The winners of the annual Project Yellow Light competition were announced earlier this month. Every year the winning videos are used as television PSAs for our Texting and Driving Prevention Campaign. We were so impressed with the students who won the competition this year that we wanted to talk to them about their creative process and winning ideas. Our first Q&A is with Josh Falkum and Paul Price, the winners of the college division. We will post our second Q&A with the high school winners next week.
Josh Falkum and Paul Price: Afterlife
Ad Council: Why did you decide to enter the Project Yellow Light competition this year?
Paul Price: We wanted to have a Public Service Announcement in our portfolios and this seemed like a great program that gave us the ability to reach out to our peers.
Josh Falkum: When Paul and I started out our senior year, we wanted to change up the direction we were going from what the typical film majors did. So we sought out advice from the chair of SCAD’s advertising department, who at the time we knew in no capacity whatsoever. Luke Sullivan welcomed us into his office, sat us down, and flat out told us what we were up against. A little intimidating, but even more invigorating. He got us hyped up to take on so many more challenges than either of us could have imagined we would tackle. And in the end it was entirely worth it. Luke gave us guidance throughout the school year, nudging us towards or away from certain projects, but never telling us what we should or should not do. WE had to make the decisions on our own. And that factor made every project even more of an investment for each of us. When PYL was brought to our attention, we both shied away from it initially, thinking that PSAs typically get a bad wrap among our fellow students, and in the advertising industry when a recruiter first looks at your portfolio. However, Luke stressed the importance of this cause, and said we needed to blow the top off of all other PSAs ever made at the school. So that’s what we set out to do.
AC: Can you explain how you came up with your idea for “Afterlife,” and what creating the video was like?
PP: In the concept phase, we pumped out about 20 fully formed little commercials and from there, narrowed it down and tried to figure out which one would really appeal to our audience. Mainly millennials. That was a major concern throughout. What would make a teenager stop and think before they pick up their phone while at the wheel? And we realized death is such an abstract concept to them that you can’t really use that to change their minds. Embarrassment though is definitely something that teenagers will react to. And so with “Afterlife,” we really pushed the whole ludicrousness of the concept. How your whole life can be ended because you couldn’t wait until you got out of the car to send that little bit of gossip.
Creating the video was a lot more work than we could have ever imagined. And that mainly came from Josh and I pushing each other to always see how it could be improved. “But it’d be cooler if …” almost became a catchphrase throughout the making of the video.
“Film in a graveyard?”
“But it’d be cooler if we shot in an actual cave.”
“Basic ghost-like death makeup?”
“But it’d be cooler if we made them actually have recognizable deaths.”
And it kinda just went from there.
JF: After about a week of research, Paul and I sat down and ideated over 20 different concepts. There was many a sleepless night during this stage of the process. But finally, we narrowed the pool down to about five ideas that we really liked, the afterlife idea still lower on the list. But when we went back through the ideas- again under Luke’s discretion- we reconsidered how much potential the afterlife idea really had. So we played with it for a while, starting with a deceased therapy group, and then injecting other bits of our other inspiration into the project — from greek attire to the ghost of Christmas future to “Beetlejuice’s” waiting room to the song “Hashtag Selfie” — creating a more quirky yet distinctly millennial style. After that we spent about 6 weeks preparing for the film shoot, going over every aspect of the production. We reworked the script at least 15 times. We tested the makeup (I’m sure there’s pictures somewhere of both of us covered in all sorts of cause-of-deaths). We auditioned countless actors. We even location scouted fields and graveyards and caves up to six hours away from Savannah. We really dedicated ourselves to creating the most effective world possible to communicate the importance of putting your phone down while you’re driving. And so far it has been received well.
AC: Has this issue affected your life? Do you know people who text and drive?
PP: I have a lot of friends who are always texting and driving. It’s one of those things that you can tell they don’t really think about and just do. And that’s what we’re trying to change. They say that they will probably stop when it causes a problem but that problem could very well end their life.
JF: I think this issue really affects everyone, whether directly or more distantly. We’ve all witnessed people texting and driving. Sometimes it’s the person in the car next to you, and occasionally it’s the person in the seat next to you. But regardless, this is an issue of importance often overlooked as being mundane or benign, when in reality it’s a catalyst for one of the most prevalent causes of death. Even on a personal level, I’ve been impacted (literally) by someone who was texting and driving. Luckily, no one was hurt in the vehicle I was driving, but two teenage girls T-boned my car after neglecting to yield at an intersection. This was about a week prior to production, and had Paul not owned a vehicle of his own, things might have gone significantly different with our film. Ended up, my car was totaled and they drove away from the scene of the accident, so nothing came of the event. But they could have done much more serious damage than just my car, honestly. That’s why, to me, it’s always peculiar to think that such momentary, insignificant neglect can have such instant and devastating results.
AC: What are your career aspirations?
PP: I mean, ultimately, I would like to be a Creative Director at an agency or own my own advertising agency. I’m just starting out in the ad world though so all of that could change in the next few years. I definitely am loving what I’m doing now though.
JF: I’m sort of jumping into the deep end of a pool and forcing myself to swim by transitioning into the advertising industry on such short notice. It’s difficult, but it’s thrilling. I love taking on new challenges and meeting new people with skills completely foreign to my own. That’s the way I’ve always been, so it’s nice to find a field where I’m constantly encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and solve problems with the utmost creativity. Over time I’d like to work up the ranks in an agency that focuses on the integration of digital and video into the traditional approaches for advertising.
AC: If you could say one thing to your peers about texting and driving, what would it be?
PP: It’s seriously embarrassing if you can’t put down your phone for the length of a car ride. Show more self-control. C’mon now.
JF: It really is okay to say something if you’re ever uncomfortable seeing your friends texting and driving. Cars can be cool and all, but they can also be two-ton metal death machines if you’re not careful. Be aware of your safety and the safety of others around you, even if that means staying off of your phone as a passenger- and encouraging your friends to do the same- it’s worth it to keep your driver focused.