History of Brickfilms

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history.gif Based upon the original history written by Yolegoman, Z, Ladon, and Nosniborus
  Last updated 12/29/2006
  Click here to visit the archives.

Brickfilms.com has quite an interesting history!

Starting as a simple site for the founder, Jason Rowoldt, to display several of his films, it quickly grew into a huge community with hundreds of films from directors all over the world. Now with a new owner, Joshua "RevMen" Leasure, and a busy forum, Brickfilms has grown into the largest brick animation site on the internet. It's been mentioned in dozens of newspapers, magazines, and other websites. Some of the films seen here even rival Hollywood productions!

Jason Rowoldt

In order to understand how Brickfilms became what it is NOW though, it is necessary to know what is WAS, in the beginning.

The Brickfilms grand opening was celebrated on December 16th, 2000. It started out as a small site with 3 or 4 pages, hosted on TopCities. The directory contained a few films that Jason, the founder of Brickfilms, had seen on the internet.

The original film directory was one page, sorted by film length. It had few films, even though Jason was very diligent about adding animations whenever a director submitted one. Every few days, you could pop in and see a new flick. Brickfilms was just getting started, however... there was much, much more to come.

It was almost a month later, on January 11th 2001, that Brickfilms had its first interview added to the resources page: Marc Atkin, creator of 2001: A LEGO Odyssey.

Four days later, Brickfilms was mentioned in The New York Times. We were finally getting some recognition!

This same month, LEGO Studios, which would hit store shelves in the US in December 2000, was released worldwide. Studios brought many fresh new directors to the community. Few of the brickfilmers on this site use the LEGO Studios Filmmaker Set because of its poor quality camera and software, and because there are much better alternatives in both areas. Most new users are encouraged to switch if they've already got Studios, which has been discontinued by The LEGO Company. They, too, must have realized it was a mistake. You can read a cynicism of LEGO Studios, written by Jared Gilbert, here.

syf.jpg On March 8th, 2001, Brickfilms.topcities.com became Brickfilms.com. Perhaps more important, though, is that our hobby had its first run-in with The LEGO Company; Tony Mines, co-creator of All of the Dead and ONE: A Space Odyssey, was told by the LEGO Company that he could NOT sell the films he had created, despite the fact that the films didn't mention LEGO anywhere in the movie. Ironically, Tony and Tim of Spite your Face Productions now animate brickfilms specifically for The LEGO Company. We still don't exactly know whether it's legal for us to sell our creations or not, and a number of related discussions have risen in the forums.

On April 12th, 2001, Brickfilms added a new interview with Andrew Thornberry, director of The Lego Chainsaw Massacre. While Thornberry filmed with LEGO Studios, the quality of his films is unaffected for most; many call it their favorite brickfilm ever.

July 24th marked the first new member to the Brickfilms staff! Jared "Legogod" Gilbert joined, helping with film reviews, site updates, and other important stuff.

On July 30th, Brickfilms.com announced the Classical Movie Contest. Complete with prizes, the contest was described as follows:

"The general theme of this contest relates to pieces of "classical" music. All entries should be centered around a piece of classical music, which I will define as anything written for an orchestra, quartet, or similar arrangement. This can be anything from a very old J.S. Bach piece to a more modern piece by Aaron Copland. No electric guitars, jazz, rock, rap, or musicals please. It will be the judgment of the Brickfilms staff as to whether your piece is acceptable (if you think it's classical, it probably is, so don't worry). Ideally this will free up copyright issues on the films as well."

The results were announced on October 18th. The winner of the Classical Movie Contest was "The Barber of Seville" by YellowHead Studios (Stefan Van Zwam). You can see the contest page with category winners and detailed reviews here. You can see the list of entries on the Classical Movie Contest page.

sotw.gif In the midst of the contest, Brickfilms.com was the LUGNET Cool LEGO Site of the Week from August 5th to 11th, 2001.

hfc.jpg December 12th, 2001: Brickfilms.com announced its second contest, The Historical Fiction Contest:
"The subject of this contest is Historical Fiction. We will define this loosely as the story of an event in human history that is loosely based on a real occurrence. You are free to make the stories as historically accurate as possible, but it is not required for this contest. The film may be about a specific event (i.e. the first Moon landing), or a general movement, revolution, occurrence, or story. The only thing that will not be accepted as subject matter is something that could NEVER have happened (i.e. the first Moon landing, but aliens invade and kill the crew). However, feel free to bring up alternate time lines of events (i.e. the Russians and the USA both land on the Moon at the same time.)"

December 16th, 2001: Brickfilms Birthday! Brickfilms was one year old, and to celebrate, they posted a highly enjoyable interview with Jay Silver, director of The Gauntlet.

December 25th, 2001: Another New York Times article was posted.

February 11th, 2002: Jay Silver joined the Brickfilms.com staff as its graphics artist.

April 1st, 2002: The Historical Fiction Contest winners were announced. An awards show was even animated to accompany it! The overall winner of this contest was Nick Maniatis' "A (Very) Brief History of the Bushranger 'Ned Kelly'". A list of all the entries and results can be found on the Historical Fiction Contest page.

On April 21st, 2002, Robert "mrgraff" Graff joined the staff as the maintainer of the FAQ. Graff had been a member since December of the previous year, and was chosen to hold this respected position when he demonstrated a great understanding of film conversions. His work built a great deal upon the original FAQ created by Scott (Anonymosity of OCAP), which served as a wonderful foundation.

July 30th, 2002: Nick Maniatis became part of Brickfilms.com, helping with directory updates. He's now part of the Review Panel.

On December 5th, 2002, the Brickfilms team announced that a complete site redesign was underway. A screenshot of the new site was later released, and boy did we drool! Jay Silver had created a stunning set of graphics for the new Brickfilms interface, and you could vaguely tell from the shot that Brickfilms would be changing vastly. Features such as a searchable directory, film rating, and more made us ooh and ah!

sol.jpg That same day, the winner of the Vox Populi web series was announced to be "The Sol Chronicles". Vox Populi consisted of two different stories which community members voted for. The most popular would be turned into a series where the audience chooses which direction the film turns in.

May 29th, 2003 was a surprising and sad day for Brickfilms. Jason announced that he no longer had time to maintain the site, and that within two weeks it would either be sold or disappear to Davy Jones' locker. That day in the forums, he made a long post explaining the situation.

"Hello film fans,

Everyone who visits brickfilms.com should read this. If you know someone who has been visiting infrequently or an older member, please let them know that they need to come back for a bit.
In December of 2000, I started Brickfilms.com as a place to show off my animated films. To add to the experience, I put a few films up beside mine (the very few I could find), which totalled about 5 films. From this simple start, things have grown to a site with hundreds of films, dozens of directors, thousands of visitors, millions upon millions of hits. We also have lots of articles, resources, and custom programs written for the hobby by members who frequent these forums.
Over the past 3 years, I have continued to make films and been inspired by all of those that have come to this site, been inspired by us, and made wonderful films. We have had several contests, have had a lot of fun in the forum, and have gotten a lot of great publicity for the hobby of stop-motion animation.
Stop-motion animation was said to be dead with the release of Jurassic Park and its CGI dinosaurs. While CGI is becoming more and more impressive (and is featured in quite a few "brickfilms"), our bread and butter has been stop-motion. I am proud to say I believe we are the largest and most active single stop-motion animation community on the planet. I think we prove that stop motion as an art form and film making medium is alive and well, especially in the autre community.
This site has always had the novice in mind, but has led to the inspiration, exposure, and careers of a few filmmakers. While I'm not about to take credit for these people (their wonderful talents led them to where they are), I do hope the site was an inspiration to them to do better and better things.
We have been down a long road and as with all hobbies that take time, I have had ups and downs. I am completely satisfied with the community we have built together and think this is a great place to hang out. We have tried to keep it as open and not strict as possible while protecting those who hang out here from abuse or too many unwarranted invectives.
So, why am I writing all this?
My personal life had been changing for the last few months, and I have less and less time (and, to be honest, motivation) to keep this site running. We had great plans for a redesign with a fully functional database, members sections, etc. Some of this was to give more "value" to the site so we could charge a small membership fee to offset the costs of annual hosting and maintenance. This site takes up a fair amount of time (policing these boards, adding content, getting films, working on the redesign, other site stuff), and I have had a lot of help running it. For specifics, I would like to personally thank Jared G, Jay S, Nick M., Stefan, Mike, Loic, Thomas F, Greg P, and Mr Graff among those who have helped the site along and made it all worthwhile.
After 3 years and a lot of fun, I am moving on to other things. Brickfilms.com the domain name, as well as the entire content of the site, is for "sale". The reason for the quotation marks there is that I do not really expect to make much of a profit off the sale. Since this is an amateur site, a transfer of all content and domain is expected for someone who would like to take over the role of site owner. If no one wants it, I'm afraid to say it will go defunct.
I am going to use the space on this server for my consulting company, and will be clearing this server of all Brickfilms.com content very soon (hopefully within a few weeks). So space for the site is not available, but the HTML files, images, and domain name ARE. If you want to do your own redesign, so be it, and if you want our design documents, they come with the package.
I am still going to make films occasionally as a hobby, but I am going to be very busy trying to get a company off the ground over the next few months.
I hope all is well, and thanks again for all the great times.
To recap:
Brickfilms.com is for sale
Time period until this site is gone is around two weeks.

Regards, and fondest wishes,
josh.jpg So there was good news! If someone purchased the site, they could keep it alive, even give us that awesome new design. The problem was, who here could buy it? That question was answered shortly, for on June 5th, Jason was back with anxiously awaited news. After much negotiating, he had chosen a new owner for the site, and that person was... Josh "RevMen" Leasure! He quickly began work, many major changes being made in the first few weeks.

On June 11th, Josh called out to all who were interested in joining a "Review Panel". It would consist of no more than 5 people, all of whom had to be responsible and capable of writing with good English skills. He was flooded with applications, and announced that he would try to pick out the panel members when the emails began to slow.

June 18th, 2003: Doug "Shootin Bricks" James, a member since February 2001, becomes the official Community Project Organizer of Brickfilms. This same day, the Community Project Forum was created.

June 19th, 2003: RevMen officially revealed the new Review Panel. Based on participation, post quality, and proper English and grammar, he chose the following people:

   - Nick Maniatis (Hali)
   - Chris Salt (Buxton)
   - James Janicelli (The Janitor)
   - Stefan Van Zwam (wandrer2)

Everyone sat, waiting eagerly (but patiently) for the new look of Brickfilms.com. Josh proved to everyone that he was every bit as good a site administrator as Jason had been. Quietly, the RevMen and his team worked. After much anticipation, the new site opened on August 4th, 2003.

Ten days later, the Words of Wisdom Contest was announced. It was the first Brickfilms event held by Josh, and the guidelines were simple: Depict whatever wise words you wanted in an animation.

August 17th, 2003: Thomas Foote reported to us in the forums that he had received an email from Tjeerd Kamps' father bearing sad news - Tjeerd had passed away. Tjeerd was a well-known individual around Brickfilms with a wonderful sense of humor and high ambitions. His spirit will always live on here at Brickfilms, and his spot here is much deserved and dedicated to his memory.

September 15th, 2003 - More bad news: It was a day like any other. Around noon, though, something went terribly wrong. Both of the server drives that held Brickfilms (the main site and the backup) crashed. Because they were on a RAID array, we lost everything from the past two weeks: forums posts, films submissions, reviews, ratings, and more. To most of us, two weeks is a short amount of time. For a large site like ours, it's an eternity. Fortunately, the community and its members recovered quickly. Z even had backup of September 14th, including films, reviews, ratings, and directors. The forum data was still lost, however. Everything considered, it wasn't so bad after all.

We were all very grateful when on September 24th, Stefan released his new JAVA chat, which he had been working on for quite a while. It was slick, very slick. Unlike the old PHP chat, this had immediate response time. In the PHP chat, you had to sit and wait for a few seconds as the chat window refreshed. The amount of time and work Stefan put in was worth it, and he still makes improvements every now and then! On October 4th, the ballots were in. The overall winner of the Words of Wisdom Contest was James Maduzia with Zero Gravity Rebellion! A list of all the entries and results can be found on the Words Of Wisdom Contest page.

Oct 14th, 2003: Brickshelf.com, after having an enormous amount of bandwidth taken from it due to our films, decided that enough was enough and disabled all video files. Hundreds of directors everywhere were suddenly without a means of hosting their films. For a while, everything was in a state of crisis and productivity dwindled, as you can see in the 'official announcement'.

January 3rd, 2004: Logan was added to the Review Panel for his "constant blabbering" about films. Logan's well thought-out and comprehensive film reviews gave him his spot here at Brickfilms.

December 11, 2003 � APE announced
The 11th of December was the day Brickfilms.com announced its second official contest since the launch of the new site. This time, titled �A Peculiar Event�, the goal of the contest was to create a film that was �strange, spooky, unusual, inexplicable, abnormal, quaint, or weird�. Some wonderful entries were received from directors around the world, of varying ages and backgrounds. Twenty-eight films were received by the voting deadline (which was extended to the 23rd of December �due to popular demand�). The motivation for this contest was high, due to some great prizes donated by Stop Motion Pro. Zach Stanley (Z) was given the task of creating the contest images in a short amount of time, and at that point became one of the site's graphics artists as well as a programmer.
The contest page can be found here.

February 17, 2004 � APE entries made available
The 17th marked the release of all the A Peculiar Event entries. A fine looking lot they were, �no less than 28 films to satisfy your peculiar brick cravings.�

February 29, 2004 - Brickfilms transferred to new server
Brickfilms.com has certainly moved up in the world. Once a free site hosted at TopCities.com, Brickfilms.com now has access to a huge server. A good server doesn�t always equal a good community, but Brickfilms has expanded in that respect as well, thanks to some excellent administrative work from RevMen and his staff.

March 28, 2004 - APE Winners announced
The official winner of the A Peculiar Event contest was Digital_Dave, with The Hand of Fate! As this was Dave�s first film, his win was recognized as a huge accomplishment. Not many brickfilmers sweep their first contest! See the list of finalists along with total scores here. A list of all the entries and results can be found on the A Peculiar Event Contest page.

May 20, 2004 � New Brickfilms/BrickFest Contest announced
The 'High Adventure Theatre' competition was announced on May 20th, and was a welcome opportunity for the members of the Brickfilms community to get out their cameras. The contest called for films of an adventurous nature, which isn't as constricting as it seems. All that was required was for the character(s) to 'partake in an adventure'.

June 13, 2004 � Brickfilms.com goes commercial with some fancy T-Shirts
The style of the year was confirmed when Brickfilms.com released the latest in fashion. The Brickfilms.com T-Shirts sold like wildfire, and have turned some pretty geeky-looking people into instantly popular celebrities. (Note: actual results of buying a Brickfilms.com T-Shirt may vary from those noted above.) The Brickfilms Collectable Lunchbox, however, made it no further than the preliminary concept stages.

July 2, 2004 - New brickfilm from LEGO
The 2nd of July marked the release of a new film from the esteemed brickfilming group Spite Your Face Productions. In addition to being highly skilled animators, the two-man team over at Spite Your Face are officially sponsored by The LEGO Group. The film is titled �The Peril of Doc Ock� and can be viewed at the official Spite Your Face website.

August 3, 2004 � HAT deadline passed � entries received
At the stroke of midnight (somewhere in the world), the entries stopped streaming in for the High Adventure Theatre competition. By the time the deadline had passed, 20 films had been submitted. The films were then presented to the community by their animators, as with most other competitions.

September 11, 2004 � HAT winners announced
The chat on September 11th was fairly rowdy, featuring a lot of commotion about nothing really relating to the competition. Yet once RevMen arrived in chat, everything shifted on-topic. The winners of the High Adventure Theatre competition were then announced. In First Place, of course, was Aladibababad by Leftfield. In second was Daedalus and Icarus by Yellowhead. Following up in a close third came Imagine That! by Dewfilms. The nominated entries were all of a fairly high caliber, making it incredibly difficult for the community to judge them. The results are available here. A list of all the entries and results can be found on the High Adventure Theatre Contest page.

September 12, 2004 � HAT DVD Release
The day preceding the awards chat marked the release of the official High Adventure Theatre DVD. The product provided more commercialism for Brickfilms.com, and sold fairly well. In the first shipment sent out by RevMen, there were approximately 19 DVDs (exact number not available at time of writing). This was a massive improvement over the predicted sales, easily covering the costs of putting together the DVDs and also the costs of the prizes. It featured a cover that was custom designed by Z and a fantastic intro created by Cometgreen.

Sept 17, 2004 � The Lively Discussion Forum is created
By the time this forum was created, the members of Brickfilms.com were letting their political and opinionated topics spill out into the forum. RevMen decided to create a place where this would be acceptable, and wouldn't be in the way of normal forum life. And so, he gave unto us the Lively Discussion Forum. Since then, it has been the place for debating and arguing over a wide variety of topics, including evolution and war. It has had some fairly well-known debaters posting in it, including The Debatinator, who chose to leave the site under his own free will because of the commotion that his posts were causing, and Tim, who persistently argues against the general public's accepted logical views, regardless of whose ideas are "technically correct".

October 18, 2004 � Announcement of the 10 Brick Contest
On the 18th, Brickfilms.com members wandrer2, Brickbrock and Go!Le Go! announced a truly innovative contest. Potential entrants were limited to using just 10 LEGO elements in the making of a creative film. The contest was to be judged exclusively on animation and �the use of effects other than masking� was strongly discouraged.

November 04, 2004 � Dewfilms joined �Community Service� usergroup
Dewfilms, an already respected member of the community, was accepted into the �Community Service� usergroup on November 4th. Why? Well, some might say it's because she's a responsible person from a different demographic than most. Others will tell you it's �because she asked politely�.

November 20, 2004 � New members added to the Review Panel
This date marked a great advancement in the area of reviewing at Brickfilms, proving that the shear volume of films submitted to the site could not possibly be handled by such a small number of people. It was on this day that members Richardfrost, Protowrxs, Felix, and Holgor were inducted into the reviewing panel. They were chosen because of their "writing ability, participation in the community, particularly in Post and Review, and diversity of writing style".

Working miracles, in no more than 24 hours approximately 15 films had been added to the film directory. Since then, they have not ceased to work extremely hard, keeping the directory clean and up to date.

December 1, 2004 � 10 Brick Contest entries available
The 10 Brick Contest entries were made available on the 1st of December. This challenge brought out the best in the community, showing that you really don�t need minifigs to tell a good story. However hard it may sound, some very creative thoughts were put into use here, personifying smaller bricks.

December 11, 2004 - 10-Brick-Contest winners announced.
The 11th marked the day wandrer2, Go!Le Go! and Brickbrock announced the winners of the 10-Brick-Contest; m1rk0, coming in 3rd with Greedy Bricks Brickbrock with his 2nd place film, Pertinacity, and hali, with Interference coming in 1st. There were some excellent entries, and the contest as a whole was judged a great success. See the final results with a spreadsheet of who voted what here. A list of all the entries and results can be found on the 10 Brick Contest page.

Dec 12, 2004 - Holiday logo comp
During the week leading up to Christmas, a Logo designing competition was organized. The winner's logo would be displayed at the top of the site, where the traditional logo is usually displayed. The winning logo, designed by UnfoldingMetal was displayed until New Year's Eve, when it was replaced by a new logo to celebrate the passing of the New Year. The list of entered logos is available here.

Jan 04, 2005 � The Control Panel
On January 4th, Z rang in the new year by making available to all at Brickfilms.com a control panel, where it is possible to view the information for your current films in one place (including its availability status), and also move films from one director to another if you have more than one. The control panel was a significant advance in making life at Brickfilms.com as un-complicated as possible.

Mar 04, 2005 � Heroes and Villains
The new contest was announced, the topic being: Heroes and Villains. Entrants "should portray someone who is Heroic, or someone who is Villainous." This contest had quite a long deadline, the final deadline being at June 13.

April 01, 2005 - LEGO issues Cease and Desist order
The LEGO Group contacted Brickfilms.com and demanded that they shut down operations. Visit the April, 2005 article to find out what ensued.

Tue June 07, 2005 - Brickfilms Encyclopedia
After a period of testing in the Patrons Forum, Z publicly announced the introduction of the Brickfilms Encyclopedia.

Wed July 27, 2005 - Cleaning Time: The Janitorial Contingency
After 2 years of work, the first ever Brickfilms.com community project, Cleaning Time: The Janitorial Contingency, is released on the forums.

Mon January 16, 2006 - Brickfilms Podcast
Pierre, Schlaeps and KG released the first episode of the Brickfilms Podcast to the general public.

Thu Feb 16, 2006 - rstudios joins the Review Panel
RevMen had announced that rstudios had joined the Review Panel. This meant that the films which are pending in the Review Panel were probably going to be submitted faster. The topic can be found here.

Tue March 07, 2006 - Brickfilms Podcast on iTunes
Less than two months after its launch, the Brickfilms Podcast was featured front and center on the iTunes podcast page. Images can be found here.

Sun March 19, 2006 - BAMPA
The first annual BAMPA awards were held in the brickfilms chatroom and eight awards were given out:

  • Best Debut - "Robota"
  • Best Voice Acting Performance - Billy Gribbin as Merle, "Special Deliverance"
  • Best Visual Elements - "Robota"
  • Best Sound Design - "Frankenstein"
  • Best Screenplay - "Repent"
  • Best Cinematography - "Robota"
  • Best Animation - "Robota"
  • Best Overall Film - "Frankenstein"

Saturday April 22, 2006 - Rev announces FIG competion
RevMen announced the new BrickFest 2006 competion, with the theme being "Fame, Infamy, and Glory."

Monday August 21, 2006 - FIG results
Winning films included "Grace" (1st), "Beast" (2nd), and [http://www.brickfilms.com/films/2944 "To Strive for Fame" (3rd).

Tuesday December 12, 2006 - New Organization Structure Announced
RevMen announced that Brickfilms would undergo a structural change to help in the creation of a sleek, self-sustaining Brickfilms.com. [1]

Sunday January 7th, 2007 - Encyclopedia gets new Curator

RevMen appointed Schlaeps to the post of Minister of Truth which includes the duties of Curator for the Brickfilms Encyclopedia.

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