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Success vs. Morality: Lenovo’s Seize the Night Competition

Very recently (about a month ago, I was commissioned off of a pitch to shoot a new alternate ending short/ commercial for Lenovo via Campus MovieFest. They gave me $3,000 and less than 2 weeks to turn my pitch into reality. With an amazing team behind me, we did it and came up with this:

Super proud of the end product and so lucky to have worked with such an amazingly talented bunch in producing it. The next step was actually for us to compete against 14 other pitches that were produced as well in a 3-week competition where by the end of 3 weeks, the video with the top view won $15,000.

Of course, we pushed hard, marketed every which way possible to try and get real legitimate views, and for about the first 2 weeks, we were going strong, neck and neck with another video in regard to number of views. Then all of a sudden, another one of the videos pulls up and then another then another with numbers of views that just… it was very odd how quickly they not only caught up but then overcame our views. It didn’t make any sense.

Ultimately, this whole post is my opinion and observations about this process. I’m actually quite knowledgeable about marketing, social media, youtube, analytics, and all that fun stuff because well… that was my job. I also know ways in which people can cheat the system and get more views. No matter what, after doing these types of competitions and especially ones that involve views, voting, etc., there is always a way for people to cheat the system. For instance, if you want more followers on twitter or views on your youtube video, you can buy those followers or views. Usually, they’re done by these things known as “bots” which rack up the views for you in a specified period of time. Usually when you see a giant bump in views (unless it’s a video that’s gone viral or is released by a creator that has a huge following established) under a short period of time, you’re seeing a bot being used to inflate views and “likes” and make it appear as though you have all these views but they’re not real. A real person did not watch it and experience that piece of work, it’s just a number.

Do I think some of my fellow “competitors” cheated and used bots to inflate their views? Yes, 200% yes, I believe they did. If you look at the number of views and the time period and to be honest the actual quality of the videos themselves, there is NO way for them to have gotten these views for real. It’s literally near impossible without the factor of lots of press or getting their video RT by someone like Justin Bieber or Ashton Kutcher (and they didn’t cause trust me, I checked).

The reason that I’m writing this is not because I’m bitter about not winning that grand prize (am I disappointed? Of course, but you can’t dwell on things that can’t be changed. You just have to move onward and upward.). The reason I’m writing this is because I hate cheaters. It would be one thing if it was a video that was so brilliantly made that I could honestly say myself, “You know what, that video totally deserves to win.” There are a couple of really strong ones out of the 15 of us that I thought… you know what, I’d understand if either of those won. But the “Top 4” winners… there were two that I just… could not see as videos that were strong enough, and not only that, they cheated. I know it’s hard for the “cheating” to be proven because bots are difficult to trace, but it’s what I fully believe.

When you cheat, that’s essentially stating that you don’t have enough faith in your own work and your own skills to win it honestly. They can deny all they want, but ultimately, they’ll be ones who have to live with what they did. $15,000 is a lot of money, and that money could have really helped the project that we’re developing at the moment. But that’s a short-term win. I’m all about the long-term. It’s not worth it for me to go against my morals I really do believe karma is real and things always come back to get you.

For my fellow competitors who did so honestly, great job. I respect you fully. For those of you who were dishonest in the process, well I hope it was all worth it. I guess for me, I just wouldn’t have felt right about it. Because it would always be a tainted win, tainted money that would take something (like the next project) and forever mark it in dishonesty.

As for me, I’m so proud of my team for being honest and hustling to share our work. I’m thankful for the opportunity. I’m thankful for the overwhelming support our video has gotten and is continuing to get. I’m proud that we were able to stand behind our morals and in the long run, it’ll be worth it. Because without our morals, who would we be?

Onward and upward.


09.12.12 1
Zoom Cuteness Absolute.

Cuteness Absolute.

06.26.12 136596
Fooding with Friends: The Introduction


My name is Kelly Li, and I love sushi. Wait… let me rewind for a second and do a quick intro. I’m a filmmaker here in Los Angeles, CA working towards my goals and aspirations like so many out here (I think this city is just a giant magnet for dreamers from all over). Aside from making films, I…

06.25.12 1


the secret is I’m always angry.

05.11.12 1358
Catching Up with Me

"You know what, screw this. I’m gonna do this, and I’m gonna do it for me. I don’t care what anyone says.

That was what I said almost five years ago (in terms of my aspirations towards my goal of becoming a successful filmmaker). I realized today that it’s been a little while since I’ve really focused on myself and really thought about where I am at this point in my life and where I should go next in terms of my career. It’s time to catch up with me.

Most recently, I’ve been working on a commissioned short for this year’s Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival 2012 (LAAPFF) as part of their “Armed with a Camera” Fellowship. Last time I was a part of LAAPFF was back in 2010 when I won that year’s Best Short Screenplay Award. It’s been a great community to be a part of thus far, and I’m glad to be back and working with a group of great fellow filmmakers. Our films will be screening at the Director’s Guild of America on May 13th, and I can’t wait to show everyone my new one entitled, “Café Elevé" starring Julie Zhan.


Being a storyteller, more than just having a vision and a voice for a story you want to tell, is about having lived enough of life so that you can tell those stories realistically, in a way that’s not imagined feelings but ones that you’ve felt and can project onto the screen through what you do. I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of living in the past five years, also told new stories, but I still feel like I’m running behind.

Taking a big step back and looking at the bigger picture, I’ve come to realize life is about learning how to be patient when we’re creatures of complete impatience in this smartphone-induced world of immediacy. Things will come when they’re supposed to, but they won’t come by just sitting around and waiting. I’ve done a lot I can be proud of in the past five years, but I know that I could be doing so much more. It’s time for me to be a little more selfish and focus on doing whatever it takes to accomplish my dreams and my goals. Hopefully along the way, I can still experience a life full of love, laughter, and happiness.

To the next step!


03.08.12 0
Dedicated to Someone Special

Did not expect the ironic parallel the first time we experienced this song. Here’s to us.


03.06.12 0
01.17.12 1318
The Power of Vulnerability

A few friends had sent me this over the past couple of days, and I finally had a chance to sit and listen to it. Brene Brown discusses “The Power of Vulnerability” at TEDxHouston. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s definitely worth a listen. It definitely struck a chord with me.

Vulnerability is one of those feelings that we usually try and limit because it’s so closely linked to the potential to feel pain and disappointment. Though that may be true, the ability to be fully vulnerable… as Brown says is,

"…the willingness to say ‘I love you.’ first. The willingness to do something with no guarantees. The willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out…"

I would personally like to add in that being vulnerable means to give of yourself without a guarantee of getting the same amount in return.

There have been few but existing times in my life where I have been the one to care more, to give more, to feel more. You’re always scared when that’s the case - when you’re the one to do so because then you feel vulnerable. It’s easier to feel the sting of heartache because it means you’ve given away a part of yourself that you hope the person who now has it will nurture instead of break.

The results aren’t always positive. Sometimes you will feel that heartache (probably even more than the other person). But what I’ve come to realize is that although you feel the bad with such intensity, allowing yourself to be vulnerable allows you to feel the good with the same intensity. I’m sure we’ve all reached points before where we simply felt numb to the things that bring us pain, but to feel numb is to feel nothing at all.

Life is all about moments - good, bad, and sometimes indifferent. It’s an amalgamation of all these pieces that somehow all fit together in ways that we usually can’t even imagine. Personally, I’d rather let myself be seen, be fully seen for who I am rather than what I’m not. I’d rather love with my whole heart instead of just part of it because that means I have the ability to truly love and receive love. I’d rather be vulnerable and feel everything (sometimes simultaneously) rather than nothing at all.


01.10.12 0
Creating a Permanent Memory

"It was a retelling of, not so much what I was doing on that great night, but the idea that it was important to embrace the memory of it and recognize when something important is happening."

- Chris Carrabba on the writing of “Hands Down”


01.04.12 1
Reflections | Recollections of 2011

During the last week of every year, I usually reflect back on the past 12 months - the good, the bad, and everything in between. This year was no different.

I look back on pictures and think back to memories that prove 2011 was/ is (for the next 9 1/2 hours) definitely a year of growth and transition, in some ways much more so than others.

A quick recap of 2011 (the good parts):

  • According to Facebook, this year I added 132 friends (though I probably don’t have regular contact with a good portion of those) I do know that there are friendships I’ve made this year that I am very thankful to have and look forward to building closer over this upcoming year.
  • I launched my first web series and with it, a subsequent concert that was more successful than I could have ever imagined.
  • I was able to work with some amazingly talented individuals and create new relationships and friendships that I hope to continue through new projects, each one hopefully better than the last.
  • I was/am able to be a part of 2 companies, though very different, both very close to my heart.
  • I celebrated the wedding of one of my closest friends and the engagement of 2 others whom I had the opportunity of helping match up over 7 years ago.

This year, I also lost a person who was incredibly important to me. He was a man whom I wish I could have gotten to know more than I was able to, but he was a man loved by many. I continue to learn more about him through the memories and moments shared by those who loved him.

From something of sadness and loss, this year I learned that life is ultimately but a moment, a spec in the history of this vast universe. I’m a thinker… or actually, an OVER-thinker. It’s just a part of who I am. However, the older I get, and the more I realize that life should not be about the words you left unsaid, the things you wish you did, and the dreams that never became a reality.

As one year ends and a new one is about to begin, I will continue to speak with truth, act with integrity, love with passion, and live a life with no regrets.


12.31.11 1