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. goes offline

RIP Poptent: 2007 - 2015
RIP Poptent: 2007 – 2015

I used to have a lot of love for Poptent.  That site basically saved my ass a few years ago.  Back in 2008 I was working for an AV company when the economy suddenly crashed and burned.   Most of our clients were big banks and credit card companies and by the fall most of them were in freefall.  By the spring of 2009, I (and about 30 other AV techs in Chicago) were out out of work.  My company had laid off guys who had 20 years of experience so I knew there was no way in the world I’d be able to get a new AV job any time soon.  So after a few months on unemployment I started entering every big video contest I could find.  Eventually I discovered Poptent and compared to the crappy contests that most companies ran on their own, the Poptent contests were actually fun and fair.  I think I made about $10,000 during my first 9 months on Poptent.  Here’s one of my winning videos from 2009.  I won $3,500 for this Coors Light ad remix:


Now as you might have noticed, I uploaded that Coors Light video to my personal youtube account.  That used to be against Popetent’s rules and Terms of Service but there’s no need for me to worry about getting my Poptent account suspended because my Poptent account doesn’t exist anymore.  And guess what?  Neither does yours.  Last Thursday (and their PR site quietly went offline.

Everyone saw this coming but I was a little surprised that the site just blinked out of existence.  An official heads up would have been nice.  I think it was really sloppy and disrespectful that the staff didn’t at least send out an email to let their members know this was going to happen.  As I said, Poptent didn’t let filmmakers upload Poptent videos to third-party sites like Youtube or Vimeo.  Poptent videos were supposed to stay on Poptent.  So I’m sure a lot of filmmakers lost a lot of their work when the site went down.  I just checked my personal website and all of the Poptent videos I embedded there have been replaced with a 503 Service Unavailable message.

But a few thousand missing videos is nothing compared to a five hundred thousand missing dollars….and that’s allegedly how much Poptent still owes some of their members and employees.  It sounds like someone has started to send out partial payments to some of Poptent’s recent prize-winners.  If Poptent owes you money, please let me know if you’ve gotten a check recently.  You can leave a comment below or you can email me at

$350 Million “BrandTech” group acquires a majority stake in Mofilm

Mr. Jones of "You and Mr. Jones"
Mr. Jones of “You and Mr. Jones”

It sounds like our friends over at Mofilm have a new boss.  Last week it was announced that the world’s first “brandtech” group, You and Mr. Jones has acquired a majority ownership stake in Mofilm.  The group was created by David Jones, a “founding member of the Facebook client council and former global CEO of advertising group HAVAS.”  Jones wanted to launch an investment and development firm that would “bridge the gap between brands and technology.”  Apparently Jones isn’t the type of guy to do anything half-assed because he managed to raise $350,000,000 for his new venture.  According to TechCrunch, You and Mr. Jones will use that money to “acquire companies that create user- and machine-generated content” and that focus on brand and content strategy, social media marketing, programmatic media buying, multi-channel networks, and real-time measurement analytic. The group’s first two acquisitions were Mashable and Mofilm and it sounds like more high-profile purchases are already in the works.

So what does this mean for the filmmakers that use Mofilm?  It means the company’s financial future will be nice and secure for years to come.  And that’s good news for the entire Crowdsourced Video Community.  There’s been a lot of “Video Contest News” in the last 6 weeks but unfortunately it’s all been pretty grim.  Userfarm and Poptent pulled the plug on their new joint effort, Vizy, after a few disappointing weeks.  Vizy was Poptent’s last hope of survival so once the merger with Userfarm was dead, Poptent also had to shut down.  Poptent is so broke that the company stopped paying their staff and eventually someone just locked everyone out of the main office in Philadelphia.  These developments have caused a lot of panic because it looks like Poptent will probably wind up declaring bankruptcy.  And that means dozens of filmmakers will get screwed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money.

But thanks to this Jones guy, filmmakers can enter Mofilm contest and not worry about whether or not they’ll actually recive their prize money.  It’s really funny how these type of things work out.  The market has rewarded a good company (Mofilm) and eliminated the crappy company (Poptent.)  It’s survival of the fittest.  The folks at Mofilm actually care about their clients AND their filmmakers and the market took notice of that.  On the other hand, Poptent spent the last few years screwing their members.  All of the best filmmakers left the site which meant that their clients were unsatisfied with the ads they received.  Sales went down and eventually the investors got tired of  bailing out a sinking ship and pulled the plug.

So anyway, this You and Mr. Jones stuff is great news for all of us.  I have a feeling Mofilm will start running a lot more contests and I also suspect their prize packages are going to get bigger.  And that in turn will probably drive up prize amounts on all the other (remaining) video contest sites.

By the way, Mr. Jones, if you’re reading this I just wanted to let you know that for the right price I suppose I would consider selling VCN.  Ask any filmmaker and they’ll tell you this site is basically the Mashable of the video contest world so you’d be crazy not to make an offer!

Why did Poptent go broke?

Poptent new office space in Pjiladelphia
Poptent’s Philadelphia office

Poptent owes a lot of people a lot of money.  One former employee told me that the company has failed to pay filmmakers more than half a million dollars in prize money.  On top of that, Poptent also owes many of their employees some back pay and commissions.  So where did all the money go?  The employee I talked to said that Poptent’s management blew it on pointless and frivolous things.  He said that the company expanded way too fast, hired way too many people and then in 2014 they made an unnecessary move from the suburbs to downtown Philadelphia.  The company didn’t have enough money to actually pay for all this stuff so the bosses started spending the money they were getting from their clients.  But a lot of that cash was supposed to be earmarked for  filmmakers.  So the prize money from Contest A went to payroll and then the money from Contest B went to pay the winners of Contest A.  Then the money from Contest C went to pay the rent on their office space and the money from Contest D went to pay the winners of Contest B.  (Sounds a little like a Ponzi scheme, doesn’t it?)  The whole ugly system fell apart once the team at Poptent started planning their merger with Vizy.  The sales team stopped booking new commercial contests which means the flow of cash dried up.  From what I’ve heard, Poptent was supposed to get a big infusion from some investors but that deal fell through.  And that’s one reason why Userfarm decided to kill their merger with Poptent and dissolve Vizy.  Poptent wasn’t really able to bring anything to the table except their employees and their debt so I’m not really surprised that the Userfarm team ran from Poptent as fast as they could.

I used to be a big fan of Poptent so it’s been incredibly disappointing to watch the company fall apart over the last 5 years.  I agree 100% with the ex-employee I talked to; Poptent went broke because of bad management.  Since 2010 I have watched the bosses over there make one dumb decision after another.

Poptent's ex-CEO Nick Pahade
Poptent’s ex-CEO Nick Pahade

But things really started to go downhill in 2013 when the founder and CEO of Poptent, Rick Parhill retired and a so-called “digital guru” named Nick Pahade joined the company and became CEO.  Under Pahade’s reign, the Poptent staff spent money like they were a white hot tech firm.  But a website that runs two or three public commercial contests a month shouldn’t have a huge staff and offices around the country.  To me it seemed like Poptent could have been run out of somebody’s living room.  (I’m picturing Erlich’s Incubator house from Silicon Valley.)  The company also changed their business model and started focusing on private commercial contests rather than public ones.  This caused a massive brain drain because a lot of filmmakers quit the site in frustration once they realized there was no room for them in these new VIP-only contests.  But I guess Poptent’s biggest mistake off all was the merger with Userfarm.  And it sounds like that decision was Pahade’s too.  If Poptent had just scaled back their staff and their facilities and kept running the types of contests they had always run, they probably would have survived long enough to get a new round of funding from a new venture capital firm.  But instead the bosses went for a ridiculous hail mary merger and so now the company is essentially dead.

But don’t worry about Nick Pahade.  He’ll be just fine.  He was the Chairman and CEO of Vizy until the merger fell apart.  Once that happened Pahade was able to just walk away.  Sure, dozens of filmmakers are probably going to get screwed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars because of his actions as CEO but he’s not with Poptent or Vizy anymore so he’s not responsible for any of the company’s debts.


A look inside Poptent’s abandoned office space

The story of Poptent’s demise is starting to gain some traction in the media. The Fox affiliate in Philadelphia paid a visit to Poptent’s offices to see if anyone was left.  There wasn’t…

That was pretty sad. I’m glad Poptent doesn’t owe me any money because if they did, the sight of that empty office space would make me go berserk. It feels like the jerks in charge just locked the doors and skipped town.  If Poptent DOES owe you money, the time has probably come for you to get a lawyer.  A few people over on the poptent forums have been discussing their legal options.  Head here if you’re interested in maybe joining some kind of class action suit or if you just want to add your name to the growing list of filmmakers that were stiffed by the company: