Yahoo takes on the big guns with its own ‘shorties’

  • Company wants to ‘democratise’ film-making process, make it accessible to ‘anyone and everyone’
  • Winners get cash; exposure via Yahoo page and TGV cinemas; top winner gets internship with KRU
Yahoo takes on the big guns with its own ‘shorties’

YAHOO! Malaysia is seemingly taking on big guns like YouTube and luxury car-maker BMW by launching its own awards competition for short movies, in partnership with Malaysia Airlines (MAS), as well as TGV Cinemas and KRU Studios.
The Yahoo-MAS Cili Padi Awards will run from Oct 28 to Nov 11, but will be restricted to purely online videos of a maximum of three minutes. The contest is open to anybody residing in Malaysia and above 18 years of age.
Even professionals can take part, according to Marc Lourdes, country editor and audience head at Yahoo! Malaysia.
“We want to democratise the film-making process … and make it accessible to anyone and everyone,” he said at the official launch at TGV Cinemas in Petaling Jaya on Oct 23.
“There’s so much creativity and talent in this country, everywhere you look, but sometimes people just need a platform,” he added. “We want to bring film-making to the common man – you don’t need big production crews or high production costs.”
Malaysia is the first country to see Yahoo organising such an awards competition, and if successful, the idea would be extended to other Asean countries the company operates in.
When asked how many entries he was targeting, Lourdes said, “This is our first year, so we have no benchmarks. We’re not concerned about the number of entries, but really want to see some good quality videos come out.”
In organising such a contest, Yahoo will be going up against BMW Group Malaysia, which has been running a traditional short film awards competition, the ‘BMW Shorties,’ that is now in its seventh year and which is pretty much an institution in itself.
More importantly, in terms of online video mind-share, Yahoo will be up against the grand-daddy of video portals itself, YouTube, which when it launched a localised Malaysian portal in March 2012, said that one million Malaysians were going to the site on a daily basis, a number that even then was steadily increasing.
By allowing users to upload content, YouTube has an edge of course, in this era of user-generated content and the ‘attention economy.’
When asked if the Yahoo-MAS Cili Padi Awards was a way of filling the gap that appeared when Yahoo! Inc made the decision to stop allowing the uploading of user-generated video content in 2011, Lourdes said, “Not really.”
“Our monthly video stream numbers have increased tenfold over the past year, rising from 160,000 streams in August 2012 to 1.96 million streams in August 2013.
“We are very excited about this growth as it indicates that our content – ranging from our local news offerings to the award-winning content we’re bringing over from Yahoo Screen in the United States – is beginning to gain traction with our audience.
“Cili Padi is yet another step in our evolution as a destination for premium video content online,” he added.
The local Yahoo Video section is nestled within the Yahoo Entertainment page. Video entries for the Cili Padi can be submitted via the contest page, which also contains the rules and regulations.
Lourdes said that awards will not be a “popularity contest,” but will be judged according to quality. The judges include Lourdes himself, as well as local entertainment personality Lisa Surihani; Khairul Syahar Khalid, head of advertising and promotions at Malaysia Airlines; and acclaimed actress Sharifah Amani (Sepet).
The first prize winners get RM20,000 in cash, while the second and third place finishers will receive RM12,000 and RM8,000 respectively. [RM1 = US$0.32]
TGV Cinemas will also air the three winning films across its cinemas nationwide for three weeks; while the winning team will also get a six-month internship at production company KRU Studios.
The winning entries will also be featured on the Yahoo! Malaysia main page, which draws in about eight million visitors monthly.
Yahoo takes on the big guns with its own ‘shorties’The next big thing
Yahoo-MAS Cili Padi Awards partners all said they hoped to see the “next big thing” coming out of this contest.
Saying that this was a “brilliant opportunity for undiscovered talent to surface,” Yahoo’s Lourdes added that the name of the awards was chosen because the chilli padi (or bird’s eye chilli) is small, very spicy, and not something you’d forget in a hurry.
“And that’s what we want with these films: Something short but unforgettable and utterly memorable,” he said.
“Yahoo, Malaysia Airlines, TGV and KRU – we all have a similar vision, to promote creativity among youth. We want to remove barriers between film-making and people, and we want to give them a platform where they can air their productions, their creativity, and their talent,” he added.
While there are no restrictions, Lourdes said that were general content guidelines: No phobic, racist or bigoted content; and no violence or nudity.
“Political content is okay, as long as it’s not offensive and meets with our guidelines above,” he said.
The movies will be judged on four criteria: Content, creativity, presentation (technical excellence) and originality.
Entries can be submitted by uploading the film to the contest website, where it will be stored on Yahoo’s servers while a team vets it only to see if meets the general guidelines above.
“As long as it does not go against any of the general guidelines, the movie will be approved and go up live on the site,” said Lourdes.
The intellectual property rights of submitted films will reside with the film-makers, although Yahoo will get distribution rights to air them on the Yahoo Malaysia page. “However, the film-makers can distribute the movies elsewhere too,” he added.
The top 30 entries will be shortlisted and assessed by the judges on Nov 18. The top three winners will be announced at a premiere on Nov 23 at TGV Luxe, a deluxe cinema hall in the 1Utama shopping mall in Petaling Jaya.
When asked what she would be looking for as a judge, actress Sharifah Amani said: “Heart … well, heart and a story,” adding that the TV commercials that the late Malaysian director Yasmin Ahmad made for state-owned oil and gas giant Petronas were a perfect example of how one could capture this within three minutes.
“Short films are very interesting to me – if you’re moved by that piece, it doesn’t matter how long it is, whether it’s three minutes or three hours,” said Amani, who is also a judge at the BMW Shorties awards.
“I like the fact that this is online, and I also like the fact that we’re giving young people a platform to get their work out there,” she said.
“It’s three minutes because it’s purely online, purely on the Yahoo platform, and reflects the way people watch videos online,” said Lourdes.
“The grand dream is to have the Yahoo-MAS Cili Padi Awards become the ‘Oscars’ of online movies in Malaysia.
“We want to make this a yearly affair, and want deep and long relationships with our partners. With the immense reach that Yahoo! Malaysia provides as a platform; with the expertise of KRU as a production house; with the experience that Amani brings; and with TGV’s facilities; there’s no reason why this can’t be a long-term and prestigious event.”
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