Two years ago, as Florida was gearing up for election season, I got a call from my friend Steve Barnes who was then chairman of Seminole County’s Democratic Party. Steve knew that I’d done media work in the past and asked if I’d give him a hand putting together an ad for Florida’s 29th congressional district, one of three districts in Seminole. I’d have jumped at any chance to work with Steve but, for a variety of reasons, this opportunity was particularly appealing.
Steve’s original idea was to create some kind of A Clockwork Orange takeoff. While that was an intriguing idea in a number of ways, I thought we should aim for something a little more… mainstream. Eventually, we decided on a format based on the original Law & Order. I think it’s fair to say that we both liked the idea but neither of us loved it. One afternoon, I got a call from Steve with a tweak that put the spot over the top. The ad was always going to be about the closing of Longwood Elementary, a huge issue in the district that transcended partisan politics. What was appealing about the Law & Order approach was that it allowed the “prosecutor” to make a rapid series of dramatic points that reflected how parents and kids felt about what had happened. Steve’s idea was simple and brilliant: “Let’s make the prosecutor a kid!”
The rest, as they say, is history. We were able to find an incredible collection of young actors, most of whom had never acted on camera before. We got the whole thing shot in a couple of hours and it turned out even better than we’d hoped. The young man who played the “prosecutor” was the only cast member who’d ever acted before… and his experience showed. When the ad was unveiled on YouTube, it created so much buzz that it got featured on a couple of the local news shows and several local political web sites.
I always feel fortunate when I can look back on a project that turned out exceptionally well. As is so often the case with projects that yield exceptional results, this project was a genuinely collaborative effort. It was the kind of project that creates a depth of satisfaction that is rare. I’ve got to admit, though, that the Dorworth on Trial commercial was one of those projects for me.