This post has been updated to include a statement from YouTube on why the Project Direct contest is only open to Web users in seven countries.
"I demand an explanation for these shenanigans. What do you have to say?" If you're a regular YouTube junkie, you might be hearing that phrase a lot more in the near future.
The massive, Google-owned video-sharing site announced on Monday a new initiative called Project Direct, a contest sponsored by Hewlett-Packard in which aspiring filmmakers are encouraged to submit films between two and seven minutes in length. A total of 20 finalists will be chosen by a panel led by Thank You For Smoking director Jason Reitman; the final winner out of those 20 will be chosen by YouTube voters.
The contest comes with three somewhat quirky guidelines stipulated by Reitman: "a character in the film must face a situation above his or her maturity level," the aforementioned line--"I demand an explanation for these shenanigans. What do you have to say?"--must be included somewhere in the dialogue, and one scene must include one character passing a photograph to another character. (Perhaps that's a nod to HP's imaging and printing group, the division of the tech conglomerate that has been vocally promoting the contest.)
The contest will run from Sunday, October 7 through Friday, November 9 and is open to submissions from Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.--but films must be either in English or subtitled in English. One winner, in addition to a $5,000 prize and a featured spot on YouTube's home page, will earn a trip to an as-yet-unnamed international film festival as a guest of HP and will attend "surprise industry events" and a meeting with production executives from the indie-centric Fox Searchlight Productions, which released Reitman's Thank You For Smoking and his upcoming film Juno.
When asked why the contest is open only to YouTube users from those seven countries, the company issued this statement: "While we wish we could include residents of all countries in Project Direct, many countries have different laws about running contests and we weren't able to devise a contest with rules that are fair and work the same for everyone around the world."