Video Competition Lessons Learned


Lessons learned post about the Visitor Video Competition for all the colleagues out there who might be thinking of doing something similar.

  • Video is really difficult to produce and edit, so don’t expect tons of entries. The bar for participation is set really high just by the very nature of beast. We had eleven entries in the end and considered that a fantastic turn out.
  • Getting the word out was especially worrisome since we had no budget for this and knew the barrier to entry was high. We created postcards and dropped them at local places in Brooklyn and made sure to hit every film school we could think of in the area. Interestingly enough, almost all of the people who entered are Brooklynites and almost all got the word from these cards. We made sure to drop off cards at BCAT and Brooklyn College and had filmmakers from both of those places. I spoke with Andrei, the director of “Mr. Cool” and he found out because he was coming to the event anyway, looked at the schedule online and noticed we were doing it. He brought his camera and called his friend Charles to be in it. Although I’ve not spoken to all the filmmakers yet, I’m thrilled that this appealed to our local audience and the grass-roots “get-the-word-out” really worked.
  • Contact YouTube or whichever site you are using to find out how their Terms of Service apply to your project. We did and got some great info.
  • I had to laugh at how many rules we had. “Come here to film, but you can’t film anything!” Even though there were lots of parameters, try hard to spell things out and make it as clear as possible. Make sure the staff on the front lines (Visitor Services, Security) know what is going on. Try and have someone on site during the event with copies of rules on hand. I have to say, all the filmmakers followed the rules respectfully, which made for a fun event for everyone involved.
  • One of the best things we did was to provide contact information on the web page that detailed the competition. Lots of people had questions and needed last minute help, so making it easy for them to make contact was key.
  • We had a registration page for filmmakers to fill out when they uploaded their video, but it would be better to create a page where people can register before they come to film. This way you know what to expect and can follow up with people if necessary. Also, make sure to get their contact info on the registration – some of them might not message through their YouTube accounts regularly, so alternate contact information is a must.
  • Provide a page with downloadable graphics, logos, tag lines, etc. Make it easy for filmmakers to use your Graphic Identity properly.
  • Arrange for a meeting with the judges very far in advance. I don’t know what happened here except to say time got away from me. Many thanks to Christina, Danny and Patrick for clearing schedules and to Dawn and Kevin for helping coordinate.
  • Try and leave yourself enough time to make kiosks and signage once the winners are announced. We didn’t and were scrambling a bit more than we’d like. Many thanks to Bob, Gloria, Pete, Mike, Jessica and Jen for last minute stuff coming their way and dealing with it like the pros they are.
  • For the screening, you might think about giving yourself enough time to contact the winning filmmakers and get DVDs that can be played on standard equipment. We did computer kiosks and embedded videos via YouTube, but sometimes videos had trouble loading on kiosks (bandwidth issues) and if you do it this way you are stuck with the tiny versions because of YouTube’s compression.
  • On that note, if you go with kiosks instead of DVDs, remember not to use the YouTube embed code. YouTube now shows related videos in that code and it means people start surfing on the kiosks when you would rather them focus on the competition entries! That was a big ‘duh’ moment for me.
  • Don’t panic! No matter how many people told me “everyone is going to submit at the last minute”, I just wouldn’t believe them, but they were right. I was pretty worried there for a while!
  • Remember not everyone can win, so spend some time making sure all the participants get as much visibility and exposure as possible. Start with great judges (we were lucky here). Cross promote as much as you can. We did so on Flickr, Facebook and MySpace. Write to the editors at YouTube and try and get them to feature it (they did!…but start early on this one because they get a lot of requests). Brooklyn Art Project published a blog post about the competition (thanks, Anthony) and we did a post in our own blog with staff comments. To me, this is the most important step in the process – acknowledge the community and ensure they get the recognition they deserve.