One Decadent Directorial Debut

One Decadent Directorial Debut

Aspiring local filmmaker gains sweet reward from Hershey’s.

Jake Landis doesn’t consider himself a chocolate lover — he'll always prefer a box of sugary sour Spree tablets over a traditional candy bar. So the confectionery overload that is the Hershey’s TAKE 5 bar is a bit much for him.

“They have everything in them — chocolate, pretzel and peanut butter,” said Landis, 24, who lives in Alexandria. “I’m not really much of a chocolate eater. I didn’t actually eat the candy bar I used in the video.”

Landis was surfing the Web earlier this year when he came across a Flash animation game on Hershey’s site. It turned out to be a link to the “TAKE 5 Taste and Believe Film Contest,” a competition in which everyone from film industry veterans to amateur videographers were invited to produce their own TAKE 5 commercials for a chance to win a $10,000 grand prize. All they had to do was keep it under 60 seconds and incorporate the tone of Hershey’s current ad campaign for the chocolate treat, which is billed as “The Greatest Candy Bar in the World.”

Landis was intrigued by the opportunity. He’s surrounded by the creative process at his job as a publicity assistant for PBS children’s programming in the company’s offices in Arlington. He also had dabbled in some stop-motion animation using a digital camera and desktop editing software.

What convinced him to enter the contest, he said, was the chance to have his work judged by a professional he respected: director Peter Segal, who was behind the camera for films like “Tommy Boy,” “The Longest Yard” remake and, most importantly for Landis, the third “Naked Gun” movie.

“That was a big thing for me,” he said.

LANDIS DEVELOPED his idea for the spot during the early summer: the TAKE 5 bar would be a guitar god, and a crowd of Hershey’s KISSES would fawn over him from the audience.

From there, it was on to some D.I.Y. filmmaking, including using a repurposed WWF action figure wrestling ring as a concert stage, and then using the severed arms from one of those wrestling figures on the guitar-playing chocolate bar. He shot it with a digital camera, and edited the film frame-by-frame on a Mac-based film program.

The end result was a humorous blend of rock clichés: swooping camera angles, spinning guitar tricks, stage diving, and a pair of KISSES “groupies” who peel off their wrappers during the song. The short ends with white letters reading: “Rock Idol? Or the Greatest Candy Bar Ever?”

The film, which can be viewed on, was completed in about a week in early July. “I didn’t kill myself on it,” he recalled.

According to Kerry St. Joseph, a spokesperson with Hershey’s, the field of films was narrowed down to 25, and was again pared down, with Segal’s help, to the final five.

In August, Landis was told that his opus made the last cut.

“The director picked the top 5 out of everybody, which was cool,” he said. “Then they opened it up to online voting, which is subjective.”

In September, the finalists were informed of who won the grand prize, and Landis was told it wasn’t him. He’ll be sent a consolation prize of $500.

The experience left him wondering about trying his hand at similar competitions.

“I wasn’t really thinking about it, but there are so many contests like this now with the You Tube explosion. And the stop motion’s kind of fun,” said Landis.

“If the inspiration hits, maybe. But I’m not going to make my fortune on candy bar contests.”