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Spec Commercial Questions

Jeremy Russell

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I'm a director, looking to get into the ad world, and my DP and I are getting ready to shoot two 35mm spec spots. I've run into a small situation, however.


I've decided to do two different spots on 35, a car commercial, complete with flatbed truck, crane, and aerial shots over a canyon, and a funny acting based spot. My dillema lies in the car commercial. I have access to a Saab turbo convertible, and a very exotic Lotus convertible, but I cannot decide which is the smarter route to follow..


My gut instinct is to go with the Saab, rather than the Lotus, simply because the demographic of individuals wishing to purchase a Lotus convertible is rather slim, in my mind anyway, at least less so than a Saab. But these commercials will never air, and will just be a representation of my ability to sell a product.


Basically, I just want some opinions to help me decide which would be the best bet for me.


Thank you,

Jeremy C. Russell

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Having worked at a commercial production company before, I can say that they're just looking at your talent, not the product that you're selling. I've seen reels that feature ads for fictional products, but they get noticed because they're made so damn well.


If the Lotus makes for a better ad, go with the Lotus. If the Saab will give you a better ad, go with the Saab.


My two cents...




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I don't think it matters which car you use on a brand level. You're not trying to sell the car, you're selling yourself.


The deciding factors for me would be:


Which car looks the best -both generally and in terms of particular features.


What colors are the cars you have access to - some colors look better than others in ads.


Have fun,

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One thing I learned working with a Dir /Cameraman from LA, whose specialty is to do car commercials, as well as Motorcycles, Jet Ski, etc. Is that the cam rides beautifoul on a Platform, I designed and have made a platform made with Metal and marine 1inch plywood as floor . It was welded to a pcikup chasis ( and adaptor receptacle was welded into the pickup chasis ) and it Gave you the possibility to either place it in fromt of pickup or the back, with a 18mm, 14mm or a 10mm lens you can do quite interesting stuff if you have two good drivers, for the subject and for cam dolly ( the pick up ) you can either use Steaycam arm with carmount, or better go hand held at 40 to 60 fps, youll get stuning amazing shots hand held. Just a matter of proper sync beetween two drivers and good cameraman that loves riding in an offset plattform at 40-50 MPH.

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I just have a quick question regarding specs...can you use any product you want and submit it freely to anyone without any rights issues? Also, I usually find specs to be a lot longer then TV ads...is that preferable?



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I usually find specs to be a lot longer then TV ads...is that preferable?





No. You want to give the impression that what people are watching is a real commercial. So producing a spec that has a running time that exceeds the 30 or 60 second industry standards, defeats that purpose and is one of the clearest indications to an agency producer that they're watching a spec spot.

Edited by Wendell_Greene
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Cool thanks Wendell.  How about the rights to use a product?  Can I use whatever I want, including using graphics of the company logo like the Nike swoop for example, and not face an legal issues?



You're welcome, David.


I preface this by saying I'm not an attorney and I'm not very knowledgable about copyright law, but I don't believe using a company's logo in a spec would necessarily bring any legal trouble toward you, unless you were to alter their logo or corporate brand, or use it in a way to put the company and it's product(s) in an unfavorable light.


For example, filming a Nike spec set in a dystopian Third World basement sweatshop full of starving children, forced to chew on betel nut for the energy to meet their quota of Nike Lebron "King James" basketball shoes, while an angry mountain of an man towers over them waving a whip and screaming at the top of his lungs, and ending with the Nike logo and the words "JUST DO IT!" might be an excellent comment on the state of world affairs and the corporate abuse of child labor laws, but it certainly wouldn't get you work from Weiden and Kennedy or Nike.


Sometimes, though, taking a risk pays off. This irreverent, politically divisive spec spot for Volkswagen's Polo "Bad Terrorist" was made by director's Lee and Dan. They claim it was solely intended for their reel to show to agencies and was never intended for public viewing. Volkswagen distanced themselves from the spot as it circulated on the Internet and they even threatened legal action. "Volkswagen Threaten Legal Action" [ Some industry people have contested that Volkswagen knew all about this spot and that they were part and parcel to the creation and distribution of this "viral spec ad".]


Yet, as you may have already guessed, the spot's creators, Lee and Dan are now represented as directors by a major commercial production agency.



If you want to see other people's spec work or submit your own, check out The Spec Spot and Group 101 Spots.

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The VW ad was pretty damn good. Thanks a lot for this great info. I'm building my director's reel at the moment and I'm going to shoot a Nike spec soon. I'm doing all the legal research making sure I can freely use their logos and stuff.


Thanks again, I really appreciate it.

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Using a Nike trademark in a spec spot is along the same caliber as using one in a home video. Spec work should never be done in vain, but you should also realize that they won't eve air. If you haven't ever done spec work, you can't get real work, and that's just the catch 22. Once your spec spots are done, you just show them to producers and production companies. In some cases, I've heard of people sending spec spots to companies in the hopes that they will be purchased, but it's much easier to get work by showing off your talent to producers, not agencies.


Good luck with your nike spot.

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A friend of mine submitted a speck spot to a major US company and they turned it down. A year later he was in Spain and saw it playing as an ad in a motion picture theater there.

Edited by bob1dp
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