When Burbank resident Jacob Chase's girlfriend took in a little white terrier they now call the Miz, the dog seemed to have lived her whole life in a box and may never have seen grass before, Chase said.
"She was just frankly a miserable dog," he said, explaining how she earned the name Misery initially. "Now, the name is nothing but ironic."
Ironic because the rescue canine, who Chase said they believe was used for breeding in a puppy mill, is now the star of "Doritos Dogs," one of three finalists in the 10th and final year of Doritos' "Crash the Super Bowl" contest.
It's vying for airtime during Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7 and could earn co-writer and director Chase a $1-million grand prize and a Hollywood dream job.
"To be one of those three [finalists] is definitely very special," Chase said.
The graduate of Roosevelt Elementary School, Jordan Middle School and Burroughs High School said he's grateful the ad was selected from nearly 4,500 entries, "but obviously I want to win." The prize is considerably smaller than the Powerball jackpot, but the 1-in-3 odds are much better, he said.
This year's finalists are guaranteed to walk away with at least $100,000 and a "creative gig" with Doritos, officials with the snack brand said in a statement.
In Chase's 30-second spot, the Miz and two other rescue dogs, Bolt and Logan, must outwit a grocery store manager and learn some new tricks in order to get their paws on some Doritos.
Co-written by Travis Braun, a Burbank resident who also wrote and directed one of the 10 finalists in last year's competition, the project was a "family affair," Chase said.
His girlfriend's family helped with dog training and his mom sewed one of the key costumes in the ad, which was filmed in Redlands on a budget of around $1,000.
Maxine Chase said her son has had an interest in the entertainment industry from an early age, and she's excited to see him earn recognition for his passion.
The competition has been a showcase for talented Burbankers in recent years. The grand-prize winner last year was Burbank resident Scott Zabielski, whose ad starred his 13-month-old son, Jack. Daved Wilkins starred in and co-wrote the winning ad in the annual contest two years ago, and the year before that, a local dog named Yoda starred in one of the finalist ads.
In another Burbank connection, this year's winner will get a chance to collaborate with Zack Snyder, director of "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice," while working with Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment.
The three directors of the finalist ads were told they made the cut during a tour of the Warner Bros. lot, where they met Snyder after he popped out of his film's Batmobile on display in the studio's Picture Car Vault.
Snyder called Super Bowl airtime the "king daddy" for a commercial director. In a statement, he said, such a showcase "can open a new world of opportunities."
Zabielski said this week that the competition was life-changing, but not a "magic wand." It allowed him and his wife to buy a house in Burbank, pay off student loans and sock away some money for retirement.
Winning $1 million is "not a substitute for working," he said, but it's given him an opportunity to focus more on his own projects this year, and he already has multiple film and television projects in the pipeline.
"Things are starting to fall into place," Zabielski said.
The key now for Jacob Chase is getting the most online votes for his ad through Jan. 31. He said he and Braun are using social media to keep fans engaged and to get daily votes, one per device, at bit.ly/BurbankDoritos16. They're also sharing special content and behind-the-scenes photos at facebook.com/doritosdogs/.
"It's the votes that really count," Maxine Chase said. "To get to this point is exciting, to win would really be amazing."
Chad Garland, email@example.com