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 Amazon.com.  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.

 

 

Mofilm honors their Chicago winners with awards, music, good times and shrimp!

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The 2015 Mofilm Chicago winners show off their whale tails

Mofilm’s annual pre-Lollapalooza awards dinner has become one of my favorite mid-summer traditions.  (It’s right up there with Pierogi Fest in Whiting, Indiana!)  I’ve never actually won a prize in this particular contest but I live in the Chicago area and every year the nice folks at Mofilm remember to send me an invite.  I’ve been to this dinner three times now and 2015 was definitely the best year yet.  As always the party took place in a private room overlooking the Chicago river at Smith and Wollensky.  That’s a fancy-shamncy spot but team Mofilm hooked me up with a +2 so I actually got to bring some friends along.  And when I walked in I was surprised to see real-life friend of VCN, Joel Levinson.  It turns out that Joel had won 1st place in the 3M category so Mofilm flew him in from Ohio.  Actually, Mofilm flew in all the winners (as they always do) and there were even a few filmmakers from Brazil and Mexico.

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On the left there are the 3M winners Joel and his wife Randi, me (Dan!) and my friend Marissa are in the center and in the back there’s Thiago the Weber winner and his friend.

The party always happens the night before Lollapalooza because the winners also receive a par of tickets for the weekend-long concert in Grant Park.  So the out-of-towners were all buzzing about the show.  The dudes from Brazil were especially psyched because they were finally going to get to see Metallica play live.  I personally wasn’t going to Lollapalooza so I just kept buzzing about how awesome the pre-dinner seafood spread was.

My friends and I pounded down some champagne and shrimp and after 30 minutes of mingling we went into the next room for a ridiculously wonderful dinner.  As we ate we got to watch all the winning commercials.  They were….

3M 1st Place: Joel & Randi Levinson “More than just Post Its”
LIPTON 1st Place: Raul Fernandez “A Little Self Help”
YMCA 1st Place: Grace Jackson “So Much More”
GRAVY TRAIN 1st Place: Sean Cunningham & Mary Greenwalt  “Working like a Dog”
MANWHICH 1st Place: Jonathan Hayes and Christine Butcher “Welcome Home”
WEBER 1st place: Thiago da Silva & Leandro Romero “We Care”

All of the winning videos were actually damn good!  I’m not kidding; it was one of the best slate of Mofilm winners I’ve ever seen.  And in another nice surprise, Joel wound up winning the grand prize of the whole fest which means he went home with double whale tails.

I could go on and describe the rest of the night but photos are more fun than words.  So how about I just post a few a bunch of pics from the party.  These were all taken by Mofilm’s photographer:

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It’s the Mexico City team!
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My friend Rujanee does some networking
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That’s Lloyd Choi, one of the biggest commercial contest winners of all time
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Me taking a blurry pic of the Mexico City crew
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There’s the President of Mofilm-North America, Alex Arata
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Here’s me pretending not to notice that my picture is being taken
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These are the cool dudes from Brazil.  They were really stoked to buy some camera lenses while in the US
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My friend Marisaa tries the shrimp
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One of the best views in the city.
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I went with the rib eye
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Joel graciously accepts his award
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There’s a good chance that I’ll be moving to Milwaukee in a few weeks but that’s only 90 minutes away so hopefully I’ll get to come back and party with the Mofilm crew again next year.  And who knows….maybe next time I’ll be the one winning a whale tail!  Ok, probably not.  But if Mofilm starts handing out a “most jumbo shrimp eaten during the cocktail hour” award I’m sure I’ll win that one in a walk.

MSI’s “Month at the Museum” winner

I live in the south suburbs of Chicago so I’ve been to the Museum of Science and Industry plenty of times over the years.  It’s a fine place to spend an afternoon, especially if you like giant train sets.  But I don’t know if I could handle spending a whole month there.  And that just happens to be the prize in the MSI’s Month at the Museum contest.  Well, that and $10,000.  The winner of the contest gets to become the museum’s “roommate” for 30 days.  Once the winner goes in, they can’t leave.  They are given an “apartment” inside the museum but they can also go sleep among the exhibits.  I’d probably take up residence in the giant, walk-through heart.  Aside from sleeping in fiberglass organs the winner will also help promote the museum and teach science experiments to kids.  That’s why, despite all the e-mails and messages I got from friends saying “this is the perfect contest for you!” I didn’t enter this one.  It seemed like a sure thing that the winner would wind up being a cute girl with an adorable personality.  I mean seriously, think about it…a girl sleeping inside the lunar lander at the museum and teaching kids about magnets seems cute…but there’s just something a bit creepy about a full grown man doing that.  Plus if I won, I would just hit on chicks all day long, man.  Eventually I’d find one who’s fantasy it was to get in on in the coal mine.

More than 1,500 people submitted videos for this contest.  The MSI picked a group of finalists and let voters choose the ultimate winner.  Here she is:

Month at the Museum Winner. Prize: $10,000 + a month at the MSI

The way the MSI announced the winner was cool.  Here’s a recap from the museum’s website:

In this morning’s live ceremony, the winner of the Month at the Museum search was revealed with scientific flair. Each of the five finalists — Alex, Felix, Johnathan, Kate and Krispijn — was given a laboratory flask and a test tube. Four of the flasks contained water, but the other actually held hydrogen peroxide. In this favorite experiment at MSI, called “Elephant’s Toothpaste,” only the flask of hydrogen peroxide would cause a reaction when, after a countdown, the finalists simultaneously poured test tubes of sodium iodide into their individual flasks. One flask sprouted a bubbly pillar of orange foam.

Sadly, more than 2 dozen onlookers were blinded by science during the ceremony

The winner starts her month at the MSI on October 20th.  I wasn’t planning on going to the museum just to gawk at her but I just saw on the museum’s website that they’re currently running an exhibit about the muppets!  I might actually have to go to that.