VSA Partners Content Creator Justin Leyba wrote, directed, and edited an endearing spec for Amazon Echo that creatively demonstrates the value of Alexa’s humor in the context of one woman’s atrocious day.
Titled, Worst Day Ever, the spot was created by one of the rising creative stars whose work will be featured during SHOOT’s 16th Annual New Directors Showcase screening May 24th at the Directors Guild of America in New York City.
According to Leyba — who is also Executive Producer & Director with the film collective known as The Control Room — Worst Day Ever was a passion project completed outside of his regular 9-to-5 at the prestigious VSA Partners agency.
That does not stop VSA’s Executive Creative Director Bob Winter from having a high opinion of the video.
“I think (Leyba) did a beautiful job of capturing real life,” explains Winter. “He has such a great way of highlighting what people really feel, but in a beautiful and elevated way.”
For those outside the advertising industry, an ad spec is a concept work that is independent of an agency or client. Still, Leyba remarks, “A spec should look like a real spot.” The goal is for people to watch it and “think that it is an actual ad.”
Specs are an excellent way for commercial directors to showcase their skills, build their portfolio, and demonstrate that they should be taken seriously. Specs also pose both the challenge and creative opportunity of working freely outside the confines of a real client’s guidelines and brand limitations.
When asked about the value of creating a spec, Leyba responds, “Especially if you’re just an up and coming director, you’re not going to get any big cool work if you don’t have anything to show.”
Speaking of Amazon Echo’s joke capabilities that are featured in the spot, Leyba reflects, “I thought there was something very human about that feature, and the idea that Alexa can make someone smile whenever they needed it really resonated with me.”
Despite there being five locations featured in Worst Day Ever, Leyba and crew filmed the entire spec in one day. Filmed is the key word here because it wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say production took place in a day.
Until he recorded the right joke, Leyba spent another day talking to Alexa. Leyba laughs, “It was just a whole day of me talking to Alexa, asking for jokes…. I think I ended up with the perfect one.”
In regards to his directing strategy on a time crunch and small budget, Leyba states, “Once I have the shot, I won’t linger and do ten more takes. Once I have it, lets move on.” Referring to Assistant Director Tucker O’Neill, Leyba chuckles, “That is probably why my AD loves me.”
Leyba further emphasizes that the entire process was easier because of his efficient crew that he had already worked with on many occasions, including his short film The Alien, Nate.
In regards to the spec and his work in general as a director, Leyba stresses the importance of his creative support groups at both VSA Partners and his film collective The Control Room.
“Everyone from The Control Room, all of the directors, were actually on set helping me out,” says Leyba. Also, VSA’s Executive Director of Production Ashley Geisheker and ECD Winter were both consulted during pre-production about the story and script.
Winter remarks on the final video, “These moments could have felt generic or overly planned out, but they didn’t. You feel as if you were there.”
Despite showcasing a woman’s worst day, Leyba’s spec refrains from being melodramatic or over the top. It is both humorous and relatable. Most importantly as an ad spec, it showcases the Amazon Echo in a positive and refreshing light.
However, while Alexa’s joke may be the punch line in Leyba’s Worst Day Ever, viewers should not be fooled.
The real message of this spec is that Justin Leyba is a serious commercial director, and the message has been received.
Or as Winter states, Leyba “is a secret weapon, soon to be not so secret.” And that is no joke.
Contact Joey Filer at Joey@reelchicago.com or follow him on Twitter @FilerJoey
Director: Justin Leyba
Writer & Producer: Justin Leyba
Assistant Director: Tucker O’Neill
Director of Photography: Mason Adams
Assistant Camera: JT Klingenmeier
Cast: Katie Haynes, Liliana Renteria
Gaffer: Ethan Sandock
Key Grip: Jenny Hochberg
Production Designer: Joe Shelleh
Set Designer: CJ Hughes
Hair & Make-Up: Kacy Tatus
Set Photographer: Jon LeVert
Editor: Justin Leyba
Post-Sound: Braden Creel and Jordan Lederman of Polar Sound
“Ain’t Gonna Cry No More” by Josephine Taylor. Licensed through Marmoset Music