Cuppa Coffee president Adam Shaheen responded indirectly to my recent post, “Cuppa Coffee Wants To Ream Filmmakers” (Feb. 5), by writing a letter to Cold Hard Flash‘s Aaron Simpson. Shaheen’s response can be read in its entirety here.
It’s a lengthy response but what Shaheen doesn’t discuss is more noteworthy than what he does. For one, he doesn’t address my primary complaint: why does Cuppa Coffee expect to receive exclusive rights to all the animated shorts entered in the contest, across all media, forever, without any obligation of compensating any of the artists?
The only response that Shaheen manages is, “Any short film that earns a development deal with Cuppa Coffee, would then naturally involve the author being integrated into an upfront deal that would be negotiated fairly between the two parties – again, a true negotiation that doesn’t present as being anything but that.” That’s essentially saying, ‘Yeah the contract you sign to enter the program is unfair, but if you win, we’ll then negotiate a more fair contract with you. And guess what, if you don’t win our development deal, we still own the rights to your film.’
With the explosion of online video, there’s new contests like this popping up every week – two other recent ones are iLaugh’s Shortfest and AniBoom’s Eyedoll contest. All of these contests have ulterior motives: either helping to build a company’s brand/library or getting free development out of artists. In every case, the benefit of the collective entries coming into these companies far outweigh the benefit returned to the individual artists who are entering the contest.
Frankly, I think it’s time to get over this silly and insulting notion that creating animation is a game. Animated filmmaking is not a contest and no piece of classic animation has ever been produced because of a contest. Animation is an art form and a business. Investing time and effort into creating quality work and backing it up with some basic business skills is the only proven formula for achieving success in this industry.
One final thought. In his letter, Shaheen writes,
“At the end of the day, would you rather own 100% of something that sits on Youtube, or would you prefer to relinquish your rights and use this piece as a launching pad for your career?”
Personally, if I was going to “relinquish my rights” to further my career, I’d rather relinquish it to a major network like MTV (as Mike Judge did for Beavis & Butt-Head), Nickelodeon (as John K. and Stephen Hillenburg did), Fox (as Matt Groening did), Cartoon Network (as Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken did) or Comedy Central (as Parker and Stone did) than to a Canadian production house looking to attach itself to my talent under the guise of a contest.