Jeff Smith is a comedy director represented by Apollo Films. His work has ranged from Cici’s Pizza to national Ford Commercials. This particularly hysterical spot for Goody’s headache powder caught our eye. The scenario involves a couple who just met at a bar and before moving forward decide to “fast-forward” to see what the future holds. It was so clever, we just had to interview Jeff about it.
AdChat DFW: Who came up with the scenarios on the spot and who is the agency?
Jeff Smith: The agency is AF&G, out of New York City. They have the Goody’s and BC Powder account. This is the fifth time I’ve worked with them. I have a relationship with Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is one of their spokespeople. He did not appear in this spot, but because of the other spots that I had done with him, then they saw the potential and maybe doing other stuff with me. Then this one came down the pike.
The agency came up with a rough overview, and then of course, like always happens, there was collaboration between me and the agency. I would say this would be cool or that would be cool. In this case they handed us the strong visual ideas that they wanted, but they said, oh, by the way, we only have five dollars. Then you say we can do this, but we’re going to have to make this change and that change. That’s where the collaboration came in.
AdChat DFW: Where did you cast?
Jeff Smith: We cast in Charlotte, but when you do that, you also get talent from Atlanta, which is very hot right now. There are very good talent pools in both Atlanta and the Carolinas. So that’s where we got them from. In fact, the male actor lives here in Charlotte and he auditioned with his real-life girlfriend, who is also a comedian, and they were hilarious. But we went with another actress who fit the client’s demographic better.
AdChat DFW: When you cast did you have them auditioning the scenario together?
Jeff Smith: Yes. And the one thing about AF&G is that they are old school, New York, and once they storyboard and test whatever their idea is, they like to have their auditions almost mimic what the shoot is going to be. This can be very difficult, because we had a cake being thrown down to the ground in the audition. You don’t typically have that in a casting session. They went through a bunch of them and, and you know, you could tell that Sterling, the male character, was the guy. I pushed him very, very hard on our end and got a little pushback at first, but then won that battle and I think everybody was happy in the end that we did choose him.
AdChat DFW: Tell us fun story about the shoot.
Jeff Smith: When you are working with talent that can contribute and aren’t there to just read the script, things can get unpredictable. It can be hard because you don’t get the same thing twice. Sterling Hurst is one of those actors. That scene in the beginning where he just pops up from underneath the bar and introduces himself, that was basically all him. We had done a bunch of other takes where he slid in there with this little Don Juan thing, but next did it a little differently. Eventually the direction came down to the pop up. People were laughing around video assist and we just kept letting the cameras roll. When he came jumping over the sofa with the football thing, and the horn at the party…those were all bits he did at the audition and they weren’t in the original spot. When you work with talent that are truly funny people, they’re loose cannons. Although they are hard to keep a set of reins on, they can contribute in a big way. That’s what makes it fun working with those kind of actors.
AdChat DFW: How do you like working with Apollo Films?
Jeff Smith: I’ve worked with them for a long time and we took a vacation from each other for awhile, only because of schedules. I’ve shot a lot of Ford for Jay Walter Thompson all over the states, California, Maine, New York, Florida and the Carolinas. Claude Locke with Apollo shot some Texas Ford work and I was introduced to him that way. The first job I did with them was a huge shoot and we did more after that, so it was a good fit for them to add me to their roster. Then we did other stuff like CiCi’s Pizza, Mountain Dew and Gold’s Gym. It’s been a good relationship.