Film & Video Competitions
So you're good with a camera and you're interested in making a name for yourself while winning prizes and cash? The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities out there in the form of film and video competitions. But it's not just about prizes and recognition—think of contests as a great way to practice and improve your skills. Whatever your motivation, here are some tips to improve your chances...
(1) Assess Yourself
You need to know how good you are. Friends and family aren't the most reliable source of feedback—if you really want objective opinions, make a few videos and post them on YouTube and let people comment. You may find that the feedback is less flattering than you'd hoped but don't be put off by people who mock you. What you're looking for is reasons why people like/dislike your videos. Take the comments seriously—even the brutal ones—but don't take it personally. Just learn from it.
Once you have a fair idea of your skill level, look for competitions that are appropriate. To start with you may be better off targeting a lower-end contest that you have a chance of winning than a popular contest where your entry will be buried under the superior ones.
(2) Find a contest
As mentioned above, you can check our video contest forum for a list of current video competitions. Another great resource is the YouTube contest page. Search the internet as well, but be aware that many search results show contests that have closed and it's not always clear whether a contest is still open or not. Try Google's advanced search to only show contests launched within the last few months.
Most video contests don't allow you to make a video about whatever you like—they are designed to serve a purpose and your video must fit that purpose. On the other hand, this is a good way to test your own flexibility. Can you work with what other people want as well as what you want yourself?
Here are some of the most common types of contest:
- Artistic & Creative: The "pure" film competition has few limits and is intended only to promote the art of film-making. This is the best type of competition to win—it gives you exposure in the film market and gives your CV a major boost. In the most prestigious competitions it's considered an honor to be nominated or even invited to enter at all. Naturally the standards are high—you'll probably want to get a bit of experience under your belt before tackling the serious competitions.
- Commercial: Businesses often run contests in which you have to make a video featuring their product, service or brand name. The commercial aspect may be subtle, for example, a manufacturer of baby products might run a contest with the theme "The best thing about having a new baby is...". The idea is to create a series of feel-good videos which are linked to the manufacturer's brand.
- Altruistic: Some non-profit and philanthropic organizations run contests to promote social and environmental issues. Often technical standards are not considered so important in these contests, which makes them attractive to less experienced videomakers.
- Student: If you're a student, it's worth looking for contests that are only open to students. The prizes tend not to be as good but the chances of success may be higher.
(3) Study the rules
It's amazing how many entries are disqualified because they break the rules. In most cases competition rules are not flexible—you can't compensate for getting it wrong no matter how good the video is. Don't think your entry will be given any special consideration.
Make sure you understand the technical requirements, e.g. delivery format. Serious competitions tend to require higher-quality formats, but many contests accepts common formats that you can upload to the web.
The rules can also give you clues about things you can do to win. Read them very carefully and imagine exactly what it is the judges will be looking for. put yourself in their shoes.
(4) Work to the deadline & duration limit
You must have the entry form and completed video delivered on time. If you miss the deadline, forget about entering this contest. You won't get a second chance by begging—you're too late so just accept it. Your best bet is to save the video and hope that you can use it for something else in the future. Avoid this situation by getting on with the job early and don't assume that the post-production phase will go quickly.
The same goes for the duration of the video—keep to the limit or don't enter it.
(5) The Video Content
Have a strong central message. Your video should tackle one thing and do it well—don't try to fill it with lots of different points and themes.
Search the internet for public domain video footage that you could use. Still photos can also be useful to help fill gaps and provide content you can't get on video.
If possible, take any chance to present the sponsors in a good way. Especially if they are on the judging panel this can earn you bonus points (just don't make it too obvious or clumsy).
Respect copyright. Don't use video or audio (e.g. music) unless you have the appropriate rights or permission.
(6) Learn from the result
Don't get upset if you don't do well in the contest. Look at all the winning entries and try to figure out exactly what gave them the edge. Read the judges' comments and learn from them.
(7) Try again
...and again, and again....