Category Archives: Video Contests

How to Find Freelance Partners

I’m a big fan of Nick Bertke, whose professional handle is Pogo. He’s a VJ/producer who creates songs using music and sounds from films like Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Recently, Pogo hosted a contest inviting people to provide video to accompany a song called “Mellow Brick Road,” which uses audio from The Wizard of Oz.  Here’s the winning entry, by a guy named Reed Gauthier:

As a freelance producer of audio and video, I do a fair amount of solo work. But I also have a circle of partners I work with: voice people, singers, animators, graphic designers, etc. And a common question I’m asked is “How do you meet these people?”

Well, it’s pretty easy, actually. I reach out and introduce myself. I sent an e-mail to the animator of the above video, saying “I’m a fan. Congrats,” along with a short introduction of myself, and telling him how I’m always on the lookout for freelance partners. I don’t know the guy even slightly, and we may never end up working together. But now that a connection has been initiated, there’s an opportunity — a door instead of a wall. That door may not open, but a wall NEVER will.

It’s SO easy to make connections in the digital world. Isn’t it worth a few minutes of your time to reach out to someone in your field, even if only to say, “I’m a fan. I enjoy your work?”


My Creative Homeless Shelter

One of the most valuable lessons of my career is one I learned when I was in college, interning for Michael Coleman at WZLX in Boston:  Keep everything.

I have archives with all my old scripts, and most of the stuff I’ve produced is still on file someplace (I’ve changed computers several times over the years, so I’ve lost some stuff, unfortunately). Why? Because you just never know when something will come in handy.

On the Plane – Danke Schoen Parody

I’m of the opinion that there’s no such thing as a wasted idea. Clients have sometimes rejected my ideas for commercials over the years. When I was writing and producing bits and parodies for Daily Comedy Network, submissions would sometimes not get picked up. Hey, let’s face it: You won’t hit the mark every time. But, you can still turn that rejection into a positive.

Whenever a concept or a spot, or script gets kicked back, I still keep it, per that valuable lesson I learned back in 1992. That piece immediately gets moved to a special folder I have on my computer, named “Homeless Shelter.” It’s where all my ideas live which haven’t yet found “homes.” I keep them well-fed. I visit them frequently; check in, see how they’re doing. And sometimes I can re-purpose one of them for a new project that comes up.

Portly Boy – Parody of Lonely Boy by Andrew Gold

For me, coming up with the initial idea — the jumping-off point — is usually the most difficult part of the creative process. So I’ll often visit the Shelter first, to see if any ideas can be recycled for the project I’m working on, but secondly, because even if I can’t re-use the ideas there, they often will be great thought-starters to spark something new.

The pieces I’ve posted here all currently reside in my Homeless Shelter.  They’re all pieces which have previously been rejected for whatever reason but which I still use as creative inspiration. I invite you to watch, listen, and most importantly, consider creating a “Homeless Shelter” archive of your own, where you can begin to amass a cache of ideas to draw from, as well.

Doritos (Based on a True Story)

Doritos’ “Crash the SuperBowl” is the “white elephant” of video contests.  In short, your 30-second submission could get played during the Super Bowl, AND could win you a million bucks.  It’s a big contest, with a potentially huge payoff, and as of this writing, there are 8 hours before the submission deadline ends, and over 1700 submissions thus far.  Here’s our entry:

Of all the submissions, I’d venture a guess that ours is one of the only ones whose storyline was based on actual events… Truth told, a similar turn of events as played out in the spot actually occurred while at my folks’ place for a weekend visit.  Up till then, we were stuck for an idea we deemed “Crunch-worthy” to submit for the contest.  After we all had a good laugh about the “uncomfortable moment,” we agreed that was the “ah-ha” moment for the commercial as well…

Production was turned around VERY quickly and inexpensively, and my parents even traveled from New York to Maine to help with filming and production.  From concept to completion, the spot was produced in less than 2 weeks time.  The biggest challenge was establishing characters and relationships, and telling a cohesive story in just 30 seconds.  I think my team came through in fine form, don’t you?

Six finalists will be chosen, each of whom wins $25K and a trip to the Super Bowl in Miami on February 7, 2010.  Of those 6, the top 3 vote-getters will have their commercials broadcast during the game (A HUGE prize in and of itself for anyone in the advertising industry).  And then, if you take the top spot in the USA Today Ad Meter the morning after the game, Doritos pays you the million-dollar prize.

Feedback on our submission thus far has been positive — we’d love to hear your thoughts.  And mark my words:  If we don’t get it this year, then we’ll assuredly be in attendance in Arlington in 2011.

Thanks, as always, for reading and watching… Wish us luck!

“Eyeing” Another Video Contest

Here’s the latest one we’ve entered for the AMD Alliance:

AMD is “Age-Related Macular Degeneration,” the leading cause of blindness in adults over the age of 50.  Millions are affected worldwide, and the AMD Alliance is in the middle of a video contest to help raise awareness.

Just about all the shoots we do for contests are fun, but this one was a particular treat.  The little girl in the video is my niece Georgia, and the grandpa is played by my father-in-law, Wayne.  This was the first “directed” piece either had starred in — I’d posted a few videos of Georgie over the past couple years on YouTube — and I thought they both did very, very well…

The contest submission period doesn’t end till late February, but the premise for the video involved shooting in bike-riding weather, so we had to put something together during milder weather.  So we arranged a chilly shoot during October, before the snow flew.

The idea was spawned in a conversation with my dad, who suggested something “shocking” to startle viewers into thinking twice about letting AMD symptoms go unchecked.  Hopefully, we hit the mark.

The 7 Commandments of Video Contesting

I was recently fortunate enough to win the Grand Prize in the Maine Association of Realtors“My Piece of Maine” video contest which ran April to June of this year. And over the past year or so, I’ve had a pretty good batting average with many of the “consumer-generated advertising” contests that brands have held online, be they on their own, or through creator/company matchmaker sites like and

Many people ask, “How do you find out about these contests?” or “How do you come up with that stuff?” So, this post is an attempt to answer some of these questions, and share a little about what I’ve learned at this stage of the game.

1) Thou shalt be brief. This is one for Advertisers to bear in mind as well as Creators, and to me, it’s the most important. With the internet cultivating such short attention spans in its users, you gotta make your point, then wrap it up, especially when you’re making an ad. 60 seconds is plenty. 30 is better.

2) Thou shalt play by the rules. This one’s simple. Read the creative brief, contest rules, instructions, etc., and follow ‘em to the letter. If they ask for an .mpg, don’t send an .avi. If they say “no more than 3 minutes,” don’t submit a video that’s 3:45. Don’t give contest administrators any reason to disqualify your entry before it even gets viewed.

3) Honor thy target demo. Is the advertiser trying to reach women 35-54? Men 40+? Pet owners? Gamers? Make your video a mirror of that target viewer, so when they watch, they see themselves.

4) Remember thy deadline, and keep it holy. Don’t be late with your submission, and don’t ask for an extension. It’s not fair to the people who were on time.

5) Thou shalt not be a poor sport. Be humble when you win, and gracious when you don’t. Congratulate the winner(s) sincerely and affably, or don’t say anything. You may not agree with the judges’ decisions, but they were made for a reason. Besides, if you hit the target every time, it’s either too close or too big, right? Get ‘em next time.

6) Thou shalt get involved in the community. As creators, we all strive to be original and unique, but we do have at least one thing in common: each other. Interact. Read and subscribe to related blogs. Comment and ask questions of other creators. Learn as much as you can, and offer help to those who ask it of you. We’re at the forefront of this burgeoning advertising medium, and in a few years’ time, we’re going to be the seasoned experts, so we’re gonna have to know what the hell we’re talkin’ about.

And finally,

7) Thou shalt not enter a contest in which I am also competing. Because face it: I don’t need the competition, and neither do you.

Obviously, I’m kidding about the last one. I actually welcome the competition, and quite enjoy it. There are a TON of outstanding video creators online, and when I see a good video, it always makes me want to step up my game a little more.

If you have any other tips you think would make good “Commandments” for your fellow contesters, by all means, please post ’em!

Good luck!

XLNT Ads Contest Winners Announced

Pleased as punch to share some great news:  XLNT Ads, a consumer-generated advertising site, recently announced the winners for their series of video contests for their “XLNT” brands, and they chose one of our spots as the winner of the XLNT DIY contest:

“XLNT DIY” is a fictional do-it-yourself store, along the lines of a Lowe’s or Home Depot. The guys at XLNT Ads built this brand, as well as several others, to show prospective REAL brands what XLNT Ads is all about, and to show these Brands just how effective consumer-generated ads can be.

Although I do have a background in advertising, my proclivity is toward audio production. I’m still a relative newbie to video, so I’m very flattered, and very honored to have been chosen by these guys as a winner. I’m looking forward to doing more with them, as well as with the talented crew of creators they’ve amassed over the past several weeks. Thanks, guys!