2014 Crash the Super Bowl finalist Chris Capel makes the Project Greenlight finals

“Living with Jigsaw” by Chris Capel

Hardcore Crash the Super Bowl fans will remember the 2013-2014 finalist ad, Office Thief which featured a cheese dust-covered employee who may or may not have been stealing his co-worker’s Doritos.  Well the director of that ad, Chris Capel is really on a roll because his new short film, “Living with Jigsaw” just made the Project Greenlight finals.  Here now is a quick Q&A I did with Chris about Doritos, Project Greenlight and his new roommate, JigSaw.

VCN: So first things first, how did making the CTSB finals affect your life?

CC: It was pretty amazing. I got my first few paid directing gigs from the exposure, so it definitely started me on that path.

VCN: What inspired you to try out for Project Green Light?

CC:  I watched the third season back when it was on and seeing into the filmmaking process was incredibly exciting. Once they announced the new season I knew we had to enter.

VCN: Where did you get the idea for your short?

CC:  My writing partner Richard Price and I originally came up with a comedy short called, “Living With A Merman”. It’s a similar premise to Jigsaw, just with a merman instead. Since then we’ve come up with several other “Living With” scenarios and we want to eventually turn it into a digital series.

VCN: What was production like?

CC.  We shot it on a panasonic hpx170 with a Redrock 35mm adapter. It was a one-day shoot. This was the first time we worked with an actual DP. John Hafner and his crew were pretty amazing. Totally on the ball and we got a lot shot in one day. It was refreshing to get a glimpse of what it’s like to work on a real set.

VCN: How did you find out that you made the finals?

CC:  We received an email from the staff at PGL shortly after they announced the finalists on Facebook. I saw the facebook post first and just about peed my pants. Needless to say it was incredibly exciting.

VCN: What needs to happen for you to win a slot on the show?

CC:  So from the top 20 they narrow it down to 10. One of the top ten is determined by who gets the most votes via facebook. The other 9 are chosen by a panel of experts from the show/industry. From there we make a short interpretation of a script they will be providing and the winner is chosen after that.

If you’d like to vote for Chris’ short, head to projectgreenlight.com and click on “Living with Jigsaw.”  Voting is done via a facebook app but be aware, you can only click the vote button after the entire video has played.  (That’s actually a very clever way to prevent cheating  I bet Ben Affleck came up with that feature himself.)  Fortunately Chris’ film is very watch-able so you won’t have any problem making it all the way to the end.  Seriously….you should check it out.  I literally lol’ed out loud like 5 times.

FOX and the NFL make a big decision regarding Doritos’ viral hit, “Finger Cleaner”

The Australian-made Crash the Super Bowl entry “Finger Cleaner” is pretty disgusting.  It’s gross and it’s weird and its thinly-veiled sexual subtext is completely outrageous.  And you know what?  That’s why I love this commercial.  I didn’t think the CTSB judges would have the stones to pick Finger Cleaner for the Top 5 but I guess I was wrong.  (Apparently they were serious when they told their fans they wanted “bold” submissions.)  Finger Cleaner is so crazy and so hilarious that it actually went viral about 2 months before it even made the semi-finals.  And when the ad was announced as an official finalist on January 2nd, Finger Cleaner was shared by so many people that it gained almost 300,000 views in a day.  With three days left to go in the online voting, the commercial is up to 2.6 million views and 5,252 shares.  Compare that to the finalist in 2nd place in the (unofficial) view count race; Time Machine.  That ad has proved to be pretty popular too but it’s only earned 1,120,438 views and 574 shares.

Views and shares don’t actually count in this contest but they’re a good indicator of how an entry is doing in the public voting.  Finger Cleaner is getting so much positive media coverage and so many social media shares that it’s probably going to win the online poll in a landslide.  The finalist that gets the most votes is supposed to air during Superbowl XLVIII and the creator is supposed to automatically win a million dollars.  But ever since Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, the networks that broadcast the Super Bowl have been trying to keep the event squeaky-clean and controversy-free.  Every year there are a few stories about Super Bowl ads that are rejected because they’re “too hot for TV” or because they might offend viewers.  Advertisers such as Godaddy have realized that they can get some free press attention just by submitting Super Bowl ads that they know will get rejected.  It’s a win-win situation for sponsors because these “controversial” ads go viral but the company doesn’t have to pay 3 million bucks to air it during the Super Bowl.  Case in point, this Godaddy ad that was rejected CBS last year…

That was pretty lame.  I doubt Godaddy ever actually wanted to air that 49 second-long commercial during the Super Bowl.  (They wound up airing a shorter, less-gross version of this spot) But because it was officially “rejected,” Godaddy could call it “too hot for TV” and post it on youtube.  Since January 2013 that commercial has been seen more than 1.6 million times and those views didn’t cost Godaddy a dime.

The day after Doritos revealed their finalists, The Today Show aired and discussed the other selected ads (Office Thief, Breakroom Ostrich, Cowboy Kid and Time Machine) but at the end of the segment, Matt Lauer said:

“Now, there was a fifth finalist, but after watch it 37 times, I decided, and so did some other people here that it was not right for morning TV.  So we’re gonna put that on our website and you can go to Today.com and check that one out.”

If you went to Today.com and looked for their story about the Crash the Super Bowl contest, you’d see that the headline they used was “See 5 Super Bowl ads competing for $1M and the one that couldn’t air on TV.”  The article does include Finger Cleaner but states that it was “too provocative for TV.”

If The Today Show couldn’t show Finger Cleaner, will FOX be able to air it during the new G-rated Super Bowl?  The commercial is so bizarre and so suggestive that I’ve had a creeping suspicion that Doritos picked it because they thought it might get rejected by FOX.  If the ad didn’t get approved, the company could just air another Crash the Super Bowl commercial but they would still get millions of free viral views from Finger Cleaner.

But that plan doesn’t really seem like Frito-Lay’s style.  So I contacted the company and asked what would happen if Finger Cleaner won the online vote but was rejected by the network.  The Senior Director of Public Relations for Frito-Lay North America, Chris Kuechenmeister (AKA one of the top Crash the Super Bowl judges) sent me back a pleasantly definitive answer:

“All five finalist spots have been approved by FOX and the NFL.  Two of the five finalist spots will air during the Super Bowl – one selected by the world’s votes, the other by the Doritos brand team.”

So that’s that!  If Finger Cleaner wins the online vote CAN air during the Super Bowl.  And that’s great news for everyone who thinks there aren’t enough glory holes for cheesy fingers on TV!

Interview with Jon Friedman, Crash the Super Bowl finalist and creator of “Man’s Best Friend”

Crash the Super Bowl finalist, Man's Best Friend

Though I’m not totally crazy about some of Doritos’ picks in this year’s Crash the Super Bowl contest, I will admit that all of the 2012 finalists are….ok.  In fact, I think they all range from decent to awesome.  Last week I posted an interview I did with one of the creators of the CTSB finalist ad, Hot Wild Girls.  I mentioned that I thought his entry was one of the “awesome” ones and that I personally would be voting for it every day.  But this year, Fritolay has made it so you can vote a bunch of times in a bunch of different ways!  So I’ve been splitting my votes up between my two favorite ads; Hot Wild Girls and Man’s Best Friend.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that “Man’s Best Friend” made the final five; not because it was bad but because it was….I don’t know…pleasant.  It doesn’t assault your senses or your intelligence like some of the other finalists do.  Sure, it has a gigantic dog in it but it’s smart and subtle and even a tiny bit dark.  And the most amazing thing of all is that Man’s Best Friend was produced for only about 20 bucks!  So it’s really exciting to learn that that low budget, “homemade” ads still have a shot in this contest.

Man’s Best Friend was created by a very nice dude from Virginia named Jon Friedman.  Let’s get to know him, shall we?

VCN:    So Jon, tell me about yourself.  Who are you, where are you from?

JON:  I am a freelance graphic designer, filmmaker, photographer, and musician from Virginia Beach, VA. Filmmaking has always been a passion of mine, as is music (I play piano, guitar, and drums.) In the graphics world, I am best known for my design of the “Conversations with God” books, which have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. I was also fortunate enough to design Richard Bach’s last two books–he is the author of the classic books, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” and “Illusions.”

VCN:  Have you entered many video contests in the past?

JON:  This is the first video contest I’ve entered.

VCN:  What made you want to enter the CTSB contest?

JON:  Well, I can think of a “million” reasons . . . But seriously, I’ve always thought it would be fun to make commercials. I’ve had a lot of ideas for them over the years, and while I was watching the commercials during last year’s Super Bowl I thought “why haven’t I entered this contest? This is something I’ve always wanted to do.” So I made a decision right then and there to enter CTSB the following year.

VCN:  Where did the idea for Man’s Best Friend come from?

JON:  The inspiration for “Man’s Best Friend” was triggered by a thought I had one night. It just occurred to me that in most ads involving an animal, the animal is always trying to acquire the product. So I thought to myself, “What if there was a twist on that, or it was the opposite of that?” After having that thought, the idea for “Man’s Best Friend” popped into my head. I think that’s how inspiration works in general. Something usually triggers it–a thought, a memory, a feeling. It can be anything.

VCN:  How was the ad produced?  What kind of camera did you use?  Mind if I ask what your budget was?

JON:  I shot the commercial for about $20 using a Canon 7D (which I already own). I had to buy some Doritos, a few props, and some dog treats. I originally thought the commercial would only cost $13 to produce, so I went way over budget. The most difficult part about the production was getting “Huff the Great Dane” to cooperate. He’s really just a gigantic 120+ pound baby who wants to run around, sit in people’s laps, and eat treats (he was also fond of shaking hands/paws with everyone). Huff knew the word “sit” but that’s about as far as his training went. It took some patience and cleverness to get what we needed.

Jon Friedman in Fritolay's secret underground PR bunker

VCN:  How and when did you find out you made the finals?

JON:  I don’t remember the exact date, but I received a phone call between the second and third week in December. I was told to keep quiet about it of course, so that was very difficult. It’s tough to walk around acting like everything’s normal when you get news like that!

VCN:  This is kind of an insider question but I think some readers will really like to hear the answer.  I’ve heard that actors in CTSB ads actually get paid SAG “scale” by Fritolay.  Is that true?

JON:  Yes, that’s true. I only had one on-screen actor in my commercial and he had to fill out a SAG contract.

VCN:   So who are you taking to the Super Bowl?

JON:  I’m taking my brother (and assistant director.) We often collaborate on creative projects and his help has been invaluable.

VCN:  What are you doing to promote your entry?

JON:  I don’t know that I’m doing anything too special–Facebook, local media, friends and family. I’m hoping that will be enough!

VCN:  What has been the reaction of your family and friends to all this?

JON:  They’ve been incredibly supportive and I think many of them are more excited than I am! I’m still in shock by the whole thing.

VCN:  Here on VCN we’ve talked a lot about finalists who are able to win the CTSB more than once. Are you already planning your entry for 2013?

JON:  I have so many ideas, and I’ll admit, I have thought about what I might do next year. If I don’t win the big prize this year (which I believe automatically disqualifies you from entering the contest again), I will probably enter it again next year. I had a lot of fun making this commercial, and even if I don’t win again, I know I’ll enjoy creating another one.

VCN:  Any final thoughts you’d care to share?

JON:  This whole experience has been amazing, and I still feel honored that “Man’s Best Friend” was chosen as a finalist. If people have any questions or comments they’d like to share with me, I can be contacted at jonathan@frame25productions.com

To vote for Man’s Best Friend, head here: www.mansbestfriendcommercial.com

Interview with Pepsi Max Crash the Super Bowl finalist, Kyle Stafford

Kyle battles a Doritos-loving kid in his 2012 Crash the Super Bowl entry, Switcheroo

When it was announced the Pepsi Max wasn’t going to be a part of this year’s Crash the Superbowl contest I was both disappointed and relived; disappointed because that meant there would be only 5 finalist slots instead of 10 and relived because the folks at Pepsi simply did not seem to get this contest.  The people at Doritos who created and run “The Crash” have spent years building up the reputation of this mega-contest and in one season, the Pepsi Max team came in and did serious damage to the CTSB “brand.”

Pepsi Max hurt the contest in a few ways but it all comes down to which videos they picked for the Top 5.  When the 2010/2011 contest was announced, the Pepsi team kept pushing the idea that Pepsi Max was a “manly” diet drink.  And so, hundreds of filmmakers shot ads that were aimed at selling Pepsi Max to men.  But somewhere along the way, Pepsi must have changed their marketing strategy for Pepsi Max.  Because when they announced their finalists, 4 of the top 5 videos were clearly aimed at selling Pepsi Max to women.  That upset quite a few people.  But that was nothing compared to the backlash when fans actually watched Pepsi Max’s finalist choices.  Two of them were embarrassingly bad and a third ad was very-expensive looking but it wasn’t especially funny. It aired during the big game and scored 24th on the USA Today Ad Meter…which I believe makes it the worst performing CTSB ad ever.

So Pepsi’s Top 5 were just not on par with the kind of ads that Doritos always picked. There were only two 2011 Pepsi Max Crash the Super Bowl finalists that I personally liked.  One was “Love Hurts” and the other was this ad entitled, First Date:

One thing the Pepsi Judges did that kind of impressed me was that they weren’t afraid to pick ads that didn’t have high-end production values. (Of course, I think this strategy backfired in one or two cases) First Date doesn’t look super slick and it wasn’t shot with a $18,000 Red Camera.  The thing it has going for it is great writing.  It’s clever and interesting and it’s aimed at both women AND men.  And best of all, it’s TRUE.  People connect with this idea because they have probably been in situations like the one depicted in the video. First Date wound up airing during the Super Bowl and despite the fact that this ad only cost about $25 to make, it was ranked the #7 best ad of the night on the USA Today ad meter poll.  It just goes to show you that good writing conquers all.

The man behind First Date is named Kyle Stafford and he plays “the guy” in the commercial.  It turns out that Kyle is a fan of VCN and he graciously agreed to answer some questions about his Crash the Super Bowl experiences.  And now, on with the interview:
VCN:  So Kyle, tell us about yourself.  Where are you from?  What do you do for a living?
KYLE:  I am from Northern California. A place called Rohnert Park, north of San Francisco. I graduated from UC Santa Barbara and came straight to LA to become a world famous writer/producer. Ten years later and I am now an Editor over at Warner Brothers. It’s actually not a bad gig, but I still write/produce on nights and weekends.. I am married and we have 2 sons. And they are actually all in this years CTSB commercial.
VCN:  Do you enter a lot of video contests?
KYLE:  This year will be out 4th year entering the Crash contest. Last year we actually made 3 commercials, 2 for Pepsi Max and 1 for Doritos. But besides this contest, we don’t really enter other contests.
VCN:  Do you remember why you entered the contest last year?
KYLE:  We actually were not going to enter last year, because we had entered the 2 previous years and thought we had pretty good entries and never got in, so we were all stubborn, like “screw it” we don’t need them.  Then we came to our senses and realized we did need them and we ended up making 3 spots. We actually thought a different entry was going to be the finalist. A spot called Pepsi Wedding, which you had in your Top 30 list. So when they called and said it was for First Date we were all kind of shocked.
VCN:  Tell us about how you created First Date.
KYLE:  A couple of friends and I have a comedy/skit website called GoodLookingLiars.com, so we had been making content on and off together for about 2 years when we decided to enter the contest again. We hadn’t really put any thought into the commercials since we were not going to enter anything, but then when we decided to enter, we had almost no time, so we had to act quick. I got the idea in LA traffic, during an especially awful stretch on the 405. I just remember it making me laugh, so I called Nick Simotas and Robby Wells right away and told them the idea and they both laughed. Then I called my wife and she said there was no way we could say that during the Super Bowl. That’s when I knew we were going to make it. The ad cost about 25 dollars to make. We got the restaurant for free, got friends to be extras and shot the whole thing in about an hour. It isn’t the most complex commercial in the world, with no production audio and really only 3 camera angles. The 25 dollars was just to buy frozen dinners to put food on the plates as well as a pack of gum so the whole cast and crew could partake in a good chew. The actress opposite me is Julia Bellows, she is a super funny friend of ours that we have used in a bunch of our stuff.
VCN:  How and when did you find out that you made the 2011 finals?
KYLE: The people at Pepsi called us about 3 or 4 days before they posted the results…. The only reason they tell you in advance is to make sure you have all the correct actor/location releases and paperwork before they go through the process of making you a finalist. I was actually at work when they called, and we were not allowed to tell anyone until they posted, so I had to sit at work the rest of the day with this huge dopey grin on my face and I couldn’t tell anyone why.
VCN:  Did Pepsi Max ask you to keep the news to yourself?  How did your friends and family react when they heard the news?
KYLE:  Yeah, we were asked to keep the news under wraps until they posted the finalists. I think my friends and family thought I was kidding, most probably did until the second they saw it actually air during the game. Good thing my face was on it or nobody would have ever believed me.
VCN:  How was your trip to the Super Bowl?
KYLE:  Trip to the Super Bowl was amazing, we got to sit in a luxury box at the 40 yard line with catering and free booze. Dallas was freezing though, Pepsi had actually planned a bunch of cool events and parties to go to, but we had to cancel a good amount because it was really hard to get around, but we got to go to the Pepsi Jam concert thing with Kid Rock and Duran Duran. So the whole trip was pretty surreal, being whisked away to events and having VIP passes. Usually I am working catering at those things, so it was cool to sit back and enjoy it all.
VCN:  Your commercial wound up playing very late in the game.  How did it feel when it finally ran?
KYLE:  Yeah, they don’t tell you if you’re going to air until you see it on the TV, so every commercial break is pretty intense. They aired 5 of the 6 ads in the first quarter, so only one ad was going to air the rest of the game, so then we had to sit through every commercial break until about the middle of the 4th quarter. They actually ended up airing our ad on the Dallas Stadium jumbo-tron, which is the biggest jumbo-tron in the world I think, so my already giant head was spread out over a 60 yard TV. We actually thought at that point our ad was not going to air on TV, thinking the Jumbo-tron was a consolation prize or something. But then the time came and it aired and Nick and I freaked out and hugged, it was a pretty cool moment. I think Nick had a roll of quarters in his pocket.
VCN:  First Date did amazingly well on the ad meter.  In came in 7th.  Did you expect to rank so high?  Even though you didn’t “land in the money” were you happy with how your commercial performed?
KYLE:  The ad did a lot better then we thought it would. We didn’t expect it to rank so high, but I think in the sea of slick over-produced ads, I think we were kind of novel in that our ad was so insanely simple and true. The biggest thing we kept hearing was how true our ad was and I think people were laughing at the truth of the guy/girl thing. It’s funny, landing in the money was never even a thought for us, we just wanted it to air, then when we saw we came so close, you start thinking “Damn! We almost got like 400 grand.” and you start to get bummed, but then we shook ourselves and remembered we were at the Superbowl and had an ad that we created that just aired in front of 110 million people and we perked up. And Nick said he had a roll of dimes now.
VCN:  Were you surprised that Pepsi Max wasn’t part of the Crash the Super Bowl contest this year?
KYLE:  Yeah I was surprised, if you look back at last year, Pepsi had 2 of the top 7 ads on the Ad Meter. If you were a real ad agency and you could point to those kind of results they would be getting bonuses, but I am sure the people at Pepsi Max know a little more than I do about soda marketing, so I am sure they have their reasons.  But it sucks having the finalists basically cut into half. Makes it that much harder to win.
VCN:  How did making the CTSB finals change your life?
KYLE:  Being a finalist in CTSB was a super cool experience, but I wouldn’t say it has changed my life.  It is a really nice story to tell and legitimizes us a little with Hollywood producer types, but nobody is knocking down our door for all our content. I got recognized a little right afterward, a few people asked me if I was that guy on TV or I would be at the store and you would see someone staring at me like they knew me from somewhere but couldn’t quite figure out from where. I had a kid want a picture with me at the game. I told him “When you go back through these pictures you are gonna be like ‘Who the hell is this guy in my photo album?”
VCN: Did you enter the contest again this year? 
Yeah, we entered in again this year. I included my whole family in this year’s ad. You can tell we broke the bank again on this ad. This one actually didn’t cost anything:
Thanks for your site and good luck to all the entrants. Keep making stuff!!!!
VCN:  And thank you for your time.  Good Luck this year!

Every Crash the Super Bowl finalst entry, EVER

It begins!

Today is October 3rd, which means that the 2011/2012 Installment of the Crash the Super Bowl contest is officially underway!  You have until Monday, November 21st to get your commercials submitted but you might as well get to work sooner rather than later.  But before you pick up a camera or even open up your screenwriting software the first thing you should do is a little bit of RESEARCH.  Doritos has now run four installments of The Crash; 2006/2007, 2008/2009, 2009/2010 and 2010/2011.  Technically there was a 2007/2008 installment but it wasn’t a commercial contest.  That one was to find a singer who would have their song played during the Super Bowl.  Fortunately, it was kind of a flop so Doritos wisely brought back the commercial contest in 2008 and they’ve run it every year since.

So four previous installments mean that there are four year’s worth of winning videos that you can study.  So below, I am going to post every, single commercial that has ever made the finals in the Crash the Super Bowl contest.  If you watch them all you’ll notice that Doritos definitely has a certain look, style and attitude that they seem to prefer.  The judges clearly like:

1.  Violent Slapstick comedy, e.g. nut shots, tazers and electric shocks, hard falls.

2.  Jerks who abuse animals getting their comeuppance. 

3.  Surprise, twist endings

You’ll also notice that the judges unquestionably prefer High Quality productions. If the commercial isn’t TV quality, Doritos isn’t going to run it on TV. Even during the first year of the contest, all the selected ads were either shot in HD (pretty hard to come by in 2006!) or on film. Now last year, the Pepsi Max judges did pick a few finalists that were NOT tv quality. But that was essentially a different contest with a different set of judges. That’s why there was such a huge difference in the style of the finalists. I am going to post the Pepsi Max winners but just be aware that they are probably not a good indicator of what this year’s judges will be looking for. Enjoy!

UPDATE: It turns out that embedding two dozen youtube videos in one post is a great way to slow down the load time of a website!  So instead of posting all the videos below, I created a new page where you can watch all the ads.  So use this link to see the 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 Crash the Super Bowl finalist ads.