Locals may see a familiar face during the Super Bowl this year — not during the game, but during the commercials.
Hillsdale High School alumnus Chris Pentzell ’87 recently starred in a commercial called “Doritos Dogs,” a finalist in the Doritos annual “Crash the Super Bowl” contest.
“Dorito Dogs” stars Pentzell as a grocery store manager shooing a trio of mischievous dogs trying to break in for a bag of Doritos. The commercial was produced for $1,000 and shot in Redlands, California.
Jacob Chase, director and co-writer, and Travis Braun, co-producer and co-writer, will watch the Super Bowl, and the commercials, from a private suite along with the other finalists. They will all find out the winning commercial when it’s aired on national television.
The winning director will ring in $1 million, have the opportunity to work with Zack Snyder — the director of “300,” “Man of Steel,” and the upcoming “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” film — and DC Comics, and Warner Bros. on an upcoming project, and have his or her commercial aired nationally during the big game.
This is the final year that Doritos will hold the contest, which is partly why Pentzell decided to audition.
“Over the years I do see these auditions for the Doritos commercials. A long time ago I might have submitted to some,” Pentzell said. “This year, with it being the last year, I thought, ‘Why not?’ Dorito Dogs was the only one I submitted to.”
Pentzell’s father, Dr. Raymond Pentzell, was the former head of the theatre and speech department at Hillsdale College. Chris, however, attended the University of Michigan and now lives in Pasadena, California with his wife and three-year-old daughter.
Chase said Pentzell “knocked it out of the park” at his audition.
“We knew that he was our guy when he walked in,” Chase said. “There’s not much dialogue, because it’s from the dog’s perspective, but in auditions I wrote up some rough dialogue and he just cracked us up. He was hilarious, he ad-libbed, and he had perfect look.”
The commercial featured three rescue dogs. During the shoot, Pentzell had to interact with the dogs, a feat which he called both enjoyable and tricky.
“It was interesting,” he said. “There were some challenges. Some of the easier shots were actually more challenging. When I was shooing the dogs, they wouldn’t all run at the same speed. It was hard to get them running in a pack.”
Pentzell said that both Chase and Braun gave him some creative liberty which made the shoot fun for him.
“They were very encouraging in terms of improv,” Pentzell said. “They had the idea set, but they didn’t know exactly how it was going to happen so I could come up with a few ways of shooing the dogs out. For example, I asked “Do you guys have a broom?” I got to try a couple different ways and that was fun.”
Neither Chase nor Braun had previously entered into contest, but Chase said he has always loved the Doritos commercials. A long-time dog-lover, Chase was inspired by his own little, white terrier, Miz, who he cast in the commercial.
“Definitely her being a part of my life was inspirational, and I wanted to put her in the commercial,” Chase said. “In terms of the actual idea, I was thinking about when you’re outside of grocery store you see dogs waiting for their owners, I started wondering what are they doing when we aren’t around. Maybe they’re breaking into a store to get some Doritos.”
Chase said that winning this commercial could be his “big break.”
“Having your commercial playing during the Super Bowl is the pinnacle of any director’s career,” Chase said. “Getting that so early on would be great.”
Pentzell said he’s not sure where he will watch the Super Bowl, but he’s eager to know the results.
“It’s a national commercial, and it could air for two years if it wins. That’s a concrete victory,” Pentzell said. “It’s very exciting. The most immediate thing is the prize money, and I get some of that, too.”