Two men with Arizona ties are finalists for a $1 million cash prize and the chance to have their homemade Doritos commercials aired during the Super Bowl.
Filmmaker Chris Capel, who lived in Thatcher for more than a decade, and Scottsdale-based wedding photographer and videographer Ryan Andersen are up against three other entrants in Doritos’ annual Crash the Super Bowl contest. The contest invites people to create a commercial for the snack giant that’s worthy of being shown during the big game.
The cast of Andersen’s “Time Machine” commercial — including former Tucson actor Daved Wilkins — will be at the Gaslight Theatre here on Saturday to get out the vote for their ad.
Scottsdale native Andersen, 28, has entered the Doritos contest for the last four years, and almost didn’t enter this year because the odds of actually winning are so slim, he said.
But inspiration struck after his 6-year-old son, Gavin, told him he wanted a time machine after the two watched “Back to the Future.”
Andersen thought it would be fun to make a time machine from a refrigerator box, and then thought he could use that concept for a commercial.
The end result is “Time Machine,” made on a $300 budget — the smallest budget of of all five entries — and shot in his parents’ front yard.
In the commercial, Gavin plays Jimmy, a kid who persuades his neighbor, Mr. Smith — portrayed by former Gaslight actor Wilkins — to try his cardboard time machine, which runs on Doritos. Mr. Smith is convinced he’s actually time traveled (when an elderly neighbor runs out to kick him off the lawn), and Jimmy runs off with his chips.
Wilkins, a Winslow native, was known for a “hilarious Gong Show bit” during his two years at Gaslight, according to the local theater’s general manager, Becky Gilmour. After also performing for Beowulf Alley and Rogue Theatre in Tucson, he moved to Los Angeles three years ago to pursue his acting career.
Andersen, a former corrections officer in Florence, taught himself photography and videography five years ago so he could shoot weddings, and thus be able to spend more time with his then-infant son, whom he is raising by himself.
If he wins, Andersen said he would use the money to buy a house and a reliable car.
“I live in an apartment, and I think we’ve moved probably four or five times since he’s been alive,” he said. “It just sucks to keep moving around, and I just want him to feel grounded.”
Capel, 33, was born in Phoenix and lived in Thatcher from age 11 until his early-20s. He worked at a Phoenix car dealership and airport shuttle service, before deciding to move to California about 10 years ago with his writing partner, Richard Prince, “to pursue our crazy Hollywood dreams.”
While working at Blockbuster, Capel taught himself how to become an animator through online tutorials. About a year after making the move, he landed his first animation job — creating a purple monster, the physical representation of a headache, for migraine medicine Imitrex.
“It was the greatest moment of my life at that point, getting to do that,” Capel said.
That commercial led to more work, and eventually Capel was hired by DreamWorks Animation, where he worked for eight years before being laid off last March.
Capel saw the silver lining in the situation.
“I was already transitioning to wanting to be a filmmaker, and had been working on my own films for three years,” he said, “so I think we kind of looked at it as like a blessing, and it forced me to jump in with both feet into what I really want to do and really pursue it.”
Capel had been thinking about entering the Doritos contest for years, but was waiting for the right idea.
For their entry, “Office Thief,” Capel and Prince came up with the concept of an employee named Jerry being questioned by his boss about the mysterious disappearance of everyone’s Doritos from the break room. The employee is munching on chips and his face and clothes are covered in orange cheese powder and bits of tortilla chips. Offended by the questioning, he gets up to leave, spilling chips stuffed in his pants all over the office floor.
“We wanted to think of something that’s really relatable to a lot of people, because if we did get far enough and this could be played during the Super Bowl, that’s a huge audience,” Capel said. “So we thought, ‘Who hasn’t had that experience of going into the break room fridge and seeing that your sandwich is gone?’”
Capel, who has 13 siblings, seven of whom are adopted from Africa, says if he wins the grand prize he’ll invest some of the money in future projects, but also wants to donate to charity. “Preferably a charity that has to do with Africa.”