Another Vanity Award: The 2010 Creative Spirit Awards

Is it irony or coincidence that, only a few days after blogging about vanity awards, I should be spammed by one?

Perhaps you have, too. It’s an outfit calling itself the 2010 Creative Spirit Awards.

The 2010 Creative Spirit Awards
Celebrating the Creative Spirit in Books, Film, and Music!

The March 1st Early Bird Deadline is approaching fast!
If you haven’t already submitted, we invite you to submit today!

It’s every Author, Musician and Filmmaker’s desire to generate notoriety, credibility and buzz about their work, and winning this significant award is the vehicle in which to make your creation stand out as the exemplary work it is. To further help winners achieve this recognition, following the close of the competition, press releases with information on the Creative Spirit Award™ Winners will be sent to key book sellers, film and music distributors, and other sales and marketing entities.

Being a Creative Spirit Award™ winner will inspire confidence in buyers, distributors, readers and prospective clients that Creative Spirit Award™ winning productions are of high quality and worthy of their attention.

The Creative Spirit Awards™ celebrate the individual artist as well as their work through a panel of judges who have excelled in their respective fields. As such, awards are only presented to those filmmakers, musicians and authors who create fresh, standout, and exemplary creations in their field. Each work is judged solely on its own merits and not in competition with other submissions. The Creative Spirit Awards™ honors its winners with Platinum, Gold, or Silver Awards.

Googling “Creative Spirit Awards” reveals that many blogs and websites have posted this announcement, some with approving commentary. But a visit to the Creative Spirit website turns up a number of red flags.

The award, which is in its “inaugural year”, offers dozens of categories in which film makers, musicians, and writers can enter (often a signal that an awards program is a moneymaking scheme).You can submit your work with the click of a mouse–in fact, that’s the only way to find out how much the entry fee is ($50–high fees can also signal a moneymaking venture)–but you must send payment first, and only once your payment has been logged and confirmed will you receive instructions on submitting your materials. Now, I’m not suggesting that this is a ploy to take your money and run–but speaking for myself, I’d be a bit reluctant to pay for entry without actually being able to enter.

Creative Spirit promises that “[o]nly industry professionals will make up the judging panels in all three competition categories creating a total and unique peer-based judging system.” Those industry professionals aren’t named, however, and that’s a problem. The prestige of an award or competition has a lot to do with the prestige of the sponsoring organization (more about that later), but also with the credentials of the judges. If you don’t know who the judges are, you have no way of knowing whether they’re as qualified as the award sponsor claims–or even if there are judges. And the people you will want to impress if you win won’t know either–so they may not be very impressed.

Also, you don’t actually win anything. Competition winners are eligible to receive a trophy (still being designed, so sorry, no photo), but oh dear–receipt isn’t automatic. If you want one of these “exquisite statues” (the Awards page says they’re created by “the same skilled artisans who create the Golden Globe Awards”), you must order it. Also from the Awards page: “After judging is completed, winners will be alerted…and instructions on how to order your statue(s) and other merchandise will be included.”

I don’t know about you, but if I won an award (and hey–I have), I’d be just a tad surprised to discover that I had to send away for it. Granted, there’s no explicit mention of money here, but it’s a fair bet that if winners want a trophy, they’ll have to buy one. And if the trophies are moneymakers for the awards sponsor, that’s a powerful incentive to identify a lot of winners (which would explain why the email solicitation promises that “[e]ach work is judged solely on its own merits and not in competition with other submissions”), which in turn is a strong indication that these are not, in fact, the rigorous awards they claim to be.

The opportunity to spend money doesn’t end with trophies. Platinum and Gold winners (but not Bronze winners) can participate in Creative Spirit’s Ad-Share program.

Available only to Platinum and Gold winners, each artist will be able to advertise their award-winning project in specially designed full page, full color Creative Spirit Awards™ advertisements in some of the top industry magazines. For a nominal fee per month, the image of your book, CD, or DVD cover will be featured as a Platinum or Gold Winner along with four lines of text below your image which will be comprised of 1) the title of your work, 2) author, musician or band name, or producer and/or director name, 3) the publishing company, production company or studio name, and 4) the work’s website address. There is no minimum or maximum monthly enrolment meaning you can advertise your award-winning work for one or twelve months.

This is very similar to the advertising that some self-publishing companies offer as part of their a la carte marketing services (here’s an example). The costs can be high–and there’s little evidence that such ads are effective.

So let’s recap. A brand-new award with no track record, no named judges, an entry fee that must be paid before you can actually enter, trophies you probably have to buy, and probable solicitations to buy other things as well. Sure sounds like a vanity award to me.

According to Creative Spirit’s About Us page, “[t]he competition was created by award-winning industry professionals, and not by a corporation.” Its domain is registered to Dav Kaufman, self-published novelist and writer/director/producer of two indie films. Casting no aspersions on Mr. Kaufman’s achievements, that’s not really the kind of organizational sponsorship that lends prestige to an award.

All in all, it’s hard not to conclude that the main purpose of these awards is to make money for Mr. Kaufman. Caveat creator.


  1. Nothing outright demolishes the credibility like two sockpuppets attacking an appraisal of a scam with outright false information like "Oscar winners buy their statues"

    I know I am almost a decade late to this ridiculousness, but had it not been for Terrible Writing Advice's youtube channel, I would have never seen some of these absurd contests.

  2. I truly believe that most film festivals are money makers to those that operate the festivals. I also believe that most of the films you submit never get watched. Point and case, I have an award winning film making the rounds now. We entered about 22 festivals around the globe on Without a Box at roughly $50-60 a pop. This is w/o postage. We have won 5 out of six festivals that HAVE accepted us. The kicker of this is we were invited to two festivals one in NY and one in LA went to CANNES but were snubbed by the lowly HOBOKEN FILM FESTIVAL where the film was shot based on an play that was performed there. I FIRMLY BELIEVE they never watched the film but the took my money. That's just thievery. So if someone gets an award from one of these babies and it costs $200 its better then stuffing 4 shoddy run festivals pockets with 50 bucks each and having nothing to show for it.


  3. All I can say is that these awards are a known scam. I live in Minneapolis and know the founder personally. He set up the sight simply to make money. Don't believe me?…

    Look at the awards website. Do you see any mention of the judges names, the founders names, or even a phone number to contact them? Nope. Notta. Dav does not want his name associated with the website at all, because he knows that it's only a matter of time before it is exposed, and he does not want his reputation associated with it.

    Every other film festival I have worked for, the owners basically use the event as a PR event for themselves to the point where it almost makes me sick. Dav on the other hand, won't even put his name on the About Us page of his site. lol. What does that tell you?

  4. Dav Kaufman, the organizer of the Creative Spirit Awards, contacted me via email to let me know that he wasn't happy with this post, and to demand that I apologize and/or retract it. Of course I wasn't going to do either, but I encouraged him to post a comment, giving his side of the story. I gave him my word that I wouldn't delete, edit, or change his comment or comments, no matter what they were.

    So far he hasn't taken me up on it. Instead, a pair of sockpuppets has miraculously appeared over the past couple of days. I have my suspicions that Corey and Todd didn't show up here on their own, but I'm extending them the same courtesy I offered Dav (so far). (I'm also extending them the benefit of the doubt by assuming they are real people. Interestingly, both their Blogger profiles are blocked.)

    I had to chuckle when I saw Todd's claim that I'm peeved because they wouldn't let me be a judge. That's almost as good as the scam vanity publisher that attempted to discredit my warnings by claiming I was a disgruntled would-be employee.

  5. Strange how Coreybenson and Todd do not have accessible blogs. I wonder why?
    if they are genuine then I invite them to come on over to my blog. When they read the utter brilliance of all my neatly arranged cat hairs then I am quite certain they will be happy to pay me. (The rest of you are also welcome…I'll provide tuna sandwiches and tea/coffee.)

  6. I work for the Creative Spirit Awards and frankly (and sadly) you've all been duped by Victoria. She contacted us inquiring about being a judge. When we turned her down, her sad attempt to try and damage our (and our founder's) reputation on this post was almost immediate. We have a bet going to see how fast she denies this.

    That being said, her blog is her opinion, and she's entitled to that. What she's not entitled to do is lead people to believe something that isn't accurate and true, and that's what's she's done here. We invite you all to formulate your own opinion. Our website is We welcome your emails with any questions and/or concerns and then you can decide if this competition is right for your work or not without having someone with an obvious agenda tell you what to think.

    Thank you, and good luck to everyone with their work wherever it takes you!

  7. Nonsense, Corey. Oscar winners don't have to buy their awards. Nor do the winners of other well-known awards.

    Yes, I was a judge for the World Fantasy Awards (that's an honor, by the way–the WFAs are the premier award for literature in the fantasy genre). And no, the recipients did not have to pay for their trophies.

  8. To Anton: I've been working in the advertising industry for years. I'm not sure if you're aware of it, but MOST award programs out there (including the Oscars… a small awards show you may or may not have heard about) require that you purchase your award.

    Frankly, after taking a look around at other awards programs, I find the CSA program refreshingly honest, and SUBSTANTIALLY less expensive than some of the options for aspiring artists.

    And, I've just submitted my book. Am I buying an award? Only if my book doesn't suck. 🙂

    Interestingly, Victoria was a judge for "World Fantasy Awards" in 2006, another book award program. Check her bio…

    Anyway, food for thought. She slams one award program while having served on another. Something to consider when looking at the source of the published complaint.

  9. It sounds like those offers to include one in an album of "outstanding (you name it) of the year (or decade)" etc. and send a copy "beautifully crafted in hand-tooled leather . . ."etc.etc. "for only" some large number of dollars.

  10. I don't know that anyone would be foolish enough to buy their own trophy! It seems just… wrong.

    I'm a writer, I ought to come up with a better description than that, but I can't.

    It's just wrong!

  11. I wish I could get hold of a list of people prepared to pay fifty bucks to be judged for this award.

    I know that savvy people like that would be interested in the bridge I have for sale.

  12. Oh yikes – reminds me almost exactly of a 'community spirit' award used here to raise funds for charity. Only problem was that, by the time they had paid for the award dinner and other expenses, there was nothing left for the charity and the 'award' was worthless.

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