Monday, 6 December 2010

Professionals in Competitions...what do we think?

Rightly or wrongly, recent events have again caused controversy to raise its ugly head in Planet Comping. The issue of people in the filming industry entering video competitions and raking in prize after prize has been raised, and is an interesting area for debate. So in a purely hypothetical way I aim to question this topical phenomenom. The terms and conditions of competitions do not say that entrants in certain areas of employment are exempt from entering competitions. But, although not against the rules, do we think it is ethical or moral for people in the industry to use comping as a lucrative sideline?

My first concern is that these entrants are not part of the community that we enthusiasts call home. As we join up to Facebook groups and 'like' the promoters' pages, getting involved in commenting and generally enthusing and sharing the competition (...and therefore promoting the company hosting the competition, which is the aim of the marketing team who run them...) they can hide away anonymously, often adopting various nicknames unlinked to their professional self, taking no part in the proceedings other than producing their entry and uploading it. It is quite a sterile process aimed solely at winning, with none of the heart of us amateur enthusiasts who engage with the promoters' banter in an open forum. Again, nothing illegal here, just not in the spirit of the process that we know and love.

Obviously the capability of someone with access to top of the range cameras and editing suites is way in advance of us amateurs with our flips. Someone who is, for example, a video producer will know all the tricks of the trade to produce 30 seconds of top quality, celluloid gold. Will companies be seduced by these anonymous, slick, beautifully produced videos with crystal clear sound production? Of course they will. And they are. The danger is that the average enthusiast will stop entering, knowing that their own efforts produced at home on their Flip in real time just won't be good enough. Will a good idea with lots of effort put into it, win out over an MTV worthy finished piece? Probably not. Much like the voting competitions, where average people fear to tread, due to the presence of the masters of vote courting, we will see genuine FB likers put off, knowing it's a done deal before the competition even begins.

As Facebookers, we are transparent in our activity. People can see who we are and what we do. A lot of the reasons why we enter competitons is for the experience, the fun, the sense of community. Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful to win a prize, but that isn't the sole motivation. To distance yourself from this and to remain anonymous is a luxury we don't have. By setting up various Youtube accounts, under comp specific nicknames, to keep previous successful winning videos and current entries separate, and using different faces in videos, individuals are allowed to win over and over again, without anyone realising that the videos all come from one source. You could argue this is just good tactics. Who are we to say that this method of comping is any less worthy than our own? Are we in danger of becoming the Facebook Gestapo by assigning ourselves the role of moral highgrounders based on our own beliefs? Or are we simply acting out of frustration knowing that competition promoters are awarding prizes without realising the origins of the entrants...or indeed possibly not even caring? Either way. a little transparency and honesty in this area would make such activity look less suspicious. If there is nothing to hide, why cover your tracks to avoid videos being linked?

I am all for judging things on merit. I am a big believer of letting the best man win, but if the judging does not take into consideration the individual's effort based not just on slick production, we will soon be marginalised by the pros. Where success is based on views, a pro with hundreds and thousands of upload views will wipe the floor with someone like me who gets excited if my view count goes into double figures! However, if the promoter will be getting a video entry that would cost thousands of pounds to commission independently, you could argue that this is a mutually beneficial outcome. Entrant wins, for example, a top of the range household appliance, promoter gets a top notch video to display on their website. Win, win???

Maybe the inclusion of these quality entries will raise the profile of this hobby, make it appear less embarrassing to admit to! Is it a good thing that people with the potential to create great things want to be involved in this activity? There is nothing worse than seeing poor, ill-conceived entries winning competitions based on vote exchanges. I would applaud the inclusion of better entries. as long as it is done with integrity. It doesn't take much research to track an individuals' online activity. When it becomes apparent that someone with huge talent is attempting to work below the radar, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. As I said before, if it's not wrong, why hide it?

There is of course the possibility that someone in the industry would enjoy this hobby as much as us amateurs. Perhaps to them it is an outlet for more frivilous pursuits, an opportunity to hone their craft in a new and exciting forum. In which case, who are we too criticize or question? Using your skills to their maximum advantage is what we all try to do. But would Manchester Utd enter a team for a local 5-a-side football match? Would Delia have entered the Tesco Recipe Comp? Would Tom Jones enter Britain's Got Talent? Would Freddie Flintoff field a test team in a local village CC match? just wouldn't be cricket!


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