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Grad’s TV spot may “Crash the Super Bowl”

Huntington, Ind.- When Eric Church earned his degree in digital media arts from Huntington University in May 2009, he never dreamed that within a few short months he would be in the running to win a share of $5 million as part of a Super Bowl television commercial competition.

Church was part of a team that produced "Casket," one of the top six finalists in the fourth annual Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl" competition. It features a man who stages his own funeral to eat Doritos and watch football.

Three consumer-created commercials will be chosen by fans through online voting and then aired during the Super Bowl XLIV broadcast. Individuals who vote will earn a chance to win Super Bowl tickets. To view the commercials and vote, go to

"Every year, we continue to be impressed with the talent our fans bring to the table," said Rudy Wilson, vice president of marketing for Frito-Lay. "This year, however, Crash the Super Bowl achieved a new level of success with more than 4,000 entries."

Doritos has offered significant cash prizes-up to $5 million total-for the competition.

The "Casket" commercial was produced by Erwin McManus, pastor of Mosaic, a church in Whittier, Calif. "It's a miracle and a divine comedy that we've made it this far," McManus told USA Today (Jan 3, 2010). "I think it's God's sense of humor."

Eric Church said making the commercial was a great experience, whatever the outcome of the competition.

"We shot on the RED One camera, which records directly to a hard drive. So my job would be to grab the hard drive and take it to a computer where I immediately transferred and backed up the footage, plus did some transcoding so we could start editing right away," Church explained.

"Shooting it was a blast, especially the whole falling out of the casket stunt," he added. "We used 70 bags of Doritos to cover him up inside. It was great!"

Q&A With Eric Church (2009)

How did you spend your first months after graduation?

I immediately moved back out to Los Angeles, which is where I spent my last semester in the Los Angeles Film Studies Center (which was amazing). I looked around for jobs and internships and got an internship with a small post-production house in Burbank, CA called FILMLOOK. I interned with them for a few months to get my last two credits for college. They liked me so much that they hired me at the end of it. I was the only intern in 20 years of business to ever get hired after my internship. I'm the Operations Assistant and I help with invoicing and managing clients and projects.

During this whole time I was getting connected with my new church, Mosaic. So life's been pretty much revolving around work, church, and having fun! L.A. is an amazing place to live and work.

How did you learn about the Doritos Super Bowl opportunity?

The Doritos commercial opportunity came out of my involvement in church and the fact that the director, Kevin Willson (who also goes to Mosaic), is one of my roommates. If you watch the video here, you'll see him on the left next to Erwin McManus, the pastor of Mosaic who was also the Executive Producer of the project.

I had helped out as the DIT guy on a short film directed by Erwin and produced by Kevin, so they knew I had experience working with the RED One camera and transferring footage. And that's pretty much how I got hooked up with it.

How did the idea for "Casket" come about?

It was written by one of the guys at church, with story development occurring between a few more people-including Erwin, Kevin, and Skylar, another of my roommates involved with Mosaic.

We actually shot two commercials and the majority of the cast and crew worked on both. "Casket" was the second one and involved about the same amount of people. In total, I'd say around 30-40 were involved.

How much money is up for grabs in the competition?

Potential grand prizing for the contest will be based on each of the three winning ads' ranking on the USA TODAY Ad Meter:

$1 million will be awarded for a Doritos ad that scores the number one spot on the Ad Meter

$600,000 will be awarded for a Doritos ad that scores the number two spot on the Ad Meter

$400,000 will be awarded for a Doritos ad that scores the number three spot on the Ad Meter

If the consumer-created Doritos ads sweep all top three rankings of the USA TODAY Ad Meter, an additional $1 million bonus will be awarded to each winner for a total prize giveaway of $5 million.

So that means we're competing against the top marketing and advertising teams in the world for one of the top three spots! We had to sign contracts before we started that stated just how the money would be split. As far as what I'd do with any winnings, well, I'd probably pay off a good chunk of my school loans to lower my monthly payments, and also tithe it. Then I would give a chunk to my parents to pay for their car that I haven't started making payments on yet. Then after that... Well, we'll see how much I have left.

Did you expect to make it into the Top 6?

Honestly, I had a good feeling about it from the beginning. The concept is unique and hilarious. We knew we could outdo most people technically. The fact that we're in L.A. helped greatly in that sense, especially with the amount of experience tons of people have here in the film industry, including just about everyone who worked on the commercial. So yeah, I figured we would do pretty well.

What are your goals for the future?

I'm making great connections through work. If everything goes according to plan, in a relatively short period of time, I could be directing my own low-budget feature film, though maybe we'll start with short films. Either way, it would get me extremely close to my ultimate goal of writing and directing my own feature films, with my best friends.

Eventually, I want to create a dream team of Christian and non-Christian filmmakers alike, all dedicated to creating meaningful, powerful stories that reflect the realities of life. That would give me an opportunity to influence others and be a mentor for younger filmmakers trying to break into the industry. I'm focused on reaching the mainstream-normal people who may or may not be Christians, but are looking for films that open their eyes or change their perspective, at least a little bit, for the better. That's my dream.

What advice would you offer young filmmakers at Huntington University?

First, never be afraid to try anything new or mess up. You're going to make mistakes anyway and college is the absolute best time to experiment and see what works and what doesn't.

Second, don't just pretend to be professional, be the real thing. In L.A., no one really cares about your age, they care about your work ethic and what you're capable of producing. If you're fast and efficient, they'll love you. If you learn quickly, they'll love you even more. A lot of that is part of discovering who you are and understanding your strengths and weaknesses and building off of those accordingly; becoming more efficient in your strengths and not being afraid to improve your weaknesses.

The biggest contributors to your success in L.A. will be determination, perseverance, work ethic, and your ability to network. My church, Mosaic, is a great place to start in L.A. If you hang around enough, you'll find opportunities to work on professional shoots, like the Doritos commercial. The opportunity is here, you just gotta know who to talk to.

Any additional thoughts?

Being in the industry for more almost a year (interning and working) has made me aware of the fact that L.A. is starving for people like me-Christians who work hard and who aren't afraid to answer honestly about what we believe in, but we also don't force our religion on others. We simply shine our light and let the light do the talking. I've noticed already that despite my youth, people who've been in the industry for years already respect me for my work ethic, my willingness to learn, and my positive attitude. Working in Hollywood allows me the opportunity to not only change those around me, but also the entire world through the media that we create. It's a fantastic opportunity and one I'm blessed to be challenged with every single day.