* definitions of "winner" may not be valid in all states
Has anyone ever actually started a successful and sustained career in the animation business as a result of winning a contest? I don't know of any such person, although it's likely that someone, somewhere, can trace their ascension to the professional ranks of the business from winning a blue ribbon and a handshake for their early efforts.
In recent years contests have become big throughout the entertainment biz, whether it's American Idol and its many photocopies, or the 267 screenplay contests to be found here. And with that explosion has come an increase in complaints about exploitation of contestants and winners, and the problem of contest rules ignored by the very people who wrote them.
The most recent controversy has risen over the AniBOOM website's music video contest based on a Radiohead song. The rules for Round One of the contest required entrants to submit "new, original and unique" storyboards, and prohibited entrants from submitting copyrighted materials.
The Round One semifinalists were announced earlier this week, and some of the entrants, amateurs as well as professionals, were amazed to discover that at least three of the semifinalists had allegedly submitted re-edited clips of previously produced animation, at least one of which was allegedly made from material for which the
animator editor did not hold the copyright. As one of the frustrated participants expressed in an e-mail to us:
... what has come to pass is that a site which claims to be devoted to the production of independent, cross-platform animation, has awarded semifinalist positions to at least four established industry professionals who did not create original animation, and submitted re-edit projects, as though the music in question was totally arbitrary.
And what is worse, is that even after promoting and advertising this contest heavily to amateurs and music fans, including television ads on Adult Swim, and after claiming that it's purpose was to not only build the site's community, but also encourage and develop submissions from aspiring unknowns - AniBOOM has awarded the meager $1,000 in funding for semifinalists to professionals to whom it will not in any way be substantial ...
once again, i can't speak on thebehalf of others. the chosen movies are all great pieces of work, and so were most of the non winners of the first round. i don't want to keep om writing things that will not ease your mind.
we didn't answer nything about that movie [one of the semifinalists that used copyrighted material without permission], because right now there is nothing to say. the movie was chosen by the jury, and other people that were a very important voice in this contest so far, so if they will have something new to tell you, i'm sure they will [...]
your videos were kick ass, so it was hard to choose based on concepts. so we decided to just play it safe by funding videos that were already finished and made by people who already have production teams. round 2 due date is coming up, so just have faith that we will do the same thing once again, so waste your time working on a fully rendered animation this time.
The misspelled ramblings of the contest rep notwithstanding, neither the Guild nor this blog are taking any position on this particular controversy. To those of us not in the middle of it, it might seem like a tempest in a distant teapot.
But it does point to a real problem we have always had with animation contests. "Spec work" – work that is performed without pay on the promise of future compensation pending approval and/or funding – is a violation of our collective bargaining agreement. And at the end of the day, that's all these contests are – an excuse to solicit free work on the distant promise of compensation/glory/fairy dust. And believe me, in the real world $1,000 isn't much compensation for the amount of work this contest is demanding.
So maybe the issue isn't really whether these contests are being run fairly or whether rules are being changed in midstream, but whether the very premise of an animation contest – that $1,000 and 300 seconds of fame is sufficient compensation for the work that goes into these projects – is inherently unfair.
And as if organizing animation isn't hard enough, how in the name of Art Babbitt do you organize a contest?