Students, community ‘chip’ in on Doritos commercial contest

Joe Cowan (left) and Royce Gillins (right) prepare a camera for production on the set of "Triangle Power" at Cedar City High School, Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 14, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — A Southern Utah University professor has teamed up with other SUU staff, students and community members with the hope of winning $1 million in the “Crash the Super Bowl” contest.

Jon Smith, "Triangle Power" producer, prepares props for production in Cedar City High School on Oct. 14, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
Jon Smith, “Triangle Power” producer, and Casey Velarde, key wardrobe for the project,  prepare props in Cedar City High School, Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 14, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

The Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” Contest calls for anyone with a camera to produce a 30-second commercial promoting Doritos and to upload it. The winner will have their video featured during the Super Bowl, win a $1 million cash prize and a job offer from Universal Pictures.

Jon Smith, professor of communication at SUU and the project producer, said his ideas for the commercials have been in the making since early 2014. After speaking to his students and co-workers about his idea, Smith began to put the project in motion.

“As a university professor I am essentially required to do creative and scholarly work,” Smith said. “I’m supposed to practice my trade and I’m supposed to know what is going on in the industry. This helps to keep us on the ball and keeps us state-of-the-art and hopefully we can compete on a national level.”

Haven Scott, Key Grip for "Triangle Power," prepares some set lights for production in Cedar City High School on Oct. 14, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
Haven Scott, key grip for “Triangle Power,” prepares some set lights for production in Cedar City High School, Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 14, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

Students from all majors at SUU were invited to participate in the project, Smith said, but the main turnout has been from students studying communication. The experience is something he said he hopes will allow the students a realistic look into what to expect after graduation.

“It’s the students but it’s also the community,” Smith said. “The students are working on the project, the actors are from SUU and there are some dancers from Cedar High School. (Cedar City) Mayor Maile Wilson is an actor in it as well. “

Smith said he plans on entering at least two videos into the contest with the possibility of a third because of all the extra bags of Doritos he still has laying around.

Being able to produce a commercial on a professional scale is something Tim Beery, an SUU communication major and first assistant director for the projects, said has been extremely beneficial in furthering his education.

“It is the real-life application of the things that we are learning,” Beery said. “It’s taking the camera skills and (management) skills we’ve learned at SUU and making us actually do it.”

Ellen Treanor, "Triangle Power" director, gives some acting advice to a student on Smith, "Triangle Power" producer, gives instructions to a student actor in Cedar City High School on Oct. 14, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
Ellen Treanor, “Triangle Power” director, gives some acting advice to a student actor in Cedar City High School, Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 14, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

Ellen Treanor, a professional staff at SUU and director of the Doritos projects, said rather than having student volunteers be placed in their positions, she allowed them to choose where they would work.

“I asked them to self-select by asking, ‘what are you really strong at that you want to shine in?’ or ‘what do you want to learn about?’” Treanor said. “I think it works best that way because it … would be frustrating to be in a volunteer project and have to do something you hate.”

Treanor said she has been involved in the production of over 50 commercials — including some that have aired in the Super Bowl — and this production rivals others she has worked on.

“This crew has pulled off what it would take a (professional) set days to do,” Treanor said. “Just yesterday would have taken four days of shooting and we got it all done in like three hours.”

Casey Velarde, key wardrobe for the production, and Kelcy Faimalo, makeup and hair, draw some shapes on a whiteboard for the production of "Triangle Power" in Cedar City High School on Oct. 14, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
Casey Velarde, key wardrobe for the production, and Kelcy Faimalo, makeup and hair, draw some shapes on a whiteboard for the production of “Triangle Power” at Cedar City High School, Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 14, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

The two commercials have been different enough from each other to offer the students a look at different types of production, Treanor said. The first commercial, shot on Oct. 3, centered on a sincere moment between a young boy and his grandmother while the second is more upbeat and exciting.

The second commercial — titled “Triangle Power” — began production on Monday inside Cedar High School. According to a press release, the commercial centers around a young boy gaining the courage to stand up to a bully using the power of the Doritos triangle.

For the production of “Triangle Power,” SUU student volunteers teemed up with high school volunteers for a hallway dance scene. Chandler Hall, a junior communication major at SUU, worked as the dance choreographer for the scene and said her involvement was unexpected.

“I wasn’t planning on being involved at all in the beginning,” Hall said. “But then Jon (Smith) came to me and asked if I would do the choreography for this commercial because he knew I had a background in dance and dance choreography.”

While choreographing a dance for a commercial is much different from a stage performance, it is something Hall said she would like to do again.

Matt Nickerson, playing the roll of the physics teacher in the production, acts out his roll as members of the production crew look on in  Cedar City High School on Oct. 14, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
Matt Nickerson, playing the roll of the physics teacher in the production, acts out his roll as members of the production crew look on at Cedar City High School, Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 14, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

“I really like it because it clashes my two worlds together,” Hall said. “So whether I want to do dance stuff or work on a commercial, I can say I’ve had experience.”

If either video entries into the contest end up going all the way, Smith said he will be sharing the $1 million prize with those who have assisted based on their roll in the production. He has also considered assisting some students with paying back their student loans

The videos still need to be edited and then uploaded to the contest website, Smith said, which he hopes will be done before the end of October. Once they are uploaded, members of the community can visit the site to view the finished product.

Whether they win the prize or not, Smith said it is his hope all involved will benefit from the knowledge they gain while working on a professional-quality project.

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Email: dchavez@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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