For pretty much my entire ‘career’ as a filmmaker, i’ve steered clear of commercials. They always seemed to lack creativity or artistic value to me. I was foolish very quick to jump to conclusions about them. I took on the role of Producer for a ‘Doritos’ TVC and it was a fantastic experience. Our TVC concept was based off a series of Doritos commercials released for the super bowl. They are always hilarious, well shot and edited while also being simple. I’ve always produced short drama films so actually having a brief to fill made the process quite a bit easier. I have never worked on a comedy project or on something that wasn’t trying too hard to be funny or dramatic so I learnt so many new things on this project that have encouraged me to work more on TVC’s if i get the opportunity. I had no idea how much thought and time had to be placed in every shot so the product captured the most attention. There was an incredible focus on making the Doritos stand out more than the acting or costuming, while also making sure they still worked well together. We also had a much smaller set and cast/crew than other projects. This may be because the TVC wasn’t overly complex but I also believe it was because having one or two people per role maintained the idea and brief to it’s fullest. I was able to tackle everything that went wrong on set head on because i knew 100% what was going on.
The basic concept for our TVC was, that after arriving home from a long day of work, Michael remembers he has a cupboard stocked full of Doritos. As he is excitedly eating them however, the grim reaper appears and kills him. After talking to the grim reaper about the experience, the grim reaper explains that he only killed him so he could have some Doritos as well.
The concept was simple to execute but also high in production value as it requires full body makeup, costumes, props and a very well written script. We were able to find spectacular actors and MUA. However we ran into some issues with costumes and props as they were costing more than anticipated.
We did have a few challenges that we encountered along the way. Most of which were easy solves. During the pre-production stage we had difficulties with costuming where we couldn’t find an affordable Grim Reaper costume. Our fantastic DOP Sarah ended up doing some DIY and MADE a grim reaper cloak and scythe. During production however we were told that we couldn’t film at the location on the second day and after a little bit of stressing of how we were going to finish the film, we spoke to the owner of the house and were told we could stay on the first day until we finished. Although this allowed us to continue filming and get it done on the one day, our main actor had to leave at 5pm and trying to get his shots done before then was very stressful. In the last 15 minutes, doing one of the final shots with him, we had to combine around 3 shots into one and make a completely new and improvised ending. Although our Director, Jono, was able to think on the spot and combine the shots, we still are unsure if the ending will work and wish we could’ve had the time to do the shots we planned. Although the stress on having to finish in the one day got a bit overwhelming and extremely exhausting, we were able to finish within 12 hours. I would’ve liked to have two days to film as our actors and crew were all very tired by the end, making things take a bit longer and will try and make sure we can do this on future sets. These negative things definitely set us back but it was our incredible actors, MUA and crew that kept us pushing forward and working harder.
The post production process was also very eye opening. After seeing the original cut (which ran for 1 minute and 30 seconds) we realised that it would be almost impossible to cut it down to 30 seconds and maintain the storyline. As none of us had done a commercial before, we had created a TVC that was directed and shot like a short film. Scott Hamilton (Lecturer and Cinematographer at SAE) sat down with us and helped Josh cut down the TVC to just over a minute. Josh then took his feedback and continued to cut away until he had made a 45 second version and a 30 second version. He had done this by cutting out almost all of the dialogue, the long tracking shots and a lot of the shots that were meant to ‘explain the story’. By cutting all this out, we were left with a clean and quick TVC that would be able to be put on the air. What was most interesting to me about this was how Josh was able to cut so much out but still make the story work. I didn’t realise how important the edit was to a TVC. Although we did lose a lot of our footage, the edit that could be aired is still a good quality TVC. We learnt so much during the editing process and now know how to properly film a commercial.
The brief for this project was to create a TVC for a company (or a fake company). I saw this as an opportunity to make something slick and extremely professional. I definitely think we were able to do that. As we took inspiration from the old super bowl commercials, I think our success will be measured on how the comedy side of the TVC comes out. The commercial fits within the client’s repertoire and although it doesn’t push the product on the audience, it makes them think about it. By highlighting the product so heavily in the shoot, it really draws the attention of the audience and sticks in their minds.
I think we could’ve improved by spacing out our schedule a bit more. Although shooting in the one day has given our editor, Josh, lots of time to make sure the TVC is perfect, it also meant that we were running very close in terms of timing of costumes, auditions and permits/releases. I also think if we had spread our time more evenly in terms of shot lengths, we could’ve saved a lot more time on set. As some of the shots took around an hour to set up, there was a lot of time wasted. We could’ve easily fixed this by having a rehearsal and discovering the exact setup we needed.
Overall, this was an incredible experience for me and has taught me so much about producing and working on a completely different type of set. I was lucky enough to work with an amazing team that had brilliant morale and creative ideas. I’m very excited to share the final product.