I was asked to be a judge recently for a video competition. I’m not a celebrity or anything. Not even a B-lister, although I am kind of a legend in my own mind. Still, I don’t think that counts. Why would anyone want my opinion about videos?
Then I remembered I am a product of an era when actual music videos played on music television. That’s probably a good enough qualification, although in looking through old photos of my big hair days, I appear to have been working harder on building up my AquaNet tolerance than my acumen for critiquing videos.
The person running the competition is my cousin, and I think she knows I have a radio show. No idea whether she knows it’s talk radio, rather than music. It must not be too much of a stretch to assume I know something about both. Which I don’t.
Whatever my qualifications, I do recognize my shortcomings, so I enlisted my husband and son to help. Colin disappeared about halfway through watching. Mike was scrolling on his phone. So I ended up doing it myself anyway.
The first challenge was keeping track of the entries. Some had titles and credits and things, saying what the band names were, maybe the song title, too. Sometimes this information was at the beginning of the video, sometimes at the end. More than once, I missed it altogether. So I numbered the videos as I watched, keeping descriptive notes like “the one where the thing did the thing,” and “the one that did the thing with the thing, but, like, purple.”
Then I was supposed to rank my top choices in content and editing and cinematography. I belatedly realized that nowhere did anything say anything about purple things, so my careful notes didn’t turn out to be all that helpful, which is kind of a plug for reading all the directions up front, kids.
I thought about asking for a category to be added so my notes would be helpful. Something like “videos with things in them,” in which case all the entries would have been trés competitive. But by the time I started judging, I was right at deadline, and I figured the organizers wouldn’t care for my last-minute suggestions on how to run their event.
There were a couple of videos with people I knew, and I liked their work, so I may have ranked them higher than others. Because favoritism. And maybe kickbacks. I suspect there’s money to be made in the amateur-videography-side-hustle-for-guitar-instructors-and-high-school-art-teacher industry, it being common knowledge how loaded guitar instructors and high school art teachers are.
There were a couple of videos with creative storylines, I rated those high in the content category. I like discernible storylines in my music videos, interspersed with cuts of dystopian-era teens––complete with big hair and angry grimaces––walking along train tracks. In fact, anything with train tracks rated well with me.
There was one video with a reimagining of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, which I liked and could kind of understand, so I rated that one high for content, too.
As an 80s kid, I was a little disappointed over all by the lack of overt, futuristic Skynet action. That would have rated well––just a note for future contestants.
I liked a couple videos for their imagery and colors and stuff, and I couldn’t put my finger on why, which I think means cinematography, so they got my vote in that category.
There were videos I didn’t understand, which I took to mean artsy, but there was no such category, so I ranked them well in editing.
Ultimately it was just fun to witness a creative process I don’t think I understand anymore (or maybe I would, except that prolonged period of inadvertently inhaling more AquaNet than was probably healthy). And I don’t know how helpful I was since few of the videos I picked won in any category. I think it’s just because there wasn’t a purple thing category, so I guess that tells you where I am with the kickback strategy, and invitations to future such competitions may be in question, it being probably a little gauche to speculate publicly about the potential for kickbacks.
Anyway, congratulations to all the winners and really anyone who participated. I’m happy to live in a world where not all creative stuff is artificially generated, and I wasn’t really judging, just ranking … I guess. And nor, for the record, was I seriously expecting any kickbacks.