It’s hard to know what’s going to win a video contest.
For those of us who have entered many or have been doing it for years (I think I’m probably somewhere around 175-200 videos made and contests entered, if not more), there will be times when you put together what you are sure is the most hilarious, brilliant entry imaginable, only to lose to something that is clearly inferior (at least in your own biased eyes.) But if you keep at it, you will also find that entries that you thought had no chance at winning found a way to put some cash in your pocket, too.
(Don’t believe me? Check out this video that won me a $50 American Express Gift Card in their movie pitch contest:)
The truth of the matter is, the only way to survive doing video contests is to figure out what you think is funny and submit to every possible contest, and let the judges sort it out. The beauty of the video contest as a medium is that you start, you finish and you’re done with it. It’s out of your hands. You take the time to do something you think is good and then you move on to something else.
There are people involved in video contests who want to make a living directing commercials, or producing ads and I have never been one of them. My dream now, as it has been for many years, is to make a living writing and performing comedy. My brother and I are working with a brilliant animator on an animated kids show, we’re trying to write screenplays, we finished a presentation pilot for an adult animated show based on this series of web-shorts and have been trying to sell that show for a year plus the year it took to create and animate. If I was only doing these things, I would be miserable. They are my passion, I love them and believe in them, but to have to spend an entire year to see a project come to fruition is a nightmare, and it contrasts magnificently with the video contest world.
Some contest entries have taken weeks and lost, some have taken a couple hours start to finish and won. With both, you allow yourself to feed the need to be creative, to produce something whole and complete and entire – and then walk away. Perfectionism is a disease for creative people, especially in the world of the video contest. To embrace the speed of it as a medium, to start, finish and move on to the next project is the best part. It also doesn’t hurt that, for some cosmic reason, whenever I’m sitting around waiting to hear who the winner to a contest is, I lose. When I’m working on something new, when my creative energy is being spent and exhausted, replenished and used, that’s when I get the “congratulations” email that makes doing this as a living possible.
Joel Levinson is a comedian in L.A. making ends meet by winning video contests for a living. He recently took home $14,000 for his first-prize-winning “Tech Talk Rap” for MegaPath. You can follow his adventures at www.happyjoel.com.