On the first day of film school, students are told that working with babies or producing elaborate stunts is bad business in low-budget filmmaking.
So, naturally, when USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) alumnus Jason Dennis ’03 decided to enter a commercial into the Doritos: Crash the Super Bowl contest, the idea of flinging a baby on a slingshot came to mind.
“The director pitched two ideas to me, and I said, ‘you can’t go wrong with a baby and a grandma.’ I want to produce the Sling Baby one,” Dennis recalled. “Everybody worked for free, but that didn’t stop us from working our butts off. This was the ultimate team effort, and that’s the reason we came out on top.”
The commercial was selected as a top-five finalist from a pool of more than 6,000 entries and was voted to be one of the two to play during the pro football championship.
Following its airing, “Sling Baby” went on to earn the top placement in the USA Today Facebook Ad Meter, snagging a $1 million prize. In addition, Nielsen rated the commercial as the “Most Remembered” and “Best Liked” Super Bowl ad of 2012, “a rare distinction,” according to the Nielsen ratings system.
The crew included Heather Chalecki ’98 as the first assistant director.
“I hadn’t done much in the way of visual effects,” Dennis said. “Luckily we had an amazing [visual effects] person, Justin Folk, who’s also the father of baby Jonah, who stars as Sling Baby. I think he spent around 200 hours working on the visual effects.”
This is the second year in a row that SCA alumni have won the Doritos contest. Last year the producers of “Pug Attack” were awarded the grand prize.
“We were at the editor’s office in El Segundo tweaking the final cut, and we got to a moment where we all looked at each other and just smiled,” Dennis said. “We knew we had a shot at going all the way.”