Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris Go Commercial


After bursting onto the film scene with their Academy Award-winning debut feature film Little Miss Sunshine, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris decided to go back to their roots: Commercials. In doing so, the husband and wife directing duo haven’t missed a beat; their latest effort, the “There Can Only Be One” spots for the NBA playoffs, featuring a split screen of two players reciting the same speech about playoff competition, was the inspiration for a recent Time magazine cover featuring Barack and Hillary. While working hard to get their upcoming projects ready, Dayton and Faris found a few minutes to chat with MovieMaker about the commercials and their career.

Andrew Gnerre (MM): The beauty of the whole “There Can Only Be One” idea is its simplicity as well as the ability to switch around the players for different playoff matchups. How did the idea come about?

Valerie Faris (VF): Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the agency, came up with the idea and then they sent it to us. I guess they sent it to a couple of directors with the idea of, “Here’s what we’re thinking. What would you do with it? Would you cut away and have other footage?” We felt like the idea was great and to cut away or try to make it into something more was going to lessen the impact of the idea. So we liked the idea of having it just be the players’ faces; the biggest thing that happens is we zoom in a little bit. So it wasn’t our idea, but we supported the idea of keeping it really simple.

Jonathan Dayton (JD): And then the challenge, really as directors, was to figure out how to pull it off because you have more than 50 different players. We knew that they couldn’t be reading the script because we’d see their eyes move and we knew they couldn’t memorize it because we knew…

VF: …We had them for roughly 15 minutes—if we were lucky.

MM: Did you have to travel all around?

VF: Yeah. We chased them down.

JD: So we actually had one of the writers read the script and then we gave all the players this little remote…

VF: …Speaker.

JD: …An earpiece that goes in their ear and plays back the script so they can hear it. And then they would repeat it as they hear it, line for line. So that’s how we were able to get them to speak…

VF: In sync.

JD: …in tempo. It’s so interesting how in advertising there’s this desire to outdo the previous commercial, to always be wowing with special effects. This was just so incredibly simple. It really points out the power of a simple idea.

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