June 19, 2008

Featured Filmmaker: Jared Cicon

Jared Cicon started his filmmaking career with the original Doritos’s “Crash the Superbowl” contest, winning $10,000 and getting national airplay. He was also a finalist for Heinz, taking home $5,700.

Most recently, Jared won $25,000 in the Tax Slayer video commercial contest. His commercial will air nationally in the months prior to the tax filing deadline of 2009.

What kind of background do you have in video production?

I have two years experience. I started acting three years ago, and started video taping so I could get some demo (reel) for my acting career.

Did you have any formal education in video production?

Not specifically; I was a wedding photographer for almost 17 years. I know it has gone along way towards my success as a Director and D.P.

What motivated you to do the Tax Slayer contest?

I liked the format. The brand was choosing the winner, not an internet popularity vote. I have been a finalist in contests where I have lost out to a senior at U.S.C. (or some similar college). I can’t compete with that sort of campaigning network.

I have been getting smarter with each contest. I do my best to find the ones that are legitimate solicitations from companies who for the purpose of advancing their brand (like TaxSlayer). When I enter a contest and realize too late it’s only a promotional gig run through an ad Agency, solely to generate internet buzz, it can be pretty demoralizing.

Tax Slayer bypassed the traditional ad agency relationship and went straight to the creatives. I like that. I worked directly with the marketing department; communication has been great. I just finished editing a 30-second cut of the original one minute version. There are plans to air both.

Have you entered similar contests in the past? How many?

I have entered 10 or more contests over the last two years and Tax Slayer has been the best run of all of them, and I am not saying this because I won. From the very beginning their communication was excellent. They returned email inquiries. I am sure this helped keep all of the creators on track as they developed and executed their ideas.

What kind of familiarity did you have with the Tax Slayer

None to start with. I learned what I did through the contest.

How did you get the idea for your entry?

It was pretty straight forward. Their logo includes a knight. I don’t see where I had any other choice but to get my 250lb. chubby frame onto a horse after first pouring it into some medieval chain mail. Additionally, they had about 20-25 seconds of required elements, so the concept was pretty much brand driven.

Why do you think your entry beat out the others?

Two reasons. Number one: thankfully, it was a relatively small field. Number two: I’m a detail man. Brands like/need that.

What kind of equipment and software did you use?

For shooting: A pair of Sony HDRFX-1’s, though I rarely shoot with two cameras. For editing I used an iMac duo-core with a couple of MyBook terabyte drives on the side (haha). I used the Final Cut Suite. I use Studio Pro and Livetype a lot.

What was the production process like?

Wow, where do I start?
Pre-production is driven by the brand and your script/story-board.
Production is a matter of stamina and staying power. How much will do you have to shoot until you know you have it right?
Post production is always a matter of willingness to try things in different ways (in editing) until you get it exactly how you want it. Sometimes accidents and discovery are the mother of invention. There are some truths however I adhere to. The most important being my belief that there is a specific frame in every clip that is the correct edit point. It is not a frame earlier, nor is it a frame later, than that exact frame.

How were the winners determined?

By the brand.

What are you going to do with the prize money?

Do you know how much rent is in Southern California?

What advice would you give to other people entering creative competitions?

Fall in love with the revision process. I regularly think I am done at least 20 different times in every project. Also, surround yourself with people whose opinion you respect, and be willing to make changes (kill your babies) once you receive a consensus of opinion.

Are you currently working on any other projects?

I will be doing some editing work for the Ocean Institute here in So Ca in the coming weeks/months. I also have a bid in on a Water Purification commercial. They are a Body Glove brand with a product launch in August. They understand my vision for branding their product. I think they will use me; I will find out next week.
But if you mean contests, yes, I am a sucker for a good contest and yes, I just submitted to the Klondike contest. You can find my entry on my Youtube page:

I will be shooting a second spot for the contest in the coming weeks, in-between Boy Scout camp (Scout Leader), my daughter’s birthday (July), and the other activities that surround a married father of four children.

What are your future aspirations in the field?

To become a better filmmaker/producer/director/editor/actor. I am proud to be part of this new breed of “do-it-yourself” content creators who are giving the status quo a run for their money and making them rethink the way they do business. It is a powerful feeling to know that the doors have been opened to the world of branding for anyone who has the vision and the competency to pull it off.

It is a heady feeling when you have a broadcast schedule for a commercial you created that is airing on national television, 15 or 20 times per day, for a full business quarter. I had that feeling with Doritos. I will have it again with I want to be in a situation where it doesn’t impress me anymore, if you catch my drift.

My immediate short-term goals include securing representation as a Director. It will be easier to get work from brands with a reputable agent as an advocate.