*Jesse Rice is the author of this story and participated in creating the video. This article originally appeared on LBC’s student news site, Focus.
Talk about a return on investment: three LBC students managed to turn a 45-second YouTube video into $2,000 by winning a YouTube contest.
Oliver Lehman, a sophomore studying communication at Lancaster Bible College, first heard about the video contest on August 8. Anker, a tech company, held the contest from July 31 to Aug. 18. They offered $2,000 to ten creators who could make a video under one minute long depicting an awkward situation when someone runs out of power. Anker also gave the public a chance to vote for their favorites. Lehman investigated the recent entries and thought he and his friends could compete, he said.
Lehman joined with two fellow students, junior Jesse Rice* and sophomore Lukas Scheuing, to create a video. Lehman said he wanted to strike an emotional chord and be more than just an advertisement.
“The crisis of a phone losing power… feels very much like a twenty-first century problem and not really a big deal,” Lehman said. He wanted to find a way to give the common event more weight, he further explained.
They drew inspiration from Pixar’s “Up,” Scheuing recalled. However, they developed the story of two cell phones who fall in love, only to be separated by one losing power.
The phone battery dying is literally a character dying, Lehman said. Therefore, he added, Anker’s battery pack has a greater emotional impact because it does more than recharge a phone: it brings a beloved character back to life.
Lehman and Scheuing brought the story to life through stop-motion by using graphics for the phones’ faces and sketches for props and backgrounds. They chose stop-motion, Scheuing said, because it was the easiest and cleanest way to tell the story with the supplies and time available.
Lehman and Scheuing shot the film in one night after spending one evening in planning. Lehman estimated they spent 22 hours on the video between filming and editing, but he said the estimate does not include the time spent brainstorming. They posted the video on Aug. 10, leaving eight days to garner enough votes to earn a place in the top ten. You can see the video below.
Lehman campaigned hard for votes by posting the link to the contest on his social media and emailing family and friends. At first, Scheuing said, they were hopeful. However, as time progressed and they fell further behind in votes, Lehman said he accepted the idea they probably would not win.
“It was good to let people see [the video], but [it was sad] we weren’t going to win after all the work we put into it,” Lehman said.
In early September, Lehman received an email informing him their video had been chosen as one of the winners.
“When I first got contacted by Anker, I thought it was a scam,” Lehman admitted. They had not received enough votes to place in the top ten by the end of the contest, Scheuing said. However, Lehman said, he discovered his error when he checked Anker’s website a few days later.
“I think I had just gotten out of class…. I thought, ‘oh my goodness, I need to tell Lukas,’” Lehman said.
“It was a surprise,” Scheuing agreed.
The Anker video explaining the contest says votes increase one’s chances of winning, but it does not explicitly say votes determine winners. Though Lehman and Scheuing did not receive a high number of votes, Anker had chosen their video as one of the top ten.
Winning the contest changed Lehman’s attitude toward YouTube, he said. He and Scheuing had been making videos since November 2016 but winning helped Lehman realize the extent of YouTube’s reach. He started to put a little more intentionality into the story and message of his videos, he said.
The contest also showed Lehman the power of story. He thinks Anker chose the video because it stood out from other videos through its storytelling, Lehman said. Winning taught him “the power of a good story…. You don’t need the gold, glamour, glitz and artificiality that comes with big productions….” All you need, he said, is to “get back to the core of a story that resonates and connects with [people’s] emotions.”
Find more of Lehman and Scheuing’s videos at Lehman’s YouTube channel.