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Thanks to You, NoFilmSchool Wins Total Film's 'Best Creative Blog' Award!

01.29.11 @ 12:01PM Tags : , , , , ,

The 2011 Total Film Blog Awards results are in, and NoFilmSchool has won the Best Creative Blog award. Thanks to everyone who made this possible by voting! In fact, so many of you voted for NoFilmSchool that I was accused of cheating by some commenters and temporarily removed from the contest by the organizers. The controversy stemmed from the fact that many of you voted within a narrow window of time, and some believed this could only be the result of fraud. It was no such thing. If you’re curious as to how this happened, read on; otherwise, thank you again for your support. The award should help this site grow and improve in the future.

This was a “popular vote” contest, so there was no curatorial aspect once the nominations were announced — it was entirely up to you. Some of the controversy stemmed from this. Because I would’ve felt miffed if I’d lost the award based on the assumption I was cheating (guilty until proven innocent), I thought I’d take the time to explain exactly how this happened — and what people can learn from this, in terms of how social media does (and does not) work. Before I do so, I’d like to thank Total Film for the nomination, the award, and for coming around to understanding exactly how this was possible.

There is a difference between a judged (qualitative) and a popular vote (quantitative) contest. When we won the Webby Award for Best Drama Series, for example, it was because a team of judges deemed our show the best. At the same time, there was a People’s Choice Award, which went to Lonelygirl15, as we expected — Lonelygirl had hundreds of millions of views, was on the cover of WIRED magazine, and generally had a fanbase hundreds of times larger than our fledgling urban western. In the case of the Total Film Blog Awards, however, it was only a straight popularity contest,1 so blogs were encouraged to mobilize their audiences to vote for the site they liked the most. On the internet, where building a large audience takes time and effort, those with larger followings were rewarded with more votes. But some of the sites spent a lot more effort promoting the contest publicly than others. In fact, the only site nominated in the creative category with more traffic than NoFilmSchool (I think), John August, didn’t promote the awards at all. Thus the most determined promoters of the contest — on Facebook, Twitter, through email, and on their own respective blogs — were leading the contest early in the voting.

Other than a brief announcement about this site’s nomination, I had not been Facebooking and Tweeting the contest like some of the other nominees, and as a result NoFilmSchool was lagging in votes. But then I emailed my readers. This is when the controversy started; to avoid such drama, I probably should’ve emailed you all at the beginning instead of late in the contest, but in all honesty it didn’t occur to me to do so at the beginning. But when it comes down to it, these contests shouldn’t be won by the amount of effort you put into asking your readers for votes on Facebook or Twitter. The award should be won by the amount of effort you put into your blog in the days, weeks, months, and years before you’re ever been nominated for anything. I’d like to think that’s what I’ve done over the past year, living out of a suitcase for ten months in order to launch this site, and delaying film projects in order to build an audience.

Thousands of you voted as soon as I sent you an email about the contest. Suddenly I’d gone from third to first — and now led by a wide margin. Some of the other contestants, who’d been working hard to garner votes over the past couple of weeks, cried foul. And I can’t blame them, as it probably looked to the layman like cheating. Certainly out of the ordinary. Unusual.

The commenters weren’t the only ones who found it “unusual” that someone was able to garner so many votes so quickly. The organizers emailed me to say they’d never seen anything like it in the years they’ve been running the contest, which was why NoFilmSchool was removed from the running with a day to go (before being reinstated at the last minute, after I offered my emails as evidence). But the word “unusual” is a fitting one, because I’m not trying to run a “usual” blog. Here is one example of what I’ve done that is “unusual”:

I’ve given away nearly 150,000 copies of The DSLR Cinematography Guide for free. At 12 megabytes per PDF, that’s 460 gigabytes of DSLR guide that I’ve sent out free since September!2 So it may seem like I got an unusual amount of votes in a very short time, but I’ve also spent an unusual amount of time building a valuable newsletter and giving away content for free.

Here’s the thing with Facebook and Twitter: they’re not particularly “sticky.” If a story goes viral on either service, it can bring in a lot of traffic. But a simple tweet like “vote for me” will scroll past most user’s timelines in a heartbeat. An email is a bit different; it stays in your inbox until you read or trash it. That’s why an email list is valuable.3 It’s also worth it to me to have a more personal relationship with my readers, and while it can sometimes feel like a slog to answer a lot of backed-up emails (I do my best!), I believe in the newsletter wholeheartedly. Email is different from social media (that article is by the email service I use, AWeber). That’s why NoFilmSchool got so many votes so quickly, and why there wasn’t a preponderance of public evidence as to why.

For the thousands of you who voted for NoFilmSchool, thank you, thank you, thank you. So many of you voted that people didn’t believe it! Turns out I’m not the only one who thinks my audience is too good to be true.

Link: Total Film Blog Awards Results

  1. In fact, let me say this: if I were a judge, I would give the award to Ted Hope or John August. Their sites offer expertise above and beyond what I can offer. Especially at this point in my career. []
  2. As you can imagine, this amount of bandwidth is not free, though I use Amazon S3 to deliver the PDFs, which brings the costs down considerably. []
  3. And costly: it currently runs me $180/month to maintain the email list. Because I am not constantly selling stuff to subscribers, however, many months I don’t break even on this endeavor (the newsletter does bring in additional traffic, but I’m not sure if it brings in $180/month of additional traffic). []


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 51 COMMENTS

  • Ryan,

    You deserve to win! The award is based on you getting your readers/followers to vote for your site. That’s exactly what you did. I voted for you because of your e-mail. Had you tweeted or posted on your facebook page, chances are I wouldn’t have voted at all.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Well done on a much deserved award!

  • You get what you give. An I actually think that you give a lot, I can’t contribute economically (because I’m as broke as it gets without being a homeless guy LOL) but I sure gave you myu vote without hesitating even though I follow some of the other blogs there. The DSLR guide is awesome and I can’t thank you enough for it. The award it well deserved and I hope you keep growing mate!

    Cheers to nofilmschool!

  • Congrats!!!

  • I voted when the nominations first appeared. I didn’t know half of the other contendants, but out of curiosity I suscribed the feeds from the ones i didn’t already. and after a few days, i unsuscribed from most of them. Frankly, most of what they posted was useless or just to ask for votes. Iliked that you keept posting interesting stuff, and i’m glad you won. This site is full of really useful stuff, and has become one of my favs.

    Keep the good work!

  • Well done. Funny that they would have a popular award and be shocked at a sudden popular vote!

  • you deserved it
    keep up the good work

    all the best from Germany
    - Sebastian

  • congrats the site has been very helpfull

  • Congrats, your site is an invaluable asset to any aspiring filmmaker!

  • Congratulations from the UK! You’re inspiring so a thoroughly deserved win.

  • Congratz. and thanks for sharing the email

  • Frankly, the person who deserved it got it. You bust your ass on this site and it clearly shows. The Hackintosh is probably one of the greatest blog posts in the history of every single Internet. Congrats dude.

  • NoFilmSchool Rulez!
    From Italy

  • I absolutely agree! This site is one of my default tabs in browser

  • Well done mate, well deserved, i’ve learnt alot form your site and your emails!

  • I have only been involved with following your incredibly usefull information for about 6 weeks. A friend of mine told me about your site because I got a Nikon D7000 which to me is everything they said it would be. Just finished our first full length movie and I am writing the script for the second. I congradulate you and thank you for all your work. I know you will help me on my second film and I will help you keep things going. Again thanks we all apriciate you.

  • It’s nice to see a good guy finish on top. Thanks for everything you do for the industry.

  • I too voted because you emailed. I absolutely agree that you get what you give, and you have given a wealth of information to all who keep track of NoFilmSchool, keep doing what you do!!!!

  • You do a great job running this site, I find it informative & entertaining! Again, congrats on the win :)

  • I love you blog. That’s it. =) Grats!

  • Congrats, Koo…well deserved, indeed!

  • Well, since we’re supposed to be marketing ourselves, getting ourselves ‘out there’ into the public consciousness and the Web is the most accessible medium for most anyone in the (free) world, it only makes sense to employ it. Your experience verified that email campaigns can be effective, legitimate publicity keys… as long as they’re not some black-hat tool in the hands of spammers and other bottom feeders. I can certainly understand why you would not want to have anyone think you’d accomplished your great goal in underhanded or dubious ways. Congratulations; you/we done good, huh?

  • It’s easy enough to like a blog; it’s another to nearly cherish it for its ongoing contribution to your own career and literacy. Your blog inspires the second. This post is a fantastic example of its value. I really appreciate the quality and generosity of the information you share.

    The whole contest might have been about numbers and popularity, but with your win, it was inadvertently about excellence, too.

  • Congraulations Koo,
    Only you & you deserved this award. We all of only cause but your efforts, devotion are mainly important. This is only your susses…

  • Lazhar Gatt on 01.30.11 @ 2:13AM

    Congrats ! An award well deserved :)

  • Dude, I love your blog. Your DSLR guide is excellent. Kudos on the award..

  • Koo,
    I only vote for things I’m convinced of. Good work! Keep it up. You deserved to win!

  • Nice one you deserved to win both for the great things you share here and your motivation – it is inspiring!
    I loved Westside too….. it was cool and if slow paced urban westerns shot in black-and-white don’t get bought by TV/Film companies then said companies are stuck in a very boring rut. Have you shown it to Clint? he he!

  • Well done, read your blog every week without fail. And for your efforts you are now being rightly rewarded.

  • Giving away your book (which is a great read) earned you a lot of readers. A smart move. Congrats on the win.

  • Congrats, Koo! As a person who is totally committed to his craft and art, you are an inspiration to me. I am not even a film maker, yet I enjoy reading your blog because, as was said in an earlier comment, your blog is just as much about self-learning, sharing, and a life’s passion as it is about film-related stories. Your stories about media at large (particularly social elements of media, as this post is about) have come in handy with my own work.

    I truly appreciate the time, effort you put into your site and the numerous things I have learned.

  • Thank you all for the kind words. I believe and hope NoFilmSchool will be an even better site in 2011 than it was in 2010!

  • Your upfront, no-BS approach and writing are a refreshing change from being “marketed” to or at, and the way of the future. Plus w/ the great DSLR guide you’ve given and continue to give away, it creates a certain debt of gratitude. (OTOH I’d drop this site if it sucked or became sleazy. PS, didn’t Bloom have a mega-super-ultra gear review guide up in the summer, that is nowhere to be found now? Pretty sure I didn’t dream that, my dreams are far more boring.)

    PPS: How about a post on how your email list is costing you $180/mo? I know you can set up an automated list in a few hours for free, but perhaps you’re paying to not have your emails thrown into spam folders??

  • Your Blog is Great! Congratulations from Venezuela. Go NFS!

  • I voted for your blog when you sent out the email. I also looked at every other blog on the list, and only a couple came close but did not best nofilmschool in the quality and content in my opinion. Nofilmschool is honestly the best as far as I am concerned.

    Your DSLR guide is great. I see it as the best way for a beginner to get a good handle of the issues of DSLR film making. It was not useful to me personally, but I appreciate the way the guide brings beginners up to speed, and I really appreciate your unbiased coverage of the DSLR industry.

    The only way I could imagine that nofilmschool could be better would be for you to add advanced DIY guides for lighting, audio, motion control, wired & wireless follow focus etc. If you ever consider adding a section like this, I have a few ideas, and I have picked up a few tricks over the years.

  • Well done, Koo.

    I’ve learnt a lot from this site. Thanks maaaan!

  • Man, u got what u deserve, and u deserve the best.
    we should Thank U for ur grt book, and ur grt web…

    go ahead man, and make a book in Cinematography Lighting.
    do it man :)))

  • I’ve only started reading your blog recently, but from everything I’ve seen the award is well deserved! Congratulations man!


  • Mahabali Singh on 02.11.12 @ 11:51AM

    Actor Veerandra P Singh is grand and charming .He want to make his own movie .To make movie he needs equity finance(60%- 40%) about $ 25 million . His fees is 10 million dollar. Revenue from his movie is sure . Please finance his movie or where may we get finance .Those professionals , event planners or people will help to arrange finance .They will find their fees. Please check this link and twitter @Veerandra16

  • Congratulations !! I love the Blog and all the “newest” things… occurring around the film World .

  • claude riban on 03.15.13 @ 11:44AM

    Congrats. You guys so deserve this. Your layout is so clean and accessible, it’s easier on the eyes than most of the other media sites I visit. The mix between pro, and pro-curious commentators is solid too.

  • Hello
    So I want to start my own website. but I have A problem, I do no how to. Any suggestions?

  • Helenathewinner on 08.3.13 @ 4:34AM

    I would of loved to know what this website was about.

    I’m not into studying and wanted to just start but I’d recently met with a director who said to me that before u can be a director I NEED TO GO TO FILM SCHOOL!💔

  • Congrats. Very helpful blog. Guide DSLR Cinematography is really recommend.

  • Congrats… I didn´t heard about the awards before, if I had, I would deffenently vote for you!!! Thanks for your great job… and the book.

  • Thanks on your marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it,
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    eventually come back someday. I want too encourage you to ultimately continue your great writing, have a nice
    holiday weekend!

  • I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills and also witth
    thhe layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it
    yourself? Either wayy keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see
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