Homemade Doritos commercial is finalist for $1 million prize
On Super Bowl Sunday, when you're glued to the tube and your fingers are sticky and orangey from salty snacks, you might look up to see a familiar face.
If you do, former Parkland College professor Jim Coates will be mighty happy, because that will mean his Doritos commercial is either the winner or one of two finalists in a million-dollar competition.
Some years, Frito-Lay airs one homegrown Doritos spot during the year's most watched TV event. Other years, it has been two.
Second place gets $50,000, which Coates would not turn down. He now lives in Phoenix, where he says he is struggling a bit to make a living as a professional actor.
If his commercial, "Time Machine," advances beyond the final five and shows on Feb. 2, it will be a major career event for Coates.
"It might get me my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card," he said.
Coates' four least favorite words are "I can't pay you." But add one more word — "I can't pay you much" — and, well, that he can work with.
His new commercial is hilarious. We can't tell you much more than that it's about a time machine powered by snack crisps and that Coates is in there at the big finish.
The commercial cost only $300 to make, the least of any of the five finalists.
The set is the director's mom's yard, the main special effect is made of cardboard, and the family dog plays a critical role, barking at just the right moment.
Coates, who gives his age as 66-1/2 — he agrees with George Carlin that half-years are a precious commodity — earned his doctorate in theater at the University of Illinois. He often appeared at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
"I taught at Parkland for 15 years to raise my children as a single parent, but I have always wanted to run away with the circus," he says.
His father did not approve of his class clowniness. He wanted Jim Coates to get a steady job, like his sister, an accountant.
"I'm the no-accountant," says Coates, a relentless jokester.
He couldn't alter his theatrical dreams after he started out in the back yard. All the yard was a stage, with Mom's clothesline and Dad's Army jacket making up the curtain.
"I'm very serious about play," the actor says. "It's one of the most dynamic things we do as people."
In two decades in the Phoenix area, Coates has done about every job an actor/director can do.
One of his gigs is with the Arizona Curriculum Theater, where he has been hired to make Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" come alive in the classroom.
He hooked up with the director of "Time Machine," Ryan Andersen, who made it into Doritos' Top 20 last year.
They shot the commercial last fall, including an alternate ending that doesn't sound nearly as good as the one they used.
For the final version, he channeled a crabby old man to deliver the penultimate line of the commercial.
If you can remember old Wendy's commercials, you'll understand this reference.
"I get to be the Clara Peller 'Where's the beef?' guy," he says of his role, playing a pony-tailed guy named Jim.
The pay was low, but the process was great, Coates says.
"The guys knew what they were doing," he said of the crew. "Creativity doesn't cost more money."
He, too, likes the ending they went with.
"It's a complete story, with a beginning, a middle and an end," Coates says.
You be the judge
Five facts about the million-dollar contest for the best homemade Doritos commercial:
Fans can vote for their favorite videos at Doritos.com.
More than 5,000 original spots were submitted from 30 countries around the globe.
A panel of judges that included Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee selected the five finalists.
Jim Coates' four competitors' commercials go by: "Office Thief," "Break-Room Ostrich," "Finger Cleaner" (from Australia) and "Cowboy Kid."
Last year's winner — Mark Freiburger of Los Angeles — got to work with Michael Bay on "Transformers: Age of Extinction."