VCN interviews Chris Capel, Crash the Super Bowl finalist and creator of “Office Thief”

On the set of "Office Thief"
Director Chris Capel and the stars of “Office Thief”

Last year’s crop of Crash the Super Bowl finalists were kinda lame.  There was only one ad that I really loved, Goat 4 Sale.  But this year the CTSB judges made some pretty good picks.  I really like 4 of the 5 ads they selected for 2014.  Now that I think about it, maybe the 2013 finalists sucked because Michael Bay was a guest judge.  Everybody knows that Michael Bay loves stupid Bullsh*t.  But this time around the guest judge was Stan Lee!  So maybe Stan the Man’s influence is one reason the 2014 finalists feel fresh and fun.

I’ve been spreading my daily votes between four ads; Finger Cleaner, Time Machine, Breakroom Ostritch and Office Thief.  All of those ads deserve their place in the Top 5 and I’d be happy to see any or all of them air during the big game.  So what does it take to make the Crash the Super Bowl finals?  Let’s ask the director of Office Thief, Chris Capel and find out!

VCN:  Hey Chris, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.  So to start, why don’t you tell us about yourself:  Where are you from and what kind of work do you do?

CHRIS:  I’m originally from a small town called Thatcher in Arizona.  I’m an animator by trade but have been teaching myself filmmaking for the last 3.5 years.  I was laid off from a long-time animation job in March and am looking at it as a blessing in disguise and jumping into filmmaking with both feet!  I’m one of 14 kids and have been married for 5 years.

VCN:  Have you entered any other video contests before?

CHRIS:  We only entered one other contest a few years ago for Wonderful Pistachos.  Our ad was okay in the idea department, but the execution was pretty terrible.  It was the first thing I shot on the camera I’d bought so I was still figuring out how to use it.  It was fun though!  We didn’t win, but we learned a lot.

VCN:  What inspired you to enter the Crash the Super Bowl contest?

CHRIS:  My writing partner Richard Price and I have wanted to enter for a while, but it took finding not only an idea that we believed in, but an idea we could afford to shoot.  So this year we felt we had a shot.

VCN:  Where did the idea for Office Thief come from?

CHRIS:  We wanted to think of something a lot of people could relate to since if it airs it’ll be shown to 100+ million people.  So we figured so many people can relate to opening the break room fridge and seeing that your sandwich is missing.  From there we added the element of an incredibly guilty employee in complete and utter denial and even disgust at being accused, and we knew we had a complete joke.

VCN:  What was production like?  What kind of camera did you use?  And how many people were on your crew?

CHRIS:  We shot it on a Panasonic HPX170 with Redrock 35mm adapter on a bunch of used Nikon primes.  We had a crew of about 8.  Mostly friends helping out.

On the set of "Office Thief"
On the set of “Office Thief”

VCN:  How did you find out that you had made the semi-finals?  Did you think you had a shot at making the Top 5?

CHRIS:  Doritos called me to say that we were in the semi-finals and I almost passed out.  It was an amazing feeling!  But I never dreamed we’d make the top 5.  Mostly because we were aware of what kinds of ads Doritos picks, and we weren’t sure if ours fell into that/those categories.

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

CHRIS:  I found out mid-December.  Stan Lee himself called me!  I didn’t believe it was him for about half the call, but by the end of it I was just shaking from excitement.  He congratulated me and we talked about my spot.  I thought it was so cool that he’d actually seen it and had stuff to say about it!

VCN:  What happened after you got the news?

CHRIS:  I immediately called my writing partner Richard Price and my wife Lindsey.  They both freaked out!  It was really cool to share the news.  The orientation was really interesting.  (Dan’s note: Every year, Frito-Lay flies all the finalists to their HQ in Plano, TX so they can meet each other and shoot some promo videos.)  I got to meet the other finalists and see what our competition would be.  We talked with the PR guys and kind of nailed down the best ways to talk about ourselves and our spot, did a mock interview, etc. It was really fun!

VCN:  What have you been doing to promote your entry?

CHRIS:  We’ve been reaching out to literally everyone we’ve ever known and asking them to vote daily and share it with friends, family, etc.  It’s been a very stressful process and some of time I wonder if I’ll ever be sane again.  But we love it!  We’ve got a few people on our side with some really great networks and outreach so we’re trying to take advantage of that as much as possible.

VCN:  Are you psyched for the super bowl?  Who are you taking as your guest?

CHRIS:  I can’t wait to go to the game!  It’ll be so fun.  I’m taking Richard Price with me as my guest, as he and I came up with the spot together.

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

CHRIS:  We’d love everyone’s support!  We’re just a couple of guys and I think we really represent who this contest is meant for, so any help on the voting front is very much welcome!  You can go to www.voteofficethief.com to see our spot, vote and learn more about us.  Here’s a direct link to voting: http://bit.ly/VoteOfficeThief

We also have a facebook page, and of course the usual twitter and instagram.

VCN:  Thanks for the interview Chris and good luck!

Doritos announces their 2014 Crash the Super Bowl finalists!

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The countdown clock on doritos.com said that FritoLay would announce their top 5 Crash the Super Bowl finalists on Sunday, January 5th.  But this afternoon the clock disappeared and the 2014 finalists were revealed.  Just two days ago I tried to predict which semi-finalists would advance to the top 5 and man, I was way off.  I only got one right (Finger Cleaner.)  But I have to say, the CTSB judges did ok this year.  I think these are 5 decent entries and they’re certainly some of the best of the semi-finalists.  Here’s FritoLay’s official list of winners:

Time Machine” by Ryan Andersen, Scottsdale, Arizona, United States
Office Thief” by Chris Capel, Valencia, California, United States
The Cowboy Kid” by Amber Gill, Ladera Ranch, California, United States
Breakroom Ostrich” by Eric Haviv, Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Finger Cleaner” by Thomas Noakes, Sydney, Australia

Of this group, Finger Cleaner is my favorite followed closely by Time Machine and Office Thief.  Breakroom Ostrich makes me chuckle but I wish it had a stronger punchline.  And while I personally dislike The Cowboy Kid (it’s trying a little too hard to be cutesy) I get that your mom and all her facebook friends are probably going to love that one.

I think what’s really interesting about today’s announcement are the ads that FritoLay DIDN’T chose for the Top 5.  Not one of the misogynistic semi-finalists made the cut.  So why did Doritos pick so many sexist ads for the Top 24?  My theory is that the some marketing genius at FritoLay figured that commercials with a bunch of T&A would get a lot of viral views.  So those entries probably never had a real shot at making the finals.

And you know who else got shut out this year?  REPEAT FINALISTS.  For the last five years it’s seemed like the same people were making the finals over and over and over.  There was always at least one previous winner in the Top 5 and sometimes there were multiple repeat finalists.  One director managed to win 4 trips to the Super Bowl and another director won 3.  But for the first time since 2007, all of the winning filmmakers are first-timers.

1/3/14 UPDATE:  Whoa wait a second!  I got a tip from a reader today and it turns out I was not 100% correct when I said that repeat finalists were shut out this year.  Technically, none of the 2014 finalists have made the Top 5 before.  But COWBOY KID was definitely created by a team of filmmakers that has made the finals at least 4 times!  I say “at least 4 times” because a few team members have broken off over the year’s and formed new teams that also got to the finals a few times.  But the core group (led by director Kevin T. Willson) made the finals with Sling Baby in 2012, Birthday Wish in 2011 and Casket in 2010.  I was shocked to hear that this team had entered the contest again since Sling Baby won a million dollar bonus in 2012.  More on this story next week.

We’ll have to wait until Super Bowl Sunday to learn which 2 commercials actually won the contest.  The ad that gets the most public votes this months will air during the big game and the director will receive a million dollar bonus.  Then FritoLay’s judges will pick a 2nd commercial that will also air.  But that one only gets $50,000.  Then the other three finalists will each receive $25,000 for making the top 5.  I think Finger Cleaner is a lock to win the million bucks.  That entry went viral before it even made the semi-finals.  It’s gotten over a million views on youtube so it’s gonna be hard to beat.  I really thought it might be too gross/suggestive for TV but it wouldn’t have made the finals if the sponsors were concerned about getting it past the censors.  I’d like to see Time Machine or Office Thief air too but FritoLay’s marketing team will probably pick the video that they know your mom will want to post on facebook after the game.  That means The Cowboy Kid has a good shot at nabbing the 2nd slot.