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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Filmmakers Score With Super Bowl Ad

By Tom Robinson

Have you found yourself craving a "quesalupa," Taco Bell's new cheese-in-a-shell menu item, since the Super Bowl?

It could be the fast-food company's quirky-but-catchy local ad shown during the game - and produced by Old Dominion University filmmakers - is the reason.

Cinematographer David Mallin, assistant professor of communication and theatre arts, and director Derrick Borte, an ODU graduate, teamed up for the 30-second spot that was part of Taco Bell's national quesalupa launch.

Deutsch Inc. in Los Angeles, Taco Bell's ad agency, also used well-recognized commercial characters in five local markets to pitch the new product.

Hampton Roads was one of them. The jumpy "Mack Mack the Dog" commercials Borte has made for the used-car dealership Auto Connection caught the eye of Deutsch's scouts.

The latest version begins like a typical Auto Connection ad, with Mack Mack and dealership owner Wayne Clifton trading goofy dance moves. But suddenly, a quesalupa appears in Clifton's hand and a voice-over for Taco Bell joins the soundtrack.

Intrigued? Watch the ad here.

"They figured out a way to incorporate both of them," Mallin said. "I really enjoy it. It's silly. It makes you laugh."

Borte, who lives in Virginia Beach, said Deutsch contacted him once it decided Hampton Roads and Mack Mack would fit its campaign.

Borte, who was in London wrapping up shooting for his latest feature film "London Town," was eager to sign up.

"I thought it was a brilliant concept," Borte said. "Take the most iconic ads in a local market and play them during the Super Bowl when everybody's actually paying attention. Then midway through transform it into another brand's advertising. It's a great idea."

Deutsch's producer Damon Vinyard was so impressed by Borte's work that he had Borte collaborate on similar ads in Cleveland and Minneapolis.

"Having Derrick on our side was awesome," Vinyard said. "He had that Virginia Beach shoot locked up, which made things easier for me because we were still figuring out where to shoot and who to shoot, and we only had two weeks to do five spots."

The local ads, which also were done in Eugene, Ore. and Dallas, have garnered plentiful online buzz for their clever approach.

Last year, Mallin and Borte also made "Our Nation," a short feature film written by Mallin, for the "Birth of a Nation" project. The latter was the brainchild of Avi Santo, ODU's director of the Institute for the Humanities, that earned the University its first grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

"Our Nation" will be shown Sunday, Feb. 14 at 1:30 p.m. at the Kimball Theatre in Williamsburg as part of the William & Mary Global Film Festival. Mallin will do a Q&A session afterward.

Mallin said his Advanced Filmmaking class also has launched an Indiegogo campaign to help purchase special equipment for its next production, the short film Carmelita.

Meanwhile, Borte awaits word on distribution of "London Town," a seven-year project for him. Set in London's punk scene of the late '70s, it is a coming-of-age story revolving around the band The Clash that stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Natascha McElhone.

"It's an amazing soundtrack, an unbelievable cast," said Borte, whose films include 2009's "The Joneses." "I'm very excited about it. It's the most amazing production I've ever been a part of."