ve never heard of.  Now, there are a few catches here; the first is that not all 100 people will win plane tickets to London.  It seems like the sponsors expect a lot of winners to come from Europe.  And those folks will only get their ground transportation covered.  But I bet Lot#us has enough money set aside to fly in at least 25 pairs of winners.  So if the judges really like your entry, they’ll be able to cover your plane tickets.  The other catch in this contest is that you only get one free night in a hotel in London.  So if you want to stay longer you’ll need to spend a few hundred bucks and/or pounds of your own.  But in a way, this is actually good news.  I think it shows that the sponsor expects a lot of winners to come from the UK area.  (and that would free up more travel money for winners from the US.)  So anyway, don’t think of this as an all-expenses paid trip to England.  Think of it as a highly subsidized trip to London.

Here’s some info about how the winners will be chosen:

“The winners of the Contest will be selected as follows: a jury, composed of three members including Ed#en Ha#zard  (or a member of the Ed#en Ha#zard management), a member of the Organizer and a member of T#BWA, will select 50 winners from all valid entries based on the quality, the creativity, the fun factor and the general appeal of the uploaded video. The selection of the winners shall occur during July 2016”

So basically you just have to shoot a “fun” video of yourself shooting a soccer ball.  And actually, you can enter as many times as you want!  So if you can think of 20 different trick shots you can go ahead and shoot 20 entries.

The deadline for this monster contest is June 30.  So you better hurry up and get kickin’!  You can find more details and a link to the contest site HERE.

Doritos debuts the winner of their Dinamita ad challenge

The Crash the Super Bowl contest may be dead but Frito-Lay is still running commercial contests via their Legion of the Bold platform.  Last week they debuted the winner of one of their biggest contests to date, the Create A Dinamita Spot challenge.  Here’s how the LOTB described the contest:

This entire thing started over two months ago when we asked Legion of the Bold for ideas. Then we selected three bold ideas. Then we asked you all to pitch us your vision. Then we selected 3 Legion members to go make those spots.

Holy sh*t, wait a second…this all sounds really familiar.  Is it possible that Frito-Lay just ripped off Tongal’s 3-phase, contest model?  Tongal was running idea, pitch and video phases long before LOTB ever existed.  This Dinamita contest even had a “wildcard” element; three pitch winners were guaranteed to receive prizes (in addition to their production grants) but one of the four prizes was set aside for a “wildcard” video that anyone could shoot on spec.  That is EXACTLY how things work over at Tongal.

Ok, I’m going to stew on all this and do some digging.  For now let’s get back to the Dinamita contest.  Here’s the entry that won the grand prize.  The sponsor must like it because they’re already running it as a web ad.  In the last week, it’s been viewed more than 800,000 times on Facebook alone.

First Place Winner.  Prize:  $15,000:

The other three winners in this contest also received some pretty big prizes.  Second place got $12K, third got $10K and 4th got $7.5K.  To see all the winning videos, head here:

Filmmakers Beware: wants you to PAY to enter their video contests

Suckers Welcome.
Suckers Welcome.

So far the new video contest site, has failed to catch on with filmmakers.  Most of their contests have had small prize pools and received only a handful of entries.  For example, their recent “Webisodes” contest offered just $600 in prizes and only 5 people bothered to enter.  One of TAA’s biggest competitions to date was for Hilton’s Home2 Suites.  $17,000 was at stake but only 37 entries were submitted.  And a lot of those entries are kind of fishy….I think the folks behind TAA may have enlisted friends to make some quick and sloppy entries just to make the contest look more popular.  (Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.)

I think TAA’s main problem is that their system is kind of confusing.  Some winners are picked by a panel of judges and some winners are picked via an online vote.  Some prizes are paid out in cash and other prizes are paid out in mysterious “site credits.”  And even though the contests are open to the public, sometimes entries might be rejected if the “quality of content” is too low.  But the craziest and weirdest thing about TAA is that some contests are free to enter but others are not.  Check out the details for TAA’s new “Filmmaker Tips” video contest:

So TAA wants you to create video content for them on spec and then PAY for the opportunity to have it judged.  (I wonder if you get your $10 back if your work is rejected when you first try and upload it.)  I thought that maybe this DIY contest was an aberration but then I realized that the Site Credit prizes are supposed to be used to pay future entry fees!  I poked around the site and found a few more contests that also have entry fees:
The Reel Pitch Trailer Challenge.  Deadline:  July 4th, 2016.  Entry Fee:  $30

2016 Music Film & Video Contest.  Deadline:  May 17, 2016.  Entry Fee:  $15

Wild and Green Short Films.  Deadline:  April 18th, 2016.  Entry Fee:  $10

Anime Shorts Contest.  Deadline:  April 25, 2016.  Entry Fee:  $25
I don’t know for sure why TAA charges entry fees but I think it’s because the company has connections to the world of Film Festivals.  In fact, it seems like they’re trying to get film fests to use the TAA platform to run their competitions.  But Film Festivals charge entry fees because most of them are are not-for-profit.  So the fees help cover the events’ costs.  But I’ve looked all over TAA’s website and I didn’t see the words “non-profit” anywhere.  In fact, the folks in charge of The Audience Awards are actively trying to recruit companies (and not film fests) that will “pay” to run contests on their platform.

Frankly, I don’t care why TAA is trying to charge people to enter their contests.  The reasons don’t really matter.  Let me say this loud bold and clear:  Under no circumstances should you ever pay a fee to enter a video contest.  It is unethical and inappropriate.  For-Profit companies should not be charging you to create content on spec.  I’ve only seen a few other companies try and do something like this but TAA is definitely the most egregious offender I’ve ever come across.  That Anime Shorts contest I just listed has a grand prize of just $300!  It takes a lot of nerve to ask filmmakers to pay $25 to have a shot at winning $300.  Obviously the sponsors of this contest are probably expecting people to submit material that already exists.  But it still feels like a scam, doesn’t it?  (Maybe that’s why the contest has only received one entry so far.)  And if a contest looks like a scam and feels like a scam, it’s probably a scam.  After all, if a website is so desperate for cash that they NEED everyone to kick in $15, do you really think they’re going to pay up when you win?