YDA Catchup: Cam McHarg

Cameron McHarg earned a softspot in our heart after his Fed Ex commercial (featuring a comedy kick in quite a different soft spot) made it onto the 2009 YDA shortlist. Since then he’s been building up his reel and has seen his short film Kicking Sand In Your Face picked up by international cable networks. When we found out he was in the running for this year’s Doritos Crash The Superbowl competition we decided to lend our support. Voting for the Doritos Superbowl spots starts January 3rd here.

Tell us about the new Doritos stakeout spot – what inspired it?
Well, I’m a huge Coen Bros fan. I really think that nobody does smart, black comedy better than they do. I used Raising Arizona as a direct reference with my DP and colorist, for example. No Country for Old Men is one of my favorite movies of all time. I actually think it’s a flawless film, but we can leave that for another conversation. Anyway, I mean that even in a dark, existential, and scary movie like that, their humor still shines through, and I love it. I’m also a big fan of heist flicks, whether it be from Melville or Michael Mann. I was watching, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” one night when this idea came to me to make sort of a Coen Bros heist spot, and I thought it would be really fun.

It looks like a lot of fun to shoot – what was the shoot itself like and what were the biggest challenges?
I really loved my actors. I always do, actually. To me, working with actors, and letting them be free to play is the very best part about shooting anything. I started out as an actor myself, and that may be why I love it so much, but it really was fun working with all of them. We had some close calls with disaster, though. We have an insurance issue with our SWAT vehicle AND a problem with our equipment/lighting rentals literally the night before the shoot, we somehow managed to get another vehicle at the last minute, and my brilliant DP (Alexandre Naufel) had to get creative at the last minute, and we all worked hard and pulled it off. What an amazing group of people I had around me. It’s really all about having great people like that. I’m a lucky guy.

What was the YDA experience like for you?
It’s cool because being a part of the YDA almost feels like some kind of badge of honor sometimes. I actually wasn’t able to make it to be there for it in person for the event, but I’ve had a couple of meetings afterward where the producers were already familiar with me because they saw my spot at Cannes, so that was obviously amazing for me. It’s been great. I wish I could submit to it again!

Your YDA spot – the swift kick in the balls fed ex spot – still makes me laugh. what are your memories of making that spot?
My FedEx kick-in-the-sack spot was a blast to make! The hardest thing about it was trying not to break and laugh while we were shooting it! I have to admit something… there is no sound design in that spot except for a dog barking in the neighborhood. That impact sound was real! (I missed the target, though. I think I got him in the thigh.) 😀

That spot was really popular outside the US. Although people here in the states may like that humor, it’s still a little too much for conservative mainstream American TV. Hopefully that will change and lighten up a little bit soon, because I really love the stuff that comes out of Europe, Australia, and South America, etc.

What else have you been up to since last year’s YDA?
I was actually able to sell my short film, “Kicking Sand in Your Face” to cable networks in Russia/Ukraine, and Canada. I’m happy about that. It’s a black comedy, and by the end, usually about 8 out of 10 people laugh, and the remainder are horrified. I love that! As long as it gets some kind of strong reaction, I’m happy. When I made it, my main desire was just for as many people to see it, so I really couldn’t be happier about that.

As a filmmaker, what inspires you?
I really love little observational moments and subtle reactions that I see both in life and in the movies. One example that pops up in my head is from, “JAWS”. There’s a scene where Roy Scheider notices his son (or was it his grandson? I don’t remember.) sitting below him and imitating his facial expressions. I don’t know what it is about that, but I thought it was a brilliant moment. Ricky Gervais is a genius at nailing awkward moments that we can all recognize. I even think a broad comedy like, “Family Guy”, is great at this, too. They really know how to nail these little exchanges and moments as well. I love that stuff.

Have you got any new projects on the go or planned?
I’ve been working on a feature script that’s based on a true story that happened to me when I was a teenager, when some friends and I were held hostage at gunpoint by some crazy Vietnam veterans in the Cascade Mountains. Yep, it’s true. It’s not so much of a comedy, as you might imagine, but I’m sure I’ll squeeze some in there somewhere. 😉

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