July 17, 2017

Pepsico's Pepsi and Mountain Dew Contest at SCA

By Sabrina Malekzadah


Pepsico recently invited students from the School of Cinematic Arts to create short films for its Pepsi and Mountain Dew brands, with the winning films going live on YouTube and Facebook this summer. Twenty-three teams (comprised of 67 students) threw their hats in the ring and got the chance to pick. Mountain Dew selected A True Fan Finds a Home written and directed by Nathanial Alexander and produced by David B. Breschel and Ariel Heller. Pepsi selected The Story of Beth Hooper directed by Steven Robbins, written by Nicolas Curcio, and produced by Sarah Gross and Lareina Joelle.

While this is the first time SCA has teamed up with Pepsi and Mountain Dew, students have made promos for international brands before, mostly from entering contests. “SCA has a history of doing contests,” said Faculty supervisor, Brenda Goodman, Professor in the John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television. “These contests are great because it is a great bridge between the student and professional world.” The most high profile of these contests is for another Pepsi Co. brand, Doritos. In previous years SCA alums like Scott Zabielski and JK Burningham have won the Doritos “Crash the Superbowl” contest-, which gave their careers a high profile boost.

The Pepsico opportunity allowed the students to have a real-world experience in trying to land a project. Ariel Heller,-Producer of A True Fan Finds a Home, said his team had an overall positive experience pitching in front of CAA and Mountain Dew executives, “We went in and left happy to say everything that we wanted to say. Everyone was super talented and we left the meeting knowing that the pitch went well, despite the outcome.” CTPR 546 Production III Fiction, an intensive workshop course, prepared the students to pitch and both the Pepsi and Mountain Dew groups thought they were well prepared. During the course the students pitched their ideas in front of a panel of professors and received critique on everything from the execution of their pitch to the idea itself, giving them a dress rehearsal before they moved on to the official pitch.

The Pepsi and Mountain Dew projects gave SCA students an opportunity to create content for a global company; the kind of opportunity they wouldn’t normally get until they were out of school. Nathaniel Alexander, writer and director of A True Fan Finds a Home, said he had full creative freedom on the project and that Mountain Dew supported all of his artistic decisions-, “We thought a lot of our ideas were pretty out there. Every choice we wanted to make, the brand would support us. They gave us a lot of creative control.” Similarly Nicolas Curcio, writer of The Story of Beth Hooper, said his team had the same experience with Pepsi, “Even though it was for a big brand, my voice still came through the script.”

Professor Brenda Goodman said that giving students these types of real-world experience is something the School of Cinematic Arts prioritizes. Especially experiences like these where distribution on media, such as Facebook and YouTube where the work can be seen by large audiences. David Breschel, producer of A True Fan Finds a Home who graduated this year, said projects like these helps SCA stand out. “USC creates these type of opportunities that other film schools don’t. You’re already getting one step out of the door from the university sphere to the industry. If you are going to go to school for film this is the place to go because you get industry experience and a community.”

To checkout these films please follow the links below:

 The Story of Beth Hooper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXcVlOMKYT8

A True Fan Finds a Home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEdMWHEZNIc