The main thing standing between Mark Freiburger and $1 million is a psychotic goat.
Well, the not-really-blind guy could be a problem, and there’s always a chance the magic dog or the naughty little girl might get in the way. But it’s likeliest to be that evil goat.
We are speaking, as Doritos addicts already know, about the annual Crash the Super Bowl advertising competition.
Freiburger, a Providence High grad who has shot two feature films in North Carolina and will make a third this spring, spent $300 last year (mostly to rent a wedding dress for a guy the size of a zeppelin) on an ad titled “Fashionista Daddy.” It’s now one of five finalists to air during the Super Bowl Feb. 3.
Freiburger and the other finalists – the guys who filmed the goat, the magic dog and the others – have received $25,000 and will be taken to New Orleans for a round of fine cuisine, hotel suites and spas. They’ll learn who won as they watch the game from the Frito-Lay skybox. One winner will come from online voting that closes Jan. 29; Doritos executives will pick the other.
If either of those ads tops the USA Today Ad Meter for the game, its maker gets a million bucks and a job working for director Michael Bay on “Transformers 4” this summer. If the ad finishes second, he wins $600,000. If third, $400,000.
Is this a long shot? Maybe not: Doritos’ “Sling Baby” topped the Ad Meter last year, and Freiburger knows some of the people who worked on it.
Emboldened by their success, the longtime football fan (and faithful Carolina Panthers follower, even in Los Angeles) decided to make a commercial with three friends. Gabe Trevino came up with the idea of a father and daughter at a tea party. Nathan Scoggins suggested putting the dad in a dress for a Princess Fashion Show. Nate Daniels weighed in, and pretty soon dad’s football-playing pals were in drag.
Freiburger, 29, directed it like a feature, studying actors’ audition reels as intently as he will for his upcoming romantic comedy, “Under the Apple Tree.” (It should begin shooting locally in March.)
Tight budget, tight schedule
He cast known faces, including Shaun O’Hagen (“Black Swan”) as the dad and Cazzey Louis Cereghino (the Viking in Capital One “What’s in your wallet?” ads) as his portly pal.
“That $300 went mostly to rent Cazzey’s wedding dress,” he says. “We got the biggest size there was. I was afraid he’d rip it, in which case our budget would have doubled! The rest paid for bags of Doritos.”
Scoggins produced, provided his house for the set and his daughter for Daddy’s princess. Everyone donated labor, which has been paid for out of the first $25,000 in winnings. (The four friends have also agreed to give 10 percent to charity, if they win the million. Freiburger’s share would yield 2,500 pairs of shoes for Charlotte-based Samaritan’s Feet.)
That one-day shoot gave Freiburger a quick education in commercials. His “Dog Days of Summer” and “Jimmy” are meditative dramas, but now he had to tell a 30-second story by cutting every second or two.
Jeff Klein, senior director of marketing for Frito-Lay, says the company gets thousands of submissions each year. A team narrows those to 100, then senior people bring that down to 20. Company executives, Michael Bay and ad agency veterans have chosen the final five.
“We get hundreds of thousands of online votes for the finalists, so that’s a sample big enough to represent America,” says Klein. “When we choose (the other one), we look for originality, creativity and what we call overall appeal: Will it get huge laughs in the Super Bowl environment? This is our seventh year with the contest, and we’ve never finished out of the top five on the Ad Meter.”
What did Klein like best about “Fashionista Daddy?”
“The cinematography was very professional, and Mark created something that would appeal to the overall family. Every mom has seen her husband do something inappropriate. As a dad, I found it very funny: Sometimes you’ll do anything to make your little girl smile.”
‘A lot I could learn’
If Freiburger wins, he’ll work for one of the three people who inspired him to get into filmmaking 11 years ago. (Steven Spielberg and Frank Darabont were the others.)
“I’d hope to shadow him,” says Freiburger. “I have run a million-dollar set, but I’d like to see how someone runs a $200 million project. I’ve never been primarily a visual director, and Michael Bay’s movies have to go through a long pre-visualization process. So there’s a lot I could learn from him.”