A former Newell-Fonda High School student is making a name for himself as a producer in Hollywood, hoping that a challenge to create the best commercial for Doritos will be his ticket to "Crash the Super Bowl".
Five film-maker's efforts out of 2,000 entries have been named finalists in the snack company's "Crash the Super Bowl" competition.
"It is amazing and such an honor to know that one of our entries has been selected," Jeff Bartsch, a 29 year old graduate of Newell-Fonda High School, said in a phone interview from Los Angeles this week.
Bartsch and his team have already won a $25,000 finalist prize. If their commercial "The Chase" wins the most online votes before Jan 25, it will be broadcast during the Super Bowl game Feb. 1 and they will walk away with $1 million.
The winning commercial will not be announced to anyone until it airs during the first quarter of the Super Bowl broadcast.
Bartsch and his team can barely wait, and hope for support from online voters. "Do yourself a favor and vote for us," Bartsch said.
Bartsch decided to enter into the contest just three weeks before the submission deadline in November. Chris Roberts, the producer of record for "The Chase" approached Bartsch, who is gaining a reputation as a newcomer in the film industry, and they started to work on the commercial. Roberts, Bartsch producing partner Aaron Matthew Kaiser, along with a hastily-assembled crew worked straight through three days in assembly line style.
They made three different commercials to enter, all shot using the same location in a friend of a friend's house near Los Angeles.
In "The Chase" an obnoxious roommate teases a cat with a laser pointer, only to have the feline's owner break out a remote-control bag of Doritos to lead the culprit on a desperate chase of his own around the apartment.
"It was Chris's (producer Roberts) idea to have the cat named "SnowBall" in the commercial," Bartsch said. Bartsch and his team hired the regal-looking Snowball for their commerical. The white feline is an acting veteran with credits including the Gulf War movie" Nothing is Private" by writer Alan Ball ("American Beauty").
The cast of their commercial also includes Melissa Disney, the singing voice of Snow White.
Bartsch was born in South Australia, but came to the U.S. with his family at a very young age. At age 4 he was plunking out tunes on the family piano, and his mother enrolled him in music lessons; by 6th grade had discovered how to make instant multi-track recordings. Bartsch got his first taste of video production while studying art as a freshman at Newell-Fonda High School, at the urging of his teacher Nancy Movall.
He had never considered doing anything like that before, but soon he was lurking the halls with a VHS camera. "My first video project in high school was so boring, you could feel your brain cell dying. Only three people have watched my first project," Bartsch laughs. However, the experience motivated him to keep experimenting, and soon he started to do shoot and produce his own projects, most including original soundtrack recordings. Still, he thought it would be a hobby, not a road to Hollywood.
"My high school friends used to make fun of me. I think when you know you want to do something, if people makes fun of you, those are the people you need to smile to," Bartsch said.
There is a lot of promise for young people in the field of TV production, filmmaking and editing, but the most important thing is to realize that one do not have to move to L.A to get into it.
"If you want to make a film, just get off couch and do it - and find friends who have similar interest," he says.
Bartsch attended Grace University in Omaha for two years after his high school. He then moved to Los Angeles to study film at Biola University, originally hoping to become a studio musician. He had to drop out before completing the degree, out of funds, but was able to find a job as an assistant film editor and was promoted to full editor after a couple of seasons. Soon, he was editing projects for ESPN, Universal, Fox and NBC. He also did some voice-over acting work, including a current gig for ABC's "Supernanny," and has worked on "America's Next Top Model." After few years in the business he founded an independent production company, Resolve Entertainment.
Bartsch continues to strive to expand his talents, and has started to produce short films. He executive produced his first full-length feature, the romantic comedy "13 Months of Sunshine," an Ethiopian-American film billed as "A story of love, coffee and the American Dream." The independent flick is playing internationally in theaters and at film festivals. A futurist drama, "Stained" debuted in 2008 and has already won a Best Picture award at one film festival.
For the record, he says, he's never owned a cat.
He is happy to get a new level of publicity from "The Chase" and the Doritos competition, drawing great interest online.
His team has launched a website to boost its chances - www.voteforthecat.com. The football fans of his hometown area may not have a chance to get into the Super Bowl, but perhaps the contest affords them a chance to be a part of the history of the event. "So please vote by logging on to "VoteForTheCat.com"," Bartsch said.
* The five finalist videos can be seen at www.crashthesuperbowl.com.