How much does it cost to make the Crash the Super Bowl finals?

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Frito-Lay has published the budgets for all 10 Crash the Super Bowl finalists and the numbers are all over the place.  The judges really picked a diverse set of finalists here.  Well….I mean to say they picked a FINANCIALLY diverse set of finalists.  The roster of filmmakers that created these ads isn’t diverse at all.  All ten of them are white guys.  But let’s save that PC rant for another day and focus on the good news; a lot of low-budget entries managed to make the top 10.  And here’s another fun fact: there are ZERO re-peat finalists this year.  Hardcore Crash the Super Bowl fans will understand why that’s a big deal.  A lot of the same people seem to win this contest every year.  Doritos has run The Crash 8 times now and they picked at least one re-peat finalist in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.  But I guess that trend has finally been broken.  So the 2015 finalists are all first-timers.  That’s kinda neat.  Anyways, here’s what everyone spent on their entries:

1. “Doritos Angler” by James Bedford, UK: $20
2. “What Could Go Wrong?” by Alex Pepper, USA: $80
3. “Trouble in the Back Seat” by Jason Johnson, USA: $100
4. “Baby’s First Word” by Travis Braun, USA: $350
5. “Mis-Spelling Bee” by Brian Kleinschmidt, USA: $500
6. “Doritos Manchild” by Armand de Saint-Salvy, Australia: $700
7. “Selfish Sneezers” by Devon Ferguson, Canada: $800
8. “The Lemonade Stand” by David Horowitz, USA: $1,200
9. “When Pigs Fly” by Graham Talbot, Canada: $1,200
10. “Middle Seat” by Scott Zabielski, USA: $2,000

In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s what a $2,000 video contest entry looks like:

Two grand is a lot of money to spend on a commercial that has a 1 in 4,900 chance of winning a million dollars.  But there are only two “great” entries on this list and “Middle Seat” is one of them.  But that ad looks like it cost a lot more than $2,000.  The director didn’t just pull out his camera and start filming on a real plane.  That’s a set that filmmakers in LA can rent.  But I’m guessing the director was able to call in a lot of favors because guess what…?  His name is Scott Zabielski and that dude is the producer and director of Tosh.0!  His IMDB page says he’s directed 139 episodes of the Comedy Central show.  (I assume that’s all of them)  This news came as a bit of a shock because The Crash is supposed to be for amateur filmmakers who want to break into the industry and win their “Dream Job” at Universal Studios.  But it sounds like Mr. Zabielski already has a dream job.  What’s going to happen if he wins?  Is he going to quit Tosh.0 so he can become a glorified assistant at Universal?  In January 2012 it was announced that Zabielski was going to direct the new Police Academy movie.   That film’s been in development hell for five years now and he’s no longer attached to the project.  But there’s no way that will be his last, big offer.  Eventually he’s going to get a chance to direct a major motion picture and his career will be set.

So why did he feel that he needed this opportunity too?  Is he just after the million bucks?  I don’t think it’s ethical for a successful pro to try and compete in a contest that was created for “aspiring” filmmakers.  But I will say this; so far no one associated with Tosh.0 has asked people to vote for “Middle Seat.”  That’s a lucky break for the other finalists because if Daniel Tosh or Comedy Central or Tosh.0’s twitter account were to plug Zabielski’s entry, “Middle Seat” would win the online vote (and the million dollars) in a landslide.

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JANUARY 15th UPDATE: 

Wow.  It looks like this post really freaked somebody out.  I’ve been getting slammed with angry comments all day.  Basically “people” are mad that I said it was unethical for the director of “Middle Seat” (and Tosh.0), Scott Zabielski, to enter the Crash the Super Bowl contest because he was already a very successful filmmaker.  All of the comments were coming from first-time commenters and most of them were posted under goofy, fake names.  So after a few hours it became obvious that something fishy was going on.  Here’s the first comment that I received:

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This person claimed to be a former Crash the Super Bowl finalist.  So I decided to check VCN’s traffic logs and see who actually left this comment.  Here’s the data for Mr. “Cheerios Are the Best.”

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Heh.  Ok.  Well, I guess there are two possibilities here.  Either a former Crash the Super Bowl finalist quit filmmaking to work for William Morris or Scott Zabielski is represented by someone at the agency.

That was just the first of maybe 9 or 10 weird comments I got today.  I won’t post them all.  If you’d like to read them, just check out the comment section of this post.  Basically a bunch of “people” called me a few names, defended Zabielski and told me my opinions were ridiculous.  Most of it was run-of-the-mill anonymous Internet smack talk.  But a few comments were a little more sinister.  Some “people” tried to divert attention away from the Tosh.0 guy by bashing three other Crash the Super Bowl finalists.  As you already saw, the William Morris guy accused one finalist of plagiarism.  And a commenter named “Michael Brannigan” tried to out two other finalists as “professionals.”  He even provided links to these directors’ websites.  But Brannigan’s definition of a pro was pretty generous.  One guy did have some great commercials on his site but “Brannigan” didn’t realize that they were all video contest entries.  And the biggest thing the other filmmaker ever shot was a promo for the Sochi Olympics.  One promo and some spec ads hardly put these guys on the same level as the producer/director of Comedy Central’s highest-rated show.

So where did these comments come from?  They all came from different IP addresses but most of the comments were made with an iPhone on AT&T’s wireless network.  Also, none of these users were “referred” to the site by an outside link.  So they didn’t get to VCN via twitter or facebook or wherever.  They either had this article bookmarked or they typed the actual address to VCN in their browser:

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I’m guessing that the iPhone Guy’s IP address kept changing because he was out and about and he kept jumping onto different networks.  But late last night I got another comment from the iPhone guy….

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I guess iPhone Guy was home by then because he was logged into his personal Wifi account…..

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So Mr. iPhone Guy, the guy who had been posting angry comments all day using multiple IP addresses, fake names and fake e-mail addresses and who had tried to make some of the other Crash the Super Bowl finalists look bad lives in Burbank, California.  I wonder who else lives in Burbank…..

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I’ve been covering the Crash the Super Bowl contest since 2009 and I’ve never had something like this happen before.  Obviously I don’t know for sure that Zabielski (and maybe his agent) were behind all the nasty comments I got today but I’d be willing to bet Dollars to Doritos that Zabielski owns an iPhone and that he has VideoContestNews.com saved in his bookmarks.

If the director of “Middle Seat” really did do all this it was a pretty dumb move on his part.  The rules of the Crash the Super Bowl contest are pretty clear…..

Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual deemed to be (a) tampering or attempting to tamper with the entry or voting process or the operation of the Contest or any Sponsor or Contest-related Web Site; (b) violating these Official Rules; (c) violating the Contest Sites’ terms of service, conditions of use and/or applicable general rules or guidelines; (d) acting in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person; or (e) engaging in fraud, dishonesty or illegal activity; (f) attempting to deliberately damage or corrupt or otherwise attempting to undermine the legitimate operation of the Contest, and/or Sponsor’s business operations, including without limitation by cheating, hacking, deception, and/or other unfair practices, including but not limited to using automated entry or voting programs and/or devices; (g) colluding to alter the results of the Contest; and/or (h) giving false or misleading information to Sponsor or Contest Parties.

Mr. iPhone Guy behaved in an unsportsmanlike manner today.  He also harassed and annoyed another person and because he used fake names and e-mail addresses, he engaged in fraud and dishonesty.  If a that person turns out to be a Crash the Super Bowl finalist he could be in danger of being disqualified.

Fortunately for Zabielski, it would be almost impossible for anyone to prove who actually posted all these comments.  So let this story be a warning to all you Crash the Super Bowl finalists out there.  If some dumbass blogger doesn’t like your entry (or the fact that you entered a contest for “aspiring” filmmakers even though you’re already the director of one of the most popular shows on cable) don’t send that guys a bunch of nasty anonymous comments.  But if you do feel the need to talk some trash, at least be a man and use your real name.

How much does it cost to make the Crash the Super Bowl finals?

FritoLay has released the budgets for all five “amateur” commercials that made the 2014 Crash the Super Bowl finals.  As always, the ads that made the Top 5 had pretty hefty budgets.  This year the cheapest entry was Time Machine which cost $300 to produce.  Finger Cleaner was the most expensive submission and in fact, it’s the most expensive Crash the Super Bowl finalist EVER!  Why don’t you try and guess how much that video cost to produce and then scroll down to see the actual budget.  I’ll list all five 2014 finalists in order from least expensive to most expensive.

TIME MACHINE.  Budget: $300
Creator: Ryan Thomas Andersen.  Age: 28.  Current City: Scottsdale, AZ


OFFICE THIEF.  Budget: $1,500-2,000
Creator: Chris Capel.  Age: 33.  Current City: Valencia, CA


Breakroom Ostrich. Budget: $1,700
Creator: Eric Haviv. Age: 30. Current City: Atlanta, GA


COWBOY KID.  Budget: $5,000
Creator: Amber Gill.  Age: 34.  Current City: Ladera Ranch, CA


FINGER CLEANER.  Budget: $7,000 (U.S.)
Creator: Thomas Noakes.  Age: 27.  Current City: Sydney, Australia


As I’ve said before, Finger Cleaner is a pretty hilarious commercial.  But it’s also very professional-looking.  I wasn’t surprised at all when I read that it cost $7,000 to produce.  In fact, the only budget that surprised me was Time Machine‘s.  I thought it would have been a little more expensive.

And that leads us to a fact that FritoLay definitely tries to downplay; true “amateur” productions have pretty much zero chance of making the Crash the Super Bowl finals.  The judges in this contest can’t pick ads that aren’t TV quality.  And even though professional-quality production and post-production tools have gotten much cheaper, you still have to hire (or at least feed) a bunch of talented people who know how to use that new technology.  That might sound kind of unfair, but hey…who said the world of advertising was fair?  It costs money to make a commercial that’s good enough to air during the Super Bowl and in a way, you gotta respect the folks who are willing to take such a big gamble and sink so much of their own money into their submissions.

How much did the 2013 finalists spend on their Crash the Super Bowl entries?

FritoLay gets a crazy amount of free publicity from the Crash the Super Bowl contest because the media loves the idea that “average joes” can beat Madison avenue at their own game.  While it’s true that Doritos’ CTSB commercials have relatively microscopic budgets I’m not sure it’s accurate to say that these “consumer made” ads were created by amateurs.  Once in a while there will be a low budget success story like last year’s $20 ad “Man’s Best Friend” but the truth is that most of the people who make the finals are professional or semi-professional filmmakers who spend THOUSANDS of dollars to get to the Top 5.

Does that sound unfair?  Well, get over it because it’s not!  The Super Bowl is the biggest TV event of the year and a million dollars in prize money is at stake.  So Doritos can’t pick commercials that look cheap or cheesy.  It takes money and talent to create a 30 second video that is technically good enough to air on television and I tip my hat to all the folks who have the cojones to do what it takes to win this contest.

So how much does it actually cost to make the Crash the Super Bowl finals?  Well Doritos always puts out some background info about the winners and sometimes they include the budgets of every commercial that makes the top 5.  You can check out the 2013 press page here but I’ll post some of the basic info that FritoLay provided.  Yes, the numbers in green indicate how much that person spent on their submission.

Spot: Goat 4 Sale
Creator: Ben Callner
Budget: $5,000
Occupation: Freelance Film Director
City/hometown: Decatur, GA

Spot: Road Chip
Creator: Tyler Dixon
Budget: $2,500
Occupation: Freelance writer/director
City: Los Angeles, CA and Lehi, UT

Spot: Fashionista Daddy
Creator: Mark Freiburger
Budget: $300
Occupation: Freelance Director
City: Los Angeles, CA

Spot: Express Checkout
Creator: Sasha Shemirani
Budget: $1,000
Occupation: Photographer
City: Los Angeles, CA

Spot: Fetch
Creator: Joe Taranto
Budget: $5,000
Occupation: Student/director
City: Los Angeles, CA

So….this is easily the most expensive group of Crash the Super Bowl finalists we’ve ever seen.  TWO entries cost more than $5,000(!) to produce and the others weren’t exactly shot on the cheap either.   It’s also worth noting that all but 4 of the 5 winners live in Los Angeles and 5 out of 5 of them listed their occupation as some kind of photographer or filmmaker.  Obviously anyone from anywhere in the US could make the Crash the Super Bowl finals but year after year we see that most of the winners are male filmmakers aged 20 to 40 from Southern California who spend more than $1,000 producing their submission. I’m not saying you need to move to LA if you want to win The Crash next year but if you come up with an amazing idea you’re probably going to have to spend a serious chunk of change on your video if you want to be a serious contender in this contest.
 

How much should you spend on your Crash the Super Bowl entry?

Last fall, about 5,000 entries were submitted to Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl contest.  The number of submissions rises every year so your odds of winning aren’t super great.  So when you’re trying to decide how much you should spend on your entry you might want to play it safe and follow that old gambling adage, “don’t bet more than you can afford to lose.”  But to be totally frank, if you want to make the CTSB finals you’re probably going to have spend a lot more money than you’d expect.  The idea that an amateur can “crash” the Super Bowl is sort of the whole point of this contest.  But most of the commercials that make the finals are shot by professional or semi-professional filmmakers.  And those pros often spend THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of dollars on their “fan made” ads.  Fritolay’s official stance is that production quality is NOT considered by the judges when they pick their finalists.  But to quote our adorable Vice President, that’s a bunch of malarkey.  If a Crash the Super Bowl entry wins the public vote, Fritolay will spend about a million bucks to air it during the most-watched TV event of the year.  Do you really think they’d pick ads for the finals that had crappy audio or that looked dark or grainy or blurry?  Every single Crash the Super finalist that the Doritos judges have every picked was “TV-Quality.”  And many were extremely professional looking.  Based on their past choices, I suspect that the judges sometimes pick certain ads simply because they LOOK good enough to air during the Super Bowl.

For instance, check out this spot that made the CTSB finals in 2011.  It was directed by a 3-time crash the Super Bowl finalist and produced by a 2-time crash the Super bowl finalist.  It was shot in LA and was created by a crew of professional and semi-professional filmmakers and actors.  Like many CTSB winners, it was shot with a RED camera.  If you don’t know what a RED camera is, it’s a professional, film-like digital camera that is used to shoot feature films like District 9, The Amazing Spiderman and Prometheus.  Its an amazing camera but it’s not cheap and it takes a skilled professional to operate it.
 

 
I was really surprised when “Birthday Wish” made the finals in 2011 since the ad wasn’t about the product being sold.  The Doritos only got 1 mention and 2 seconds of decent screen time.  But it looked pretty and it was kind of funny so Fritolay wouldn’t have been totally embarrassed if the ad aired during the big game.  So how much did it actually cost to produce this ad?  Here’s a quote I pulled from an interview with the producer:

“I’m managing about 50 people,” she said about this year’s contest entry. “We had a $3,000 budget, but everyone on it worked for free.”

Yes….that is an actual quote from the producer.  “Birthday Wish” had a budget of $3,000 and 50 people(!) worked on it.  And it wasn’t even a very fancy ad!  It didn’t have any crazy stunts or effects and the whole thing took place in just a living room and a dining room.  But expenses can ad up fast when you’re producing a video that needs to look really good on an HD TV.

Let’s take a look at another very professional looking CTBS ad.  This one made the finals last year.  It only cost $750 to produce and was shot with a Canon 7D.
 

 
“Bird of Prey” did cost under $1,000 but I’m guessing that it still cost more than 99% of the other commercials that were submitted last year.  It was also made by a team of pros and semi-pros that had produced some past Crash the Super Bowl winners.  (I think some of the crew may have worked on “Birthday Wish.”)  According to the Bird of Prey website, it took 18 crew people to produce this spot and they even had a professional stunt coordinator.  So most people who enter the Crash could never pull off a video like this without spending a boatload if money.  If you’d like a better understanding of how complex some of these shoots can be, check out this behind the scenes video.
 

 
When Doritos announces their Top 5 picks they usually put out a press release that mentions how much each submission cost to produce.  For the last few years, pretty much every Crash the Super Bowl finalist ad has cost at least $500 and many cost well over $1,000.  Remember the Doritos ad “Sling Baby” from last year’s Super Bowl?  That “fan-made” ad was directed by a 3-time Crash the Super Bowl winner (he also did Birthday Wish the year before) and cost $2,700 to produce.  I could list the budgets of a bunch of other recent CSTB winners but the numbers would probably just depress the hell out of you.  Now don’t get me wrong….I’m not hating on the filmmakers out there that have spent or will spend thousands of dollars on their CTSB entries.  I absolutely respect filmmakers who are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals.  Seriously, it takes some major cojones to spend $3,000 on a spec ad that might net you zero dollars.  If you’ve got the money and the guts to go all in with your Crash the Super Bowl entry, I tip my hat to you.

So right about now you’re probably thinking about about selling all your stuff (and maybe your body) on craigslist so you can shoot a Doritos ad that actually has a chance of making the top 5.  Well not so fast!  Spending a small fortune and producing a super slick entry isn’t always a good idea.  In fact, I think Doritos has passed on some entries because they don’t look homemade enough.  Check out these amazing Crash the Super Bowl submissions that DIDN’T make the finals:
 

 

 
Those were pretty damn good and they looked as professional as any ad you’d see on TV.  But they didn’t make the top 5.  I think they were just TOO SLICK to win an “amateur” commercial contest.  So while money IS a factor here, it is far from the only thing that matters.  In fact, if you have an amazing idea, it doesn’t matter at all!  Remember this ad from last year’s Superbowl?
 

 
That was Crash the Super Bowl winner “Man’s Best Friend.”  It aired during the game and was ranked the number one best commercial of the Super Bowl on the USA Today ad meter.  And that means the creator of that ad won a one million dollar bonus from Fritolay.  So how much did Man’s Best Friend cost to produce?

$20.

So if you don’t have a few extra thousand dollars to spend on your Doritos commercial, don’t worry.  If you can come up with a perfect, hilarious, once-in-a-life time commercial idea none of the judges are going to care how pretty your submission is.
 

Low Budget Lighting Part Two: Basic Electrical Safety

Beardy’s note:  It’s Friday which means today we’re running Part 2 of Cinematographer Jeremy Applebaum’s excellent Three Part Guest Post about the basics of Low Budget lighting.  And today’s installment is extremely helpful.  If you’ve ever tripped a breaker during a big shoot, now you’ll know why.  In case you missed it, here’s Part 1 of the Low Budget Lighting guide.  And now, on to Part 2:

Part One: Calculating Amps:

Remember, a "Stinger' is an extension cord on a film set.

In the first installment we went over the tools and gear you can pick up in order to build yourself a DIY, low budget light kit.  This time we will go over some basic electrical safety.  Before plugging anything in it is good practice to know where the fuse box is.  And if  it’s an older fuse box you’ll need some replacement fuses in case you trip a fuse.  Even if you closely monitor your power draw, you never know when a refrigerator, furnace, tv, etc will kick on and blow the fuse.  Any standard wall socket socket (circuit) can handle anywhere from 15 – 20 amps.  In order to make sure you donʼt blow a fuse (or trip a breaker) you should always keep track of how many amps you’re plugging into the socket.
 

The formula for calculating amps is:  Amps = Watts / Volts.

 
In America we use 120 volts.  However, when calculating amps for my own shoots, I divide by 100, not 120 for a few reasons.  One, itʼs faster: Itʼs a lot easier to and quicker to divide 500/100 (5) as opposed to 500/120 (4.16).  Two, it keeps my amperage on the circuit down, further reducing my chances of blowing a fuse.  While itʼs important to know that the formula for 100% accuracy, you can almost never go wrong with diving by 100 instead of 120.

Part Two Stinger Safety:

Something to keep in mind when handling power distribution for your scene is that stingers have gauges, which tell the amperage they can handle.  Most off the self stingers will have gauges ranging from 12 – 16.  But the longer the stinger, the less amps they can safety hold.  Below you will find a chart explaining the differences (for America).  If you are not careful your stinger can melt, causing a potential electrical fire.
 

Beardy's note: I went to college with a guy named Max Amps. True story.

As you can see it can get quite complicated if you’re running long stingers.  You can never go wrong buying a higher gauge cord. In fact, unless you are really strapped for cash, you should never buy anything less than a 14 gauge stinger for film work.  The same principle applies to surge protectors and to an extent, multi taps.

And now, some Bonus Questions!  Answers to be posted at the start of next week’s article:

It should be noted that for the purpose of these questions volts are assumed to be at 120.  It is perfectly fine (and recommended) to try solving these problems with volts at 120 and 100 (answers will be given for both). Stinger gauge/max amperage for the distance should be taken from the table above.

1: How many amps does a 500 watt work light draw?

2: If you have 4 500 watt work lights and one 100 foot 16 gauge extension cord, how many work lights can you safely power?

3: If you nearest 20 amp socket (circuit) is 50 feet away, you have a 50 foot 12 gauge stinger, and you need to power 20 amps of light could you safely power your lights?

4: If you have two 15 amp sockets (circuits), one 1,000 watt work light, two 500 watt work lights, two clamp lights with 100 watt lamps in them and two stingers, each 12 gauge 25 footers with attached multi taps could you power all your lights if the closest socket (circuits) is 45 feet away? If not how many more amps would you need?

Feel free to post your answers you may have below.  Same goes for any questions you may have.  Stay tuned for part three where we will go over a basic low budget lighting set up.
 

—     Guest Post by Jeremy Applebaum. Check out Jeremey’s “Virtual AD” app here    —