This year’s crop of Crash the Super Bowl finalists was really, really weird. There were a few ok entries, a few terrible entries, a few ultra-low budget entries, a few gross entries, a few boring entries and one entry that was almost certainly a rip-off of an old ad from Europe. So there were only two commercials in the Top Ten that I thought deserved to air during the Super Bowl; Middle Seat and Lemonade Stand. It turns out Middle Seat was created by a professional director that already has a successful career so for the last few weeks I’ve been voting for Lemonade Stand…
As it happens, the creator of this ad, Dave Horowitz is a fan of VCN and he actually sent me “Lemonade Stand” to review a few months ago. It’s quite possible that I literally groaned out load when I saw the title; lemonade stands are one of the lamest and most over-done crowdsourced video tropes. (I once warned filmmakers about this problem in a short lived feature I use to write entitled “Know Your Tropes.”) But to my surprise, THIS lemonade stand-themed video contest entry was actually fresh, original and funny! So let’s talk to Dave and find out how he created this commercial:
VCN: Dave, why don’t you tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do for a living?
DH: I grew up in El Paso, Texas and went to school at the University of Rochester and Tokyo International University. I majored in Japanese and was set on doing something in the business world after college, but I couldn’t suppress my passion for film making so I began my tumultuous journey into the film world. The last 17 years haven’t exactly gone as planned so I have supported myself by slinging drinks and managing a bar at Sushi Roku here in Santa Monica, where i currently reside.
VCN: Have you ever entered the crash the super bowl contest before?
I entered about 5 years ago and it was a pretty bad one. The irony about the first ad that I submitted was that it also involved a trope that you warned against doing as this one involved a guy who dressed up like a corn chip. If you are surrounded with a good core group of film makers, it will naturally be reflected in your film, so over the years you learn which people you want to work with and which ones you shouldn’t work with. And it’s on these type of mediocre projects that you learn the most from because learning what you shouldn’t do is sometimes more valuable that what you should do. That’s part of the process of cultivating a good network of people. The director of Lemonade Stand had entered 4 times and one of them I believe spoofed The Exorcist, and the guy who came up with the idea was a CTSB virgin. More on him later though.
VCN: What is your favorite Crash the Super Bowl commercial of all time?
DH: I of course loved Time Machine last year. I think there are a lot of similarities between our commercials with an adorable kid bamboozling an unsuspecting adult, but I’m a sucker for animals (especially dogs) and my favorite of all time was probably Man’s Best Friend. I heard the Great Dane in that video recently passed away, so my condolences go out to the family of that ad.
VCN: Where did you get the idea for lemonade stand?
It was funny because for the last 5 years the writer Richard Jindapornsuk (a waiter at Sushi Roku) has been bugging me to submit an ad and during slower hours at the bar, he would pitch ideas to me. Quite frankly most of them ranged from mediocre to absolutely horrific, but then one day during last year’s CTSB contest, he pitched the general idea for Lemonade Stand and my eyes immediately lit up. I knew with a little finessing, we had a potentially great commercial on our hands. We only had 3 weeks left during last year’s contest to submit and because I knew that this idea warranted extensive preparation, we should take the chance and wait a year to properly execute the idea. Fortunately for us, Doritos announced another CTSB contest in September and we immediately went to work. Choosing the right location and finding our little girl were the 2 top priorities and challenges that we faced, and I knew that we wouldn’t find these over night. Ironically enough, after an exhaustive search, the little girl Addison Aguilera was literally right under our nose. A close friend of mine overheard a conversation I was having about the frustrations of finding a talented 7-year old actress in Los Angeles, and he interjected and said, “My niece is an actress…check her out.” So we saw that she had some good experience with some national spots and sat down with her, and within 30 seconds, we knew our search was over and we found our little auctioneer.
VCN: Who helped you create the ad?
DH: Once Richard and I locked in a script, I approached one of my best friends, Nick Sivakumaran to direct. He’s a directing teacher at the NYFA here in Los Angeles and I knew he would be perfect for this. Working with children is never easy even with someone as talented as Addison, and Nick has 2 kids of his own, so he has that invaluable inexperience, patience, and language that children really respond to. Additionally, Nick and I, have a long working history together as we won a video contest for Lifestyles Condoms 20 years ago, which aired for a brief period of time on MTV and won us a few bucks. The irony isn’t lost on us that 20 years later, we team up again for a video contest that has a lot more at stake.
VCN: What kind of camera did you use?
DH: We used a black magic and shot it on 4k. Nick brought on his D.P., Gonzalo Digenio, who I had the good fortune of working with on a couple of Wetzel Pretzel’s training videos. I knew he was good, but I was truly astounded how beautiful the colors in the Lemonade Stand turned out. It’s such a luxury to shoot on a 4k camera because you have the flexibility to do so much like punch in, zoom in, or even smooth out a shot without compromising the resolution. We were very fortunate to have so many talented members of the crew and cast.
VCN: How did production go?
DH: When your budget is as small as ours, production never goes as smoothly as you would like. We spent only $1,200, but obviously when you have as many years as I do cultivating relationships, you are able to call in favors, so everyone pretty much worked for free, and most of the equipment we used was free too. The only things we really paid for were food, permits, and the actual Lemonade Stand. Richard’s girlfriend volunteered to design the Stand because we really wanted a female perspective and she did a hell of a job. We told her we wanted vivid bright colors and she ran with it. The fact that the permit only allowed us to shoot the ad in one day added to our stress levels so we knew we had very little margin for error. Additionally we had no idea which bidders we were going to use in the film so we decided to have about 30 show up. As we fell behind in the day, more bidders waited to shoot their scenes so we had a lot of people milling about on other people’s front lawns. Fortunately, we had a great location with a very tolerant neighborhood, so no one was upset at the end of the day. It was really a race against time with the sun setting around 6, but luckily we were able to get all of our shots. When I would edit the ad a few days later, most of the 30 bidders ended up on the cutting room floor, but it really improved the ad cause we had so many to choose from. Due to the frenetic nature of the shoot, we didn’t have enough cups in the money shot when Sticky Hands Slater is eating his Doritos, so it didn’t have the humorous impact that we originally envisioned. So we CG’d in more cups, and if you were to freeze that shot and you counted all the cups, you would count 84…that’s how accurate we were.
VCN: How and when did you find out you made the finals?
DH: I found out we made the finals in mid-December. I was at the gym and I’m about 30 minutes into my workout on the stair master when I get a call from a woman in San Fran. She said she was Elizabeth Banks and she was calling on behalf of Doritos to congratulate me in making the finals. You can imagine that I pretty much almost fell off the Stair Master. I think I was so out of breath that Elizabeth had to ask a couple of times if I was still there or not.
VCN: What have you been doing to get out the vote?
DH: Wow, what a process. I don’t think anyone can imagine how much work goes into campaign. It truly is a full time job. I considered myself somewhat socially media savvy, but once this campaign started I realized how little I knew and how fast my learning curve would have to be. We have mostly used Facebook and Twitter to help drive people to vote. To help supplement the commercial, we shot about 70 promo videos that provided each character with a background and a story. Like for example, the unwitting bidder at 84 is one of those guys who still lives in the past. “Sticky Hands Slater” claims he caught 130 touchdown catches in high school and never once dropped a pass. Of course, he’s 40 years old and still living with his mom. We really tried to have fun with all the wonderful characters in the ad. We shot another video with Addison practicing her auctioneering skills on her dolls. We also brought Addison and the Lemonade Stand down to Hollywood and Highland and had her pass out flyers, Doritos, and lemonade, and a news crew filmed it and we got some great press out of it.
VCN: Are you excited about the super bowl? Who are you taking with you?
DH: I am so excited about the Super Bowl. Being a Jet fan, I figured this was the only way someone of my ilk would be able to go. I think it goes without saying who I will be rooting for, but I will be watching the commercials with a tad bit more interest than the actual game. Nick, the director will be going as Richard the writer is noble enough to volunteer and stay home.
VCN: Have any final thoughts for us?
DH: I really want to thank Doritos for putting together an amazing contest. The fact that they give opportunities to people like me who have been hitting the pavement for 20 years, is something that I am so appreciative of. This has been an unforgettable experience and sometimes I find it hard to believe it is all happening. I also want to thank all of my loyal friends, family members, acquaintances, and the amazing amount of people who have supported us during this campaign. I have been humbled by all of the unwavering support and am very fortunate to have such a great group of people behind the project. To the amazing crew and cast who believed in the project since the very beginning, I also thank you for your immeasurable contributions. Thanks Dan for the interview as I truly appreciate your time and consideration.
VCN: Thanks Dave for taking the time to talk to us!
If anyone would like more info about this project, head to votelemonadestand.com. And there are still a few days of voting left so if you’d like to vote for Dave’s ad, just click this link and hit the vote button: https://crashthesuperbowl.doritos.com/finalists#/6514