Here's a Painfully Comic Look at the Absurdities of Working in Advertising

Is this any way to earn a living?

Some folks who make commercials for a living decided to make a funny web series about making commercials.

It's called "Commercials"—what else?

Four directors repped by Community Films—Eric Eckelman, Armand Prisco and Natalie Prisco (collectively known as JEAN), and Pam Thomas—are the brains behind a half-dozen episodes. These pros have worked for brands such as AT&T, Delta, Dove, Honda, MTV and Visa, so they really know the territory. (Thomas also directed episodes of Desperate Housewives, Sex and the City and Atypical.)

Told through the lens of a fictional outfit called Bird Films, each installment lasts about four minutes and skewers various aspects the agency/production company experience. 

Stylistically, it's like The Office meets 30 Rock with some SNL and improv tossed in, set in the small-minded, soul-sucking, minutia-obsessed world of modern advertising. 

In the first episode, the crew encounter a snafu on location for a diet soda campaign. The client suddenly decides the talent isn't "ethnically ambiguous" enough. Bronzing powder is not an option. Ah well, at least those ice-cream parfaits are tasty. 

Did that scenario feel familiar from your daily grind, dear reader? Of course it did. 

And so will the dynamic of this next installment, where we sit in on a "really great meeting." You know, the kind where you totally crush that presentation, but maybe not: 

Yeah, getting everyone's "creative vision" to align is some tricky shit. Great meeting, though, fantastic. 

Next, tempers flare as an artsy director pulls a "mantrum" that wastes time and money. At least the chicken salad arrives on time. 

Points for name-checking Wes Anderson. He'd approve.
 
"We've always thought of this project as having two distinct audiences," Eckelman tells Muse. "For those who work in the industry, it allows all of us to laugh at the absurdity of what we do. Whether you are an agency creative, a director or a PA, you will cringe at it in a Larry David kind of way." 

Sure, some of the characters (anal execs, egomaniacal auteurs) and set-ups (business meetings gone awry) feel a tad clichéd. But the sharp writing and righteously world-weary performances of the main cast make it all come together. "Commercials" may aim at easy targets, but it scores hits with almost every shot. 

"For those outside the industry, we tried to keep the basis of the comedy relatable enough that it could be applied to any job," says Eckelman. "Having to do something insane that makes no sense to appease a difficult client is by no means unique to the commercial industry. It happens whether you work at Verizon or in a daycare center." 

Indeed, "Commercials" dead-on captures the surreal, sapping vibe of workday situations that take on an outsized importance in the moment, despite their obvious insignificance in the greater scheme of things. 

"Speaking to tone, we like that the jokes have a basis in reality, but we wanted to push them right up to the edge of absurd," Natalie Prisco says. "The comedy is pushed, but still grounded." 
 
The six episodes were shot over three days, using Community's offices and a co-creator's home as locations. Actors who appeared in the company's actual commercials make up most of the cast. 

"One of the best things about this project was comparing notes with each other, the stories from the crew and actors," Thomas recalls, "and hearing family members who aren't in our biz saying things like, 'That doesn't really happen in your job, right?"

Of course it does, dear reader, as you very well know.

Check out the other episodes below:

CREDITS

—ETHNICALLY AMBIGUOUS

Directed by JEAN
Written by Natalie Prisco
Story by JEAN
Created by JEAN and Pam Thomas
Production Company: Community Films
Executive Producer: Lizzie Schwartz
Executive Producer: Carl Swan
Producer: Tony Cantale
Director of Photography: Neil Shapiro

CAST
Nate Young: Nate Lang
Maggie Cheng: Ana Parsons
Ashley: Ali Hillis
DK: DK Uzoukwu
Agency Producer: Brent Popolizio
Head Client: Rebecca Tilney
AD: Sam Carsons
EA Woman: Rachel Varela

Editor: Angela Cheng
Production Designer: Jace Ford
Original Score: Jay Lifton
Casting Director: Chad McKnight
Casting Assistant: Rachel Varela
Re-Recording Engineer: Robin Buyer for Pulse Music
Colorist: Quinn Alvarez
First AD: Julianne Maiello
Second AD: Aban Sonia
Script Supervisor: Lucia Pier
Production Supervisor: Andrea Tello
Production Coordinator: Kathy Burnham
Art Director: Chad Bailey
Leadman: John Horlick
Set Decorator: Marisa Collins
Prop Master: Greg Schultz
Set Dresser: Marty McCue
Costume Designer: Julie Vogel
Key Costumer: Kristin Hazen
Costumer: Ariel Kostrzewski
Key Make Up: Brenna Bash
Make Up Assistant: Laura Connelly
Camera Operator: Bill Robinson
First AC / A Camera: Diona Mavis
First AC / B Camera: Jason Kinney
Second AC: Austin Pedroni
DIT: Lee Summer
Gaffer: Tim Stratton
Key Grip: Marco Pearson
Sound Mixer: Scott Farr
Boom: Jason Brooks
VTR: Mike Waters
Key PA: Francisco Hernandez
Production Assistant: Scott Belsky
Production Assistant: Patrick McElroy
Production Assistant: Scott Kukla
Production Assistant: Phoebe MacCurrach
Production Assistant: Jeremy Meizlish
Production Assistant: Tony Paoli
Production Assistant: Ted Sheahan

Special Thanks
House Casting
Cosmo Street Editorial
Pulse Music
Apache

—REALLY GREAT MEETING

Directed by JEAN
Written by Natalie Prisco
Story by JEAN
Created by JEAN and Pam Thomas
Production Company: Community Films
Executive Producer: Lizzie Schwartz
Executive Producer: Carl Swan
Producer: Tony Cantale
Director of Photography: Neil Shapiro

CAST
Nate Young: Nate Lang
Jay Beck: Bo Barrett
Agency Producer: Katie Von Til
Creative #1: Rich Pierre Louis
Creative #2: Dalton Leeb

Editor: Aaron Langley
Production Designer: Jace Ford
Original Score: Jay Lifton
Casting Director: Chad McKnight
Casting Assistant: Rachel Varela
Re-Recording Engineer: Robin Buyer for Pulse Music
Colorist: Quinn Alvarez
First AD: Julianne Maiello
Second AD: Aban Sonia
Script Supervisor: Lucia Pier
Production Supervisor: Andrea Tello
Production Coordinator: Kathy Burnham
Art Director: Chad Bailey
Leadman: John Horlick
Set Decorator: Marisa Collins
Prop Master: Greg Schultz
Set Dresser: Marty McCue
Costume Designer: Julie Vogel
Key Costumer: Kristin Hazen
Costumer: Ariel Kostrzewski
Key Make Up: Brenna Bash
Make Up Assistant: Laura Connelly
Camera Operator: Bill Robinson
First AC / A Camera: Diona Mavis
First AC / B Camera: Jason Kinney
Second AC: Austin Pedroni
DIT: Lee Summer
Gaffer: Tim Stratton
Key Grip: Marco Pearson
Sound Mixer: Scott Farr
Boom: Jason Brooks
VTR: Mike Waters
Key PA: Francisco Hernandez
Production Assistant: Scott Belsky
Production Assistant: Patrick McElroy
Production Assistant: Scott Kukla
Production Assistant: Phoebe MacCurrach
Production Assistant: Jeremy Meizlish
Production Assistant: Tony Paoli
Production Assistant: Ted Sheahan

Special Thanks
House Casting
Cosmo Street Editorial
Pulse Music
Apache

—MANTRUM 

Directed by Pam Thomas
Written by Lloyd Stein
Story by Lloyd Stein
Created by JEAN and Pam Thomas
Production Company: Community Films
Executive Producer: Lizzie Schwartz
Executive Producer: Carl Swan
Producer: Tony Cantale
Director of Photography: Neil Shapiro

CAST
Nate Young: Nate Lang
Axel Roundhouse: Joe Hursley
Andy: Oren Skoog
AD: Monte James
Girl: Everette Lang

Editor: Barney Miller
Production Designer: Jace Ford
Original Score: Jay Lifton
Casting Director: Chad McKnight
Casting Assistant: Rachel Varela
Re-Recording Engineer: Robin Buyer for Pulse Music
Colorist: Quinn Alvarez
First AD: Julianne Maiello
Second AD: Aban Sonia
Script Supervisor: Lucia Pier
Production Supervisor: Andrea Tello
Production Coordinator: Kathy Burnham
Art Director: Chad Bailey
Leadman: John Horlick
Set Decorator: Marisa Collins
Prop Master: Greg Schultz
Set Dresser: Marty McCue
Costume Designer: Julie Vogel
Key Costumer: Kristin Hazen
Costumer: Ariel Kostrzewski
Key Make Up: Brenna Bash
Make Up Assistant: Laura Connelly
Camera Operator: Bill Robinson
First AC / A Camera: Diona Mavis
First AC / B Camera: Jason Kinney
Second AC: Austin Pedroni
DIT: Lee Summer
Gaffer: Tim Stratton
Key Grip: Marco Pearson
Sound Mixer: Scott Farr
Boom: Jason Brooks
VTR: Mike Waters
Key PA: Francisco Hernandez
Production Assistant: Scott Belsky
Production Assistant: Patrick McElroy
Production Assistant: Scott Kukla
Production Assistant: Phoebe MacCurrach
Production Assistant: Jeremy Meizlish
Production Assistant: Tony Paoli
Production Assistant: Ted Sheahan

Special Thanks
House Casting
Cosmo Street Editorial
Pulse Music
Apache

—FULL CLOCKS 

Directed by JEAN
Written by Natalie Prisco
Story by JEAN
Created by JEAN and Pam Thomas
Production Company: Community Films
Executive Producer: Lizzie Schwartz
Executive Producer: Carl Swan
Producer: Tony Cantale
Director of Photography: Neil Shapiro

CAST
Nate Young: Nate Lang
Tom: Adam Silver
Dave: Ken C Peterson
Agency Producer: Olivia Herman
AD: Sam Carsons
Actor #1: Christal Deloney
Actor #2: Casey Alexander

Editor: Aaron Langley
Production Designer: Jace Ford
Original Score: Jay Lifton
Casting Director: Chad McKnight
Casting Assistant: Rachel Varela
Re-Recording Engineer: Robin Buyer for Pulse Music
Colorist: Quinn Alvarez
First AD: Julianne Maiello
Second AD: Aban Sonia
Script Supervisor: Lucia Pier
Production Supervisor: Andrea Tello
Production Coordinator: Kathy Burnham
Art Director: Chad Bailey
Leadman: John Horlick
Set Decorator: Marisa Collins
Prop Master: Greg Schultz
Set Dresser: Marty McCue
Costume Designer: Julie Vogel
Key Costumer: Kristin Hazen
Costumer: Ariel Kostrzewski
Key Make Up: Brenna Bash
Make Up Assistant: Laura Connelly
Camera Operator: Bill Robinson
First AC / A Camera: Diona Mavis
First AC / B Camera: Jason Kinney
Second AC: Austin Pedroni
DIT: Lee Summer
Gaffer: Tim Stratton
Key Grip: Marco Pearson
Sound Mixer: Scott Farr
Boom: Jason Brooks
VTR: Mike Waters
Key PA: Francisco Hernandez
Production Assistant: Scott Belsky
Production Assistant: Patrick McElroy
Production Assistant: Scott Kukla
Production Assistant: Phoebe MacCurrach
Production Assistant:Jeremy Meizlish
Production Assistant: Tony Paoli
Production Assistant: Ted Sheahan

Special Thanks
House Casting
Cosmo Street Editorial
Pulse Music
Apache

—GUYS AND DOLLS 

Directed by JEAN
Written by Natalie Prisco
Story by JEAN
Created by JEAN and Pam Thomas
Production Company: Community Films
Executive Producer: Lizzie Schwartz
Executive Producer: Carl Swan
Producer: Tony Cantale
Director of Photography: Neil Shapiro

CAST
Nate Young: Nate Lang
Maggie Cheng: Ana Parsons
Male Client #1: David Lowe
Male Client #2: Ted Canon
Female Client #1: Jayne Entwistle
Female Client #2: Io Bottoms

Editor: Angela Cheng
Production Designer: Jace Ford
Original Score: Jay Lifton
Casting Director: Chad McKnight
Casting Assistant: Rachel Varela
Re-Recording Engineer: Robin Buyer for Pulse Music
Colorist: Quinn Alvarez
First AD: Julianne Maiello
Second AD: Aban Sonia
Script Supervisor: Lucia Pier
Production Supervisor: Andrea Tello
Production Coordinator: Kathy Burnham
Art Director: Chad Bailey
Leadman: John Horlick
Set Decorator: Marisa Collins
Prop Master: Greg Schultz
Set Dresser: Marty McCue
Costume Designer: Julie Vogel
Key Costumer: Kristin Hazen
Costumer: Ariel Kostrzewski
Key Make Up: Brenna Bash
Make Up Assistant: Laura Connelly
Camera Operator: Bill Robinson
First AC / A Camera: Diona Mavis
First AC / B Camera: Jason Kinney
Second AC: Austin Pedroni
DIT: Lee Summer
Gaffer: Tim Stratton
Key Grip: Marco Pearson
Sound Mixer: Scott Farr
Boom: Jason Brooks
VTR: Mike Waters
Key PA: Francisco Hernandez
Production Assistant: Scott Belsky
Production Assistant: Patrick McElroy
Production Assistant: Scott Kukla
Production Assistant: Phoebe MacCurrach
Production Assistant: Jeremy Meizlish
Production Assistant: Tony Paoli
Production Assistant: Ted Sheahan

Special Thanks
House Casting
Cosmo Street Editorial
Pulse Music
Apache

—BREAK ROOM 

Directed by Pam Thomas
Written by Pam Thomas and Lloyd Stein
Story by Pam Thomas
Created by JEAN and Pam Thomas
Production Company: Community Films
Executive Producer: Lizzie Schwartz
Executive Producer: Carl Swan
Producer: Tony Cantale
Director of Photography: Neil Shapiro

CAST
Nate Young: Nate Lang
Axel Roundhouse: Joe Hursley
Tom: Adam Silver
Dave: Ken C Peterson
Rita: Sarah Waisman
Crayon: Tony Paoli

Editor: Barney Miller
Production Designer: Jace Ford
Original Score: Jay Lifton
Casting Director: Chad McKnight
Casting Assistant: Rachel Varela
Re-Recording Engineer: Robin Buyer for Pulse Music
Colorist: Quinn Alvarez
First AD: Julianne Maiello
Second AD: Aban Sonia
Script Supervisor: Lucia Pier
Production Supervisor: Andrea Tello
Production Coordinator: Kathy Burnham
Art Director: Chad Bailey
Leadman: John Horlick
Set Decorator: Marisa Collins
Prop Master: Greg Schultz
Set Dresser: Marty McCue
Costume Designer: Julie Vogel
Key Costumer: Kristin Hazen
Costumer: Ariel Kostrzewski
Key Make Up: Brenna Bash
Make Up Assistant: Laura Connelly
Camera Operator: Bill Robinson
First AC / A Camera: Diona Mavis
First AC / B Camera: Jason Kinney
Second AC: Austin Pedroni
DIT: Lee Summer
Gaffer: Tim Stratton
Key Grip: Marco Pearson
Sound Mixer: Scott Farr
Boom: Jason Brooks
VTR: Mike Waters
Key PA: Francisco Hernandez
Production Assistant: Scott Belsky
Production Assistant: Patrick McElroy
Production Assistant: Scott Kukla
Production Assistant: Phoebe MacCurrach
Production Assistant: Jeremy Meizlish
Production Assistant: Tony Paoli
Production Assistant: Ted Sheahan

Special Thanks
House Casting
Cosmo Street Editorial
Pulse Music
Apache

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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