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Super Bowl competition offers alum opportunity

UPDATE, Feb. 10: According to a Feb. 9, 2010 article in Advertising Age Internet Magazine, four Doritos commercials were in the top 10 of the most-liked, most-recalled Super Bowl ads. While Nielsen IAG Ad Ratings reported that consumers liked Snickers’ ‘Betty White’ ad best, the Doritos’ Casket ad was the most recalled.

UPDATE, Feb. 8: The millions who watched the New Orleans Saints defeat the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17, on Sunday were treated to Super ads meant to give name brand recognition. “The Casket” was one of three Doritos ads, finishing in the USA Today’s Ad Meter as the 14th best 2010 Super Bowl XLIV commercial. The meter tracked 63 commercials. The Casket was ranked the 2nd best Doritos ad behind No. 1, “Kid scolds mom’s boyfriend.”

For many students, the winter formal Night of the Stars provides an opportunity to dabble in movie making. But for 2001 alumnus Stephen Yao, the event offered the inspiration for his future career.

Now a movie editor in Los Angeles, Yao and his coworkers’ Doritos commercial, “Casket,” is a finalist for the nation-wide competition “Crash the Super Bowl.” One of six finalists, fans must vote online in order to ensure “Casket”‘s place in the top three, which will be shown during the Super Bowl.

Yao says he first got interested in video-making in preparation for NOTS his senior year.

“I had done small class projects here and there throughout high school, but I really got involved in filmmaking my senior year,” Yao said. “Every class would get together and create a movie, and I was really involved senior year. We re-created The Sandlot [for NOTS], and I still have great memories of that experience to this day.”

Yao’s says his role in the movie’s production, from start to finish, inspired him to pursue a career in film.

“I helped film the movie and did a lot of the editing also,” Yao said. “I remember sitting in front of the computer with all my friends trying to figure out what in the world we were doing. I don’t think I ever took a production class, but I remember Chris Schultz [former video teacher] helping us out a bit here and there. It was such a fun experience to be able to create the movie with all my closest friends.”

Schultz, who helped to first organize the video program on campus, credits it for giving unique opportunities to students.

“I was fortunate enough to start the video production process at the school in the late 90s and the early 2000s, and we saw that if we gave students to learn how to use the software and be creative at a young age, then some of these kids will move on with this ability,” Schultz said. “Stephen is a great example of these kids, who have gotten involved in the industry and have done some really cool things.”

After graduating from Biola University in 2005 with a degree in motion picture production, Yao joined a production company which focuses on commercials. He hopes to eventually move into feature films. Biola University also published an article on Yao called, “Biola Alumni Likely to Crash the Super Bowl.”

“I love to edit movies. To to get paid for what I love to do is my greatest ambition,” Yao said. “After taking an editing class at Biola, I really gravitated towards editing. I am passionate about telling stories through film and especially through editing.

“I couldn’t be happier with my job and company that I work for. Our goal is to make feature films, so that would be an amazing ‘final destination.'”

The Doritos competition, which invites amateur and professional filmmakers alike to submit commercials for judging. The top six finalists, including “Casket,” have won $25,000. The top three submissions, voted on by the public, will air during the Super Bowl. More money is up for grabs based on the USA Today Ad Meter.

“We decided as a company to go for the Super Bowl commercial,” Yao said. “It was an awesome opportunity to possibly have our work shown to millions of people!”

Voting for the commercials continues through Jan. 31, and Yao says he hopes the FC community can contribute to his commercial’s effort. “Casket” features a funeral with a twist. To watch the whole video and vote, click here and create a simple account.

“A group of writers came up with the idea [for ‘Casket’] and another friend, Gabe Trevino, wrote the script,” Yao said. “His idea came from a funeral for his grandpa a few years ago, whose dying wish was to be buried with beer and cigarettes.”

The tight schedule of the competition led to a hectic shooting process, Yao says.

“I think the craziest thing about all of was that from the time we decided to enter the competition to the time that we submitted our entries, it was a total of one month, which is pretty crazy,” he said. “We also shot about one week before the contest deadline, so we had to edit and finish everything in a week. It was kind of a crazy month, but completely worth it and we are so proud of the product.”

Yao’s participation in process ranged from on-site work to the final cut.

“I helped out on set with behind-the-scenes footage, data transfer (we shot on the RED camera, so the footage is digital and has to be transferred to media that we can edit with), and I was the editor,” he said.

In addition to the cash at stake, the competition could provide a launching point for Yao’s future in film.

“More than the money, winning would be awesome for my career,” Yao said. “The directors that won the contest last year, their careers took off after the Super Bowl. It would be amazing for our company to get that kind of publicity and recognition.”

Yao says the Super Bowl is a huge icon for commercial-makers.

“It is like the ultimate showcase for commercials,” he said. “Just the prices companies pay for airtime during the game says it all. To be able watch the game and have something I’ve created be shown would be so incredible, I don’t even know how to explain it.”

For more information, check out “Casket”‘s Web site or join the “Vote for Casket” page on Facebook.

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