Mofilm goes “pro” and shifts focus away from video contests

The video contest landscape just got a little smaller.  Last week Mofilm officially announced a change that has been in the works for years; the company is getting out of the video contest business.  After Poptent collapsed, Mofilm was briefly the biggest and best video contest site on the web.  At their peak, they were running dozens of video contests at a time.  Usually these contests would all be tied to a specific, global event like Cannes or Lollapalooza.  Big brands like Pepsi and Walmart would run commercial contests and the winners got big cash prizes.  But they’d also win trips to the event that was tied to the contest.  So for example, if you won a contest that was tied to the Las Vegas film fest, Mofilm would send you to vegas to attend the fest.  On top of that, you’d also go to a ceremony where you’d receive a trophy for your work.



These events were amazing but I guess they were also pretty expensive.  About two years ago, I noticed that the number of fest/event assignments was shrinking.  I realized that something was up last year when they even skipped their annual Chicago/Lollapalooza contests.  By January of this year, there were barely and contest briefs on the site.  And now they’re officially gone for good.

The site is still chock-full of opportunities to make ads.  But almost all of the current assignments are labeled as “pro”.  What does that mean?  Well it means that Mofilm is basically just a middleman/production company now.  Brands post briefs for commercials or videos that they need.  Then filmmakers submit ideas and pitches.  The brand picks the team that they like and then they pay them to do the work.

The new process shaves tens of thousands of dollars off the Mofilm experience.  Brands no longer have to pay for prizes for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th place.  And they also don’t have to pay for trips to Barcelona or South Africa.

I’m not surprised that Mofilm made this change because they clearly had a set of favorite filmmakers.  There was a line-up of about 15 directors that just kept winning prizes over and over and over.  I once went to an event and talked to some Mofilm winners that were complaining about how exhausting it was to go on so many free trips.  I remember one of the rattling off a list of all the cities he “had to” go to that year because of Mofilm.

So if the same teams win all the time, why not just go pro and make the process a whole lot easier?

Because this move is going to kill the site, that’s why.  Poptent did the exact same thing and the decision wound up destroying the company.  I don’t understand why Mofilm didn’t learn from Poptent’s mistake.  Video contests attract fresh, new filmmakers.  Most of them never win anything but every once in a while you wind up with a new super-winner.  Going “pro” basically puts a wall around the community.  Brands will want to work with filmmakers who already have a strong track record.  The gate keepers won’t let in the weirdos and wiz kids that create memorable, fun, out of the box content.  So the videos that come out of these assignments will feel safe and lame.  Eventually, Mofilm’s favorite filmmakers will use their beefy new reels to get work on their own but no one will be left to replace those directors because everybody else gave up on Mofilm because their pitches were never selected.  So if you want to submit some pitches, I’d do it sooner rather than later.  I’ll be surprised if the company is still up and running this time next year.

A sneak peek at Mofilm’s new LA studio

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Later this week Mofilm will be opening a brand new production studio and event space in Los Angeles.  The company plans to host parties and screenings and other special events in the space and Mo-filmmakers will have access to the studio’s production facilitates.  The studio is an amazing idea and I think Mofilm’s members will be lining up to shoot there.  Anyone familiar with the Mofilm model knows that they give out hundreds of production grants every year.  These grants are incredibly helpful but after you pay a cast and crew and rent gear and budget for costumes and props and lunch there’s usually not much money left over for a location rental.  But thanks to this new studio, Mofilm’s west coast members will have have a big, beautiful professional studio at their disposal.  Filmmakers can even use the location to hold production meetings or casting sessions.  Here’s some more info from Mofilm:

The MOFILM LA Studio has been specifically created to provide our community with free production, casting, screening, learning and event facilities. So if you are looking for an easy-going creative space to work from and execute your projects then look no further!

Facilities include High speed wifi, private casting and meeting space, open café and soft seating area, fully stocked kitchen/bar, production studio, Bluescreen facilities, free valet parking, access to the MOLA crew, and a state-of-the-art movie theater space for screenings.

The studio’s grand opening is happening in Thursday night.  If you’re a Mofilm member and you want to go, you MAY be able to get an invite to the party.  The first step would be to join the studio’s facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/MOFILMLA.  Once you’re approved you’ll see more info about the grand opening.  But if you’re like me and you can’t make it to the party, these photos will give you a nice sneak peek inside the space:

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For more info and booking details, head here:  https://www.mofilm.com/info/LAStudio

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.

MofilmPro goes public

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Most video contest/spec commercial sites occasionally run semi-secret “pro” contests that aren’t exactly open to the public.  Companies love these pro contests because they’re guaranteed to get professional-looking videos.  But any mid-sized production company can deliver a decent web ad.  So I guess some sponsors go out of their way to hire video contest filmmakers because they also want their ads to have an organic, crowdsource-y feel to them.

Only the best and most successful members of sites like Mofilm, Tongal and Poptent ever get invited to participate in these contests.  But now Mofilm is experimenting with a public version of their Pro assignments.  Right now they’re accepting ideas from all members of the Mofilm community for a contest sponsored by Dove.  Here are the details:

At this stage we’re looking for great filmmakers with a great subject. We are not looking for detailed treatments, just the basic outline of your story.

Step 1) Download the brief and read it carefully.

Step 2) Submit your idea for a film via the submission form above before the deadline. You must include a picture of the planned subject of your film.  Don’t forget to include your showreel or previous MOFILM work.

After reviewing the submissions, Dove and MOFILM will select six to move into the second stage and develop into full, detailed treatments.  From these six treatments, three will be chosen to move forward into production and awarded the production budget of $20,000 to make their film. One of the three commissioned will also join MOFILM to celebrate at the LA event in November!

There is a $500 fee paid for those who complete a treatment, this will be included in the production budget for those treatments selected for production.

I’m not sure how much of that $20K the filmmaker gets to keep for himself.  And what happens if they don’t spend the entire budget?  If I was selected for this I’d probably pay my mom two grand to do craft services and then I’d pay all my friends $100 each to focus test my video.  And that right there is reason #23 and #24 why I never get selected for these types of contests.  Of course reason #1 is that I’m a my Mofilm track record suuucks.  I’ve entered maybe three or four mofilm contests over the years and I’ve never placed once. And I actually won production grants for some of those videos!  Actually, I think those grants are what really messed me up.  I’m used to shooting videos for like $80 so if someone gives me $1,500 my natural low-budget style gets all screwed up.  So anyway, I probably won’t apply for the Dove contest but you should because you’re awesome and I love you and goddammit I believe in you!

You can find the listing for the Dove contest (and I assume future MofilmPro contests) at the bottom of their Live Briefs page: https://www.mofilm.com/briefs/open