Tongal’s Rock Stars converge in LA for the 4th annual Tongies!

Last week I awoke from my winter hibernation to travel to LA for Tongal’s annual award ceremony, the Tongies.  I always have fun at the Tongies but the team really knocked it out of the park this year.  The theme for 2017 was “Rock n’ Roll” and the nominees and guests really did get the full-on, rock star treatment.  We out-of-towners got to stay at the W hotel in Hollywood which was obviously very amazing.  But the hotel happened to be about 200 yards from the awards show venue so everyone was able to walk there in like 5 minutes.  And let me tell you something, if you ever want to feel like an actual rock star, I recommend you walk out of the W hotel and then head down Hollywood Boulevard in a tuxedo.  Everyone does a double-take as you walk by.  You can see from their faces that they’re thinking “ok, that’s got to be somebody, right?”

One of the great things about The Tongies is that the festivities are actually spread over two days.  My girlfriend, Carla, and I arrived in LA on Wednesday afternoon.  Then we went straight to The Grove to have tacos with a friend at a place named Loteria Grill (try the red snapper tacos!)  On the way out we saw Guy Fieri filming a cooking segment at an outdoor restaurant that was not a Drive-In, a Diner, or a Dive.  Then on the Lyft ride back to the W, Doug Benson walked right past our car at a red light.  Carla yelled some excited gibberish at him and he smiled and patiently listed to her gush about DLM.

On Wednesday night we were treated to a super-fab welcome party in Santa Monica.  Here are a few pics:

That’s me and my ladyfriend in her rock-STAR outfit.

I know it might seem weird that I took a picture of purple macaroons but those were some damn good macaroons.  And I’m a macaroon expert so I know what I’m talking about.  Seriously, we actually had lunch at the Grove just so we could stop at a popular macaroon shop.  (The ones at the welcome party were way better and not just because they didn’t cost $3 each.)

The next day we took it easy and explored West Hollywood.  (I found so much free drug paraphernalia!)  Even though the Tongies were happening 5 minutes away from the hotel, Carla and I were still about 20 minutes late.  So no one was there to scream for us as we walked down the red carpet.  But we still had plenty of time to drink and eat and drink and chit-chat and drink.  As we were sitting at our table I looked over towards the bar and saw a big, happy, familiar face.  It was Dan fucking Aykroyd; my goddamn comedy hero.  He was wearing a tuxedo and chatting up the girl manning the ice sculpture/shot luge like he owned the place.  I assumed he was an invited guest but it turns out, he wasn’t.  The Tongal top brass went and introduced themselves and polity asked what the heck he was doing there.  D.A. said that he actually DID own a piece of the place and he had noticed that Tongal had booked the space for three years in a row.  I guess he looked up the company and liked what he read because he decided to stop by and show his support.  He even asked if he could say a few words to the crowd.  When Mr. A got on stage, he gave a genuinely exciting speech about filmmaking and the need to respect creatives.  (He also plugged his Skull Head vodka but I would have been disappointed if he hadn’t.)

The non-Aykroyd events that night were also pretty fun and exciting.  The show opened with a totally bananas contortionist act and ended with a performance by pretty much the best Led Zeppelin tribute band in the country.  In between there were lots and lots of awards.  As always, the videos that won Tongies were all brilliant and/or beautiful and/or funny.  You can watch all the winning entries here:

And now for more pictures!

So as you can see, a wonderful time was had by all.  As always I had a I’d like to thank all the amazing people at Tongal who made this whole thing possible.  (They know who they are!)  You are now and forever shall be my favorite online crowd-sourced video platform.  Rock on my friends….rock on.

Tongal and LucasFilm want you to #GoRogue and shoot your own Star Wars stories


I got my first video camera back in the mid-90’s.  It was already dark when we got back from Circuit City (R.I.P.) so I couldn’t go outside and film anything.  So I went through my old toy box and pulled out my original Return of the Jedi action figures.  I tried to make a stop motion scene that featured The Rancor and a Gamorrean Guard but of course it didn’t turn out.  I guess the failure really affected me because that was the first and last time I ever tried to make a Star Wars-themed video.  I wish I had kept at it; if I had, maybe I’d already have a decent entry for LucasFilm’s new “Go Rogue” UGC fan film contest.

The winners of this contest will get to live my wildest dreams and visit LucasFilm’s HQ in San Francisco.  They’ll also get to see their work on the big screen (plus an advanced showing of Rogue One.)  Before the contest was launched the sponsors actually teamed up with Tongal and had them create a series of videos that would inspire other contestants:

“In a celebration of UGC fan creativity, Lucasfilm and creative network Tongal have collaborated with a team of fans to create a series of stop-motion shorts all featuring the debut of key Rogue One products.”

The stop-motion in the Tongal films is really amazing.  I wish my Rancor fight scenes had been this smooth:

Here’s some more background on the contest, i.e. Tongal’s involvement.

The fan-made series debuting Rogue One toys brings together characters and vehicles from Hasbro, The LEGO Group, FUNKO, JAKKS Pacific, Mattel, and Disney Store as they try to track down the building instructions to the LEGO Star Wars Death Star set which have been misplaced by the Empire. The creative team was led by James DeJulio at Tongal, and the series was written by Kevin Ulrich and brought to life by stop-motion animators and directors Dan MacKenzie and Tucker Barrie. New installments will roll out throughout September.

“I’ve been a Star Wars fan my whole life so this is a dream project,” said James DeJulio, co-founder of Tongal. “It’s been amazing to see what an inspiration Star Wars has been to so many members of our creative community, whether that’s coming up with their own Star Wars storylines, or playing out scenes with Star Wars toys at home with their kids. I’m excited to share this first ‘Rogue Story’ with the world and hope it inspires other fans to share theirs.”

So are you feeling inspired?  If you are, you better finish your wookie suit ASAP because entries are due October 21st.  For more details, head here:

Tongal wants to give you $119,000 to shoot a TV commercial for Seagram’s

Gotta drink 'em all! (responsibly)
Gotta drink ’em all! (responsibly)

I don’t usually post about individual Tongal projects but any contest with a six-figure prize pool is definitely newsworthy.  This week they launched the Seagram’s Escapes Video Project and it looks like it might just be the biggest video contest of the year.  (NOTE: Tongal doesn’t exactly run traditional “video contests” but their “projects” are close enough for me.)  Here’s a general recap of the contest project:

The goal of this project is to create a 30-second broadcast spot with a 15-second cut down for Seagram’s Escapes featuring singer, songwriter, actress Kelly Rowland.  Additionally, you will need to create 30-second broadcast spot along with a 15-second cut down, focused specifically on Jamaican Me Happy (Kelly Rowland will NOT appear in the Jamaican Me Happy video).

Got it?  One Tongal producer or team will create a 30 second commercial that features Kelly Rowland (one of Destiny’s Children!).  After that they will create a second, entirely new 30 second commercial for a specific Seagram’s flavor. Then the creator will provide 15-second cut downs for both ads.  So in total that’s two unique 30 second ads plus two short versions of those ads.

That’s a lot of work.  But trust me, Tongal is making it worth your while. Take a look at what this gig pays:


No, those aren’t typos.  One Tongal member is going to get paid $119,000 to produce these commercials.  That’s a serious mount of money so this project will probably attract a lot of heavy hitters.  I’m sure most of Tongal’s top tier winners will submit pitches.  But $119,000 might bring in a bunch of new producers.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the project was awarded to some mid-sized production company that came out of nowhere.  So if you’re an independent filmmaker and if you know a semi-established producer you may want to try teaming up with them.

Hardcore Tonglers may have noticed that this isn’t Tongal’s only active, big-money project.  Right now they are also running an assignment for Labatt beer entitled Cheers to Hockey.  The creator that lands that gig will get paid a total of $153,000!!!!

This is really exciting stuff and I hope we see more of these “Super-Projects” over on Tongal.  Right now they’re running the Idea Phase for the Seagram’s project but you can begin submitting pitches on August 5th. The Pitch Phase in the Labatt project is already open and runs until August 2nd.  Good luck folks.  If you win either of these projects, please save me a 12-pack!

Tongal’s Superstars converge in Hollywood for the 3rd annual Tongie awards!


For the third year in a row I was lucky enough to get an invite to Tongal’s annual award ceremony in LA and for the third year in a row I had a damn good time.  I got back on Saturday but as always it took me a few days to recuperate from my trip.  I’ve finally started going through my photos and this year I’ve got some great ones to share.

The festivities started on Wednesday at the Tongie’s Eve Cocktail party in Santa Monica.  My girlfriend Carla and I showed up a little late and as we were walking up to the venue we could hear someone singing an Everclear song in the patio area.  Carla asked, “so is this like a karaoke party? Whoever’s singing sounds really good.”  But of course it wasn’t a karaoke party.  We walked into the patio and up on stage was the lead singer of Everclear, Art Alexakis doing an acoustic set for about 200 very surprised guests.  (Here’s a pic).  After we soaked in the scene, I managed to find and say hello to some of my favorite Tonglers and Tongal staff members.  I learned the hard way that you shouldn’t over-do it at the Wednesday night reception (last year I decided to try all of the custom cocktails and my brain was a little fuzzy the next day) so Carla and I slipped out before it got too late.

On Thursday we took a trip to the LACMA, had lunch (and pudding) from some food trucks and picked up my tux.  We did a quick change back at the hotel and then we inched our way through LA traffic to get to the awards dinner at the Avalon in Hollywood. 

The show started with a surprise aerial act.  It was a big hit and it really got people amped up for the show.  This kind of spectacle was a good fit and I hope Tongal does some more crazy stuff like this next year.


As always, the event was MC’ed by Tongal co-founder, Rob Salvatore….


…and individual awards were handed out by various staff members.  Here’s Tongal co-founder Mark Burrell reading the nominees for best comedy video.


The winners were….Pretty Nifty Productions.


After about half an hour it was time for a dessert/cocktail/photo break.  Here I am posing with my lovely lady friend….


And here’s friend of VCN, Joel Levinson with his wife Randy.


I managed to make some new friends this time around including these two guys; Eric McCoy and Justus Meyer.  Their Tongal team “McCoy Meyer” was nominated in the Best Comedy category.  This guys do amazing work and right now the Devin Kurtz music video they made is spreading all over the web.  You know you’ve hit the big time when even Perez Hilton is saying your work is awesome.


Here’s a shot of the theater just before everyone went back to your seats. The place is huge and I’m still kind of amazed that Tongal would rent out such a baller venue.


Here’s a shot of all the Tongalers that were inducted into the Tongal hall of fame this year.


The crowd gave the inductees a standing ovation but one dude at the table next to mine gave me a smirky stink eye when I tried to get a pic of the crowd. Frankly, I don’t blame him.


The party continued after the awards ceremony ended.  Here’s a semi-blurry shot of Tongal’s three co-founders, Mark Burrell, Rob Salvatore and James DeJulio as they introduce a surprise musical guest, guitar legend Johnny Marr of The Smiths.


As I’ve said, I’ve been to the Tongies three times now and Johnny Marr put on the best post-ceremony show yet.


Up near the front of the venue, folks were cramming together to get their picture taken at the digital photo booth.


And the winners showed off their new hardware. Here’s “Best Idea” winner, Tina Radel with her new Tongie.


The “Best Comedy” winners, Pretty Nifty Productions went on to be named the Tonglers of the Year.  After they got their awards, a rep from Mastercard (they’re a To gal partner) came out on stage and surprised the guys with a trip to Japan.




On our way out we were given weird cardboard viewer-dealies that you can stick a smart phone into. Carla was good enough to demonstrate how they work.


So that’s it; another Tongies is in the books. As always the show was a big success and I personally had a great time. I’d like to thank all my friends at Tongal for being such amazing hosts.  And I’d like to extend a special thank you and congrats to Tongal’s Senior VP of Creative and Strategy, Caleb Light-Wills.  Caleb was hard at work behind the scenes so I didn’t get any shots of him…which is a shame because at one point he was walking around carrying a giant manatee.  Yes, seriously.

If you’ve made it all the way down to the bottom of this post and you’ve still got Tongie fever, head here to watch all the videos that were honored this year:

Only 4 days to go until the 2016 Tongie Awards!

Hey now!  I just checked my calendar and I was shocked to see that we’re just 4 days away from the third annual Tongie awards in Los Angeles!  I’ll be there again this year so if you’re going too, be sure to say hi to Dan from  (Here’s what I look like. So keep your eyes open for a big, handsome beardo)  I always meet a lot of great people at the Tongies but I have had a few awkward conversations; every year about 4 or 5 people get excited to meet me but only because they think I run  But last year I did meet a nominee that said he discovered Tongal thanks to the ads on my site.  So I think that proves once and for all that reading VCN can change your life and bring you lots of money and accolades and fun and friendship.

Speaking of fun and accolades, Tongal is giving away a new LEGO Ghostbusters Firehouse set via Instagram.  If you’d like a shot at winning it, just follow them at @tongalteam and post some photos with the hashtag #tongies3 and mention @tongalteam.  If you’re going to the event this year maybe you can post some shots of your outfit.  And if you’re not going, maybe you can take some pics of yourself sitting alone in a dark room as you daydream about being at such a kick ass party.

UPDATE:  I just got an email that says Tongal will be live-streaming the Tongie awards this year.  Here are the details:

“Just head to Tongal this Thursday, March 3rd at 7:00 PM PST; once the live broadcast begins the site will redirect you to the Tongies ReelTime Page.”

If you watch the livestream and see me, be sure to wave!