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A weird Christmas song and a very good cause

The Daily Show’s Rob Kutner and (featuring friend of VCN and super-video contest winner Joel “HappyJoel” Moss Levinson) have just released the first track off their mega-music/comedy album .  All the proceeds from the album are going to support OneKid, OneWorld which provides students around the world with the basic needs of learning like books, desks and classroom.  According to Joel, “The album is now going on about 12 months in the making, with another 7 before release. It’s monstrous – 25-30 tracks of original music, lyrics, jokes and (often) original concepts.  The album features tons of great guest performers like Ed Helms, Aimee Mann, Aubrey Plaza, Will Forte, Andrew W.K., and more.”

The debut track is “Toymageddon” which the producers describe as “a musical/comedy journey through 1,000 years of American history, past, present and miserable sci-fi future.”  It’s a very bizarre song and features two super awesome dudes; Ira Glass (from This American Life!) and Eugene Mirman (Gene from Bob’s Burgers!).  Prepare your brain for some Christmasy weirdness and enjoy:

If you’d like to support One Kid, One World you can buy Toymageddon on iTunes: 

By the way, if you’re looking for a chaity to support this holiday season, be aware that OneKid, One World has a miniscule 7% overhead.  That means 93% of the money they take in goes to the charity work they’re doing – in the world of non-profits, that’s unreal.


Doritos announces 24 (surprisingly offensive) Crash the Super Bowl semi-finalists


A typical Doritos fan

I had really high hopes for this year’s Crash the Super Bowl contest.  FritoLay had made a lot of nice changes to the competition and for the first time ever, filmmakers from outside of the US were allowed to submit entries.  I thought all that new talent would yield a fresh and fun slate of winners.  But this afternoon Doritos unveiled a set of 24 Semi-Finalists and most of the ads they picked are pretty terrible.  A lot of them lack punchlines or decent stories and many are just or .  I can look past ads that are simply lame or unoriginal but some of the winners are downright, straight-up offensive.  A few of them are so inappropriate that they could never in a million years air during the new, family-friendly Super Bowl.  But what’s really shocking is just how misogynistic many of these ads are.  As you watch these videos, keep in mind that views and votes had zero impact on which entries made the Top 24.  A panel of judges from FrioLay and the ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, picked all of these commercials by themselves.  Let’s start with a semi-finalist from Israel that would never, ever get approved by American censors:

Ha Ha.  That guy’s girlfriend is a slut!  His best friend is also a bastard but the best friend gets forgiven because hey, (imaginary) boys will be boys.  I wonder if that guy is going forgive his girlfriend too?  Eh…doesn’t matter.  That girl was nothing but a prop for the men to fight over.  She hold less value than a $2.50 bag of chips.

But the sexist subtext isn’t even the worst thing about this video.  The whole point of the Crash the Super Bowl contest is to find commercials that could air during the SUPER BOWL.  There’s absolutely zero chance that CBS would ever broadcast a commercial that included the word “bastard,” a post-make-out zipper sound effect or a totally unnecessary up-skirt panty shot of a floating girl.  FritoLay received more than 4,000 Crash the Super Bowl entries this year.  Couldn’t they find 24 ads that could make it past the censors?

Now if you thought that was too hot for TV, check out this semi-finalist from Australia:

Personally I like this one.  It’s freaky but it’s freaky in a good way.  It looked professional, it was clever, it was unique and it had a big, insane punchline.  This video is so crazy that it actually went viral BEFORE it even made the top 24.  A few days ago it got posted on a ton of popular sites and now it has more than a million views.

But let’s be serious here.  That commercial was about a glory hole for fingers!  Can you imagine what would happen if millions of Americans saw that during the Super Bowl?  If Janet Jackson’s nipple could cause people to freak out, a fat dude sucking a phallic finger through a hole in the wall might break the 7th seal and usher in the beginning of the end times.

But like I said, at least that one is funny.  This Canadian semi-finalist features a punchline that only a serial killer could love:

I’m not going to mince words.  That’s some fucked up shit right there.  I like dark humor and if this idea had been executed a little differently it could have been a great submission.  It’s an extremely well made video and the editing is perfect.  But there are a few little elements that just make my skin crawl.  The actress was amazing and her eyes were filled with so much love and sweetness.  And then he main character murders her.  But here’s the worst thing about this entry; why is the dead mermaid so sexy!?  Was the under-boob and cheesecake pose really necessary??  I know that she’s a mermaid and not a human and I know it’s just a wacky commercial but for christssakes….a guy killed a beautiful woman and hung her half naked body on the wall.  She is literally his “trophy.”  This one will never air on TV but if it did, I think women across the country would (rightfully) raise hell over that “joke.”

Here’s another semi-finalist that’s weirdly misogynistic.  This one’s also from Canada:

I guess that did kind of feel like a Super Bowl commercial….from 1985.  I enjoy seeing sexy ladies in super tiny bikinis as much as the next guy but sexist commercials like this one have been out of style for at least 20 years.  Like I keep saying, I know these are just goofy contest entries but it’s just not cool to show a man pushing over a scantily clad woman so he can steal her Doritos.  Violence against women, even cartoony violence, doesn’t belong in a chip commercial.  Yes the Kate Upton look-a-like gets her revenge in the end but that doesn’t make this concept ok.  It’s not funny, it’s not original and it’s not appropriate.

I don’t know if Doritos had a few, undercover women-haters on their judging panel this year or what but here’s another semi-finalist that’s based on the idea that men love Doritos more than pretty ladies.  This entry comes from Hong Kong.

That video might seem harmless but go back and watch the beginning again.  WHAT THE HELL WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN TO THAT POOR GIRL!?  She was on the ground screaming in a dark ally while three giant thugs were surrounding her.  She looked terrified.  Either those guys were going to steal her bag of Doritos or they were about to freaking gang-rape that girl.  Look at their eyes.  They didn’t look like they were after her chips.

Believe it or not, I’ve got one more semi-finalist that portrays women as worthless and disposable. But this one’s a two-fer because it also manages to mock an entire religion:

I hate to use the same joke twice in one article but seriously, this feels like a Super Bowl commercial from 1985.  The “hot girl” character looked like she was supposed to be a prostitute.  Who goes to the mall wearing a tiny, skin tight, hot pink dress, 6 inch heels and a ton of make up?  And it always kind of bugs me when writers make jokes about the Amish.  Whenever a filmmaker needs a character that doesn’t understand something that’s common in the modern world, you can just make that character Amish!  It’s just lazy writing.  But this particular ad takes things a step further.  These Amish aren’t just clueless rubes.  The dad is a dirty old man who lusts after a hot young woman that’s wearing an incomprehensibly sexy dress.  That just feels wrong, doesn’t it?  Do you think the judges at FritoLay would have picked this ad if it featured a strict Muslim family that had never been to a mall before?  Why are the Amish the only religious group that it’s ok to make fun of?  (Is it because everyone knows they’ll never see the jokes on TV or online??)

Or consider this; would the judges have picked this ad if the gender roles were reversed?  What if a hunky dude got off the elevator and “Ma” pushed Pa in there?

I know that it probably seems like I’m over-analyzing these ads but keep this in mind; 2 of these 24 semi-finalists are going to air during the Super Bowl in February and they’ll be seen by 110 million Americans.  So the messages and subtext of these commercials are important.  Most of the advertising world got the message a long time ago that goofy sexism is still sexism and that it’s not ok.  I can’t really blame the “average joes” who made these ads but I can blame FritoLay for picking some of these commercials.  The Crash the Super Bowl contest is being run by some of the smartest and most successful marketing gurus in the world.  They should have known that dead mermaid tits don’t belong on TV.



Will press coverage help your chances in the Crash the Super Bowl contest?



I have a Google News alert set for the phase “Crash the Super Bowl” and those alerts have been blowing up my inbox all month.  A few news sites covered FritoLay’s final call for entries but most of the stories I’ve seen came from local news outlets and were about people who entered the contest.  And if you read these articles or watch these segments, it’s pretty obvious that the featured actors or filmmakers are the ones who contacted the media and pitched their story.  Here are a few samples of what I’m talking about:

Hanford Sentinel:  Local filmmaker competing in commercial contest for Doritos

Salt Lake City Tribune:  Utah commercial shows what really goes on during sexy time

The Sheboygan Press:  North High student is All In on commercial

Vicksburg Exponent Telegram:  Bridgeport native submitting video for Doritos contest

FOX-Kansas City:  Area filmmaker attempts to have his commercial air during super bowl

NBC-Lexington KY:  Doritos smoothie could put grad student in National Spotlight

NBC-Atlanta:  Doritos ad with Atlanta ties among most viewed in Super Bowl contest

Those stories are just the tip of the iceberg.  Every year I see a few articles about local Crash the Super Bowl contestants but I’ve never seen 3 or 4 articles a day before.  These stories are weirdly fascinating because most of the featured filmmakers clearly have no idea how the Crash the Super Bowl contest actually works.  Most of them are trying to get some press coverage because they think that extra views and votes will help them make the finals.    (Just for the record:  Views and votes have ZERO impact in the first stage of the Crash the Super Bowl contest)  Here’s are a few paragraphs from the Hanford Sentinel story.  I’ll highlight important passages in orange.

HANFORD — A local filmmaker is competing for a chance to have his video be the next Doritos spot that will air live during the most watched sporting event in the United States.

Joshua C——-, owner and founder of R——–, a local film production company, has submitted his 30-second video “Bad Dog” in the annual Doritos “Crash The Super Bowl” commercial contest.

For the competition, contestants submit short video spots, judges select semi-finalists and then the world is allowed to vote for their favorite from the pool of finalists. The winner gets to have his video air live during the football game, wins $1 million cash, a trip to watch the Super Bowl and a trip to New York for a behind-the-scenes tour of the next “Avengers” movie, “Age of Ultron.”

But, for now, Cordero has to make it through the first phase of the contest.

“I’m still waiting to hear if I’m even a semi-finalist,” he said. “They will let me know on Dec. 11.”

He said that in order to move on, the judges will pick the semi-finalists based on certain criteria. One of those criteria is video views and ratings.

“I need my supporters to go to Doritos.com, watch and rate the video,” he said. “The more views and ratings it gets the more likely I might become a semi-finalist.”

Cordero then explained that on Jan. 4, voting will open to the public and his fans can vote for his video once every day until the contest ends, and if his video gets the most votes, he will win.

It’s clear this filmmaker never bothered to look at the official rules.  It’s also clear that this guy thinks he’s a lock for the Top 5.  He’s already planing his strategy for when he makes the finals!  I could be a dick and post his entry but I won’t.  His video did make me chuckle but as you can probably guess, there’s pretty much zero chance the judges will pick his entry.

As I said, most of the stories that wind up in my in-box are pretty similar to that article.  The featured director asks people to help him win by watching his (not very good) commercial and rating it five-stars.  In many cases, the filmmakers have high hopes and are confident that they’re going to make the finals because their ad is already one of the Top-Rated or Most-Viewed submissions.

This type of self-promotion might sound harmless but these articles could actually lead to some unforeseen, negative consequences.  For one thing, some a-hole blogger could post a link to your story and say snarky things about it.  But worse than that, press coverage might cause your cast and crew and family and friends to really get their hopes up.  Your teammates may think “Hey, if NBC Atlanta bothered to send a TV crew to cover our efforts, we must really have a shot at winning!“  But NBC Atlanta (and really any news outlet in the world) is always on the look out for fun, easy stories.  So the TV crew isn’t showing up because your entry is amazing; the TV crew shows up because you’re a local and your story comes with some amusing, pre-shot visuals.

So if you keep telling people that views and votes will help you win, and if your local paper backs up that idea (few reporters are going to bother checking the rules to see if you know what you’re talking about) then your friends are going to be in for a huge let down.  After everyone finds out that your incredibly “popular” entry didn’t even make the semi-finals, you’re going to be receiving a lot of messages from people asking the same thing: “Dude, what happened?  We were on TV!  We were  the #2 most viewed entry out of like 5,000 videos!  How could we not win!??!”

Now having said all that, as long as you have your facts straight, a story in the Salt Lake City Tribune or the Vicksburg Telegram won’t really have any impact on your chances of making the finals.  A story won’t help, but it also won’t hurt.  So if you want to use the Crash the Super Bowl contest as an excuse to bulk up your production company’s press packet, I say go ahead and contact a local reporter.


The Crash the Super Bowl deadline is here. Time to tweet me your entries!


It’s 5:30PM (CST) on Sunday, November 24th.  For weeks and weeks I’ve been trying to come up with a funny (and cheap) idea for the Crash the Super Bowl contest.  About 5 minutes ago I finally had a flash of inspiration.  A funny, weird and affordable idea for a Doritos commercial just popped in to my head and it’s so simple and goofy it might actually have a shot at winning this contest.

Too bad the Crash the Super Bowl deadline is 6 1/2 hours away.  If I had just 3 extra days I could have shot my new, super hilarious idea.  Oh well….I guess maybe I can be the first person to submit an entry next year!

Based on the gigantic spike in traffic VCN has seen in the last few days it looks like a lot of you guys did manage to shoot and submit Doritos commercials this year.  If you did enter the CTSB contest, I want to see your work!  Every year I invite VCN fans to share their links in the comment section of my end-of-the-crash post.  I even offer to write mini-reviews of every ad that is posted.

But this year I’m going to do things a little differently.  If you’d like to get some extra views or votes, you’re welcome to post your link in the comment section below.  BUT…this year I’ll only be doing reviews on Twitter.  Last year I wrote reviews for more than 100 fan-made ads.  I crafted some pretty beefy reviews and it took up a crazy amount of time.  So the Twitter reviews will force me to keep my thoughts to 140 characters or less.  (though if I have something crucial to say I might cheat and reply twice.)  So if you’d like a review this year, here’s what you do:

  • Step 1:  If you don’t already, follow me on Twitter: 
  • Step 2:  Tweet me your link.  Your tweet has got to be public though.  I can’t do any reviews via DM.
  • Step 3:  Be patient!  It might take me a day or two to check out your video.
  • Step 4:  Don’t get pissed at me if I don’t like your video!  I only have 140 characters so I’m not going to sugarcoat my thoughts.  I’m not going to act like a jerk or anything but if your actors weren’t good or if your story made no sense or if your ad just isn’t good enough to air on TV, I’m going to say so.  Please don’t take my comments personally.  I’m just giving you my objective opinion.

Having said that, I hope I see a lot of awesome videos this year.  In a few weeks I will go though my tweets again and I’ll post my Top 5 favorite submitted Crash the Super Bowl ads.  So start sending those entries everybody!  Don’t forget to follow me before you tweet at me.  I promise I’ll follow you back-sies.   And like I said, if you want to post a link to your video in the comment section below, go for it.  If you do post your link here, I’ll reply with a link to my twitter review.  Oh wait….now that I think about it, I suppose not everyone in the world has a twitter account.  So you non-twitterers can just leave a comment and ask for a review on the blog.  Good luck everybody!


PEEP THIS: Zenni Optical launches gigantic commercial contest

By now, most of you guys are probably putting the finishing touches on your Crash the Super Bowl entries.  But it’s never too early to start planning your next contest entry!  So you might want to check out Zenni.com’s humongous new video contest before your creative juices dry up.  The company is paying out $45,000 in prizes and if they really, really like your video, it might just wind up on TV.  The rules say that videos must be exactly 28 seconds long but I talked to a rep from Zenni and longer videos are ok.  In fact, they are also looking for viral-style videos that they can use online.  But still, shorter is apparently better in this contest.

Here’s a quick synopsis from the contest page:

Twenty grand. When’s the last time you saw THAT much money? Yeah, a long time. Probably like never.

But if you wear Zenni glasses you might.

We need your brain, at least the creative part. And in return you may just win $20,000.

It’s easy. Smack us with a video, any length (but you score points if it’s short), that says something outrageous about you and your Zenni glasses.

Let your inner Fellini run wild. Surprise us with a zany Zenni story. Or create something touching, you know, with little kids or puppies (please, no cat videos).  We’re looking for videos so good they might even go viral (saving us big bucks on an ad campaign).

This is a truly insane chance to make some serious scratch. We know, because our boss said “you guys in marketing are insane if you think I’ll do this.” But, after a couple of drinks…

Like I said, there’s some big money at stake here.  The grand prize is $20,000 and first place is $10,000.  Two second place winners will get $5,000 each and finally five third place winners will each receive $1,000.  And here’s the best news of all:  THERE’S NO VOTING IN THIS CONTEST!  That’s right, none of the prize money will go to vote swappers or cheaters or Internet celebrities.  If you wanna win some of Zenni’s cash all you gotta do is make a kick-ass video.  The deadline for entries is December 22nd.  So I suggest you go shoot a submission once Thanksgiving is over and out of the way.  It will give you something to do while you’re waiting to hear if you made the Crash the Super Bowl finals!  For more details, head here: 




Good news for freelancers: Healthcare.gov finally seems to be working

Are you sick of hearing about Obamacare yet?  Well yeah….sorry about that.  It’s sort of my fault that we had to go through all this Affordable Care Act stuff.  You see I’m one of 30 million Americans without health insurance.  Actually, I haven’t had insurance (or an official employer) for more than four years now.  I guess you could say I was one of the first people pushed into the “new economy” after the Great Recession.  In the fall of 2008 I was working for an A/V company that kept me stationed at a fancy hotel in the financial district of Chicago.  We’d set up and run huge meetings and parties for a lot of companies that turned out to be major players in the 2008 crash.  I’ll never forget the day when my boss called me and said that my schedule for the next week had been changed from 40 hours to 8 hours.  It turns out one of our biggest clients, Lehman Brothers, had cancelled all their upcoming events because the company had just declared bankruptcy.

After that, things fell apart pretty quickly.  Our new business dried up and my hours were cut in half for the rest of the year.  About a dozen of our biggest clients were seeking government bailouts and I guess most of them realized it wouldn’t look too good if they were caught spending $50,000 on banquets at a luxury hotel.

By the spring of 2009 it was all over.  My company laid me off along with about 50 other local A/V techs.  Since the job market was suddenly flooded by a bunch of guys who had way more experience than I did, I knew my career in A/V was probably over.  Eventually I got back on my feet thanks to video contests.  There was a good stretch of time where my only income came from winning them.  Today I make money in a few different ways but my main source of income comes from freelance editing.  I don’t miss my old job at all and I love the freedom that comes with being my own boss.  But the downside is that I haven’t been able to afford health insurance in more than four years.

Until now.

Staring on January 1 I’ll be covered by Blue Cross thanks to that “train wreck” called Obamacare!  Last week I went to Healthcare.gov and the site worked like a charm.  Once I got into “the marketplace” I was shocked by how good and how affordable the plans actually are.  About a year ago I tried to buy health insurance on my own and the best price I could find was about $300 a month for a plan that was basically a piece of junk.  (It was the kind of plan that’s now illegal to sell thanks to the affordable care act.)  On the government exchange I was able to buy a “silver” plan from Blue Cross at a VERY fair price.  Plus I qualified for a tax credit and that will save me a few hundred bucks a year.  And to my surprise, I was also able to buy dental insurance in the marketplace too.  It blows my mind that so many people think that the Affordable Care Act is going to hurt this country. The insurance industry was out of control and we really needed the government to step in and regulate things.

If you’re a freelancer or a self-employed producer and you don’t have insurance, now’s your chance to go buy a little piece of mind.  Like I said, you might be surprised by the kind of plans you can actually buy on Healthcare.gov.  (I was surprised to learn that 100% of preventative care is covered in all plans, even the cheap “bronze” plans.)  You might want to sign up sooner rather than later because if I’ve learned anything from the Crash the Super Bowl contest, 90% of people are going to wait until the last minute to sign up.  One final tip:  If you tried to sign up for the exchange in October, you should try creating a new account.  I created an account weeks ago but I kept getting an error message when I tried to log in again.  I think the old accounts never got verified so I just started over and I was able to sign up without encountering a single glitch.


Help Kickstart this clever, low-budget camera rig

Some production pals of mine are running a Kickstarter to help fund the production of the cool new camera rig they designed.  They sent me a prototype a few weeks ago and the thing is super handy.  It’s great for shoulder-mounted shooting but there are lots of other tricks you can do with this thing.  I’ll let the  Motion Source team explain the benefits and attributes of the rig:

These guys have set a very achievable kickstarter goal; they want to raise $1,000 so they can buy a machine that will help their manufacturer produce the rigs faster.  The campaign has only been active for a few days but already they’ve raised more than 900 bucks!  You can probably attribute their success to the rewards they’re offering to contributors.  If you kick in $29 they will donate one of the rigs to a the Chicago film school of your choice and if you donate $69 (heh) or more you’ll receive one of the very first finished rigs.  That’s a pretty good deal since these will cost closer to 100 bucks when they officially go on sale.

If you want to contribute, or if you’d like to see more videos of the rig in action, head here:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/motionsource/the-motion-source-shoulder-rig-for-dslr-and-video

OK, GO watch this super cool music video

Every once in a while I’ll see a video contest entry that includes a technique or a trick that’s so clever I get mad that I didn’t think of it first.  Case in point: the winner of OK GO’s “I’m Not Through” music video contest.  The greenscreen gimmick in this entry is totally brilliant and yet incredibly simple.  Congrats to the winning director, Nelson de Castro for creating a unique video that perfectly fits OK GO’s style.

I’m Not Through winner.  Prize: trip to the 2013 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity:


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