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Janesville company to score big with Super Bowl

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Marcia Nelesen
February 1, 2013

— A Janesville company already has scored big for this year's Super Bowl.

Stephen Pickering and his wife, Cameron Pickering, won $5,000 and the chance to see their film in a pregame commercial after their company, Drywater Productions, won first place in a contest sponsored by Pizza Hut.

Who cares about the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers?

The clip chosen will join 17 others to be showcased in the same commercial Sunday. The company received 480 entries, Stephen said.

"We were blown away that out of that many they actually recognized ours as the No. 1 video," Stephen said.

Stephen is not sure how the company will use the clip or when it will air.

He knows it will emphasize the word "hut" as in "Pizza Hut," not "hut" as in football.

Drywater Productions has participated in similar contests. Several wins allowed Stephen to quit his day job in fall 2011 and concentrate on his production company. Some competitions were staged by Microsoft, Hormel Foods and 3M, for example.

"I can be competing with a production company that's got a million-dollar budget," Stephen said. "If our idea is better than theirs, we can get recognition. That's really exciting."

Pizza Hut initially asked contestants to create a video explaining why quarterbacks say "hut."

Stephen staged a football game with local actors and friends. In the video, Stephen opens a box of pizza on the sidelines. Every time the quarterback says "hut," more players crane their heads toward the pizza. When the quarterback yells "hike," the others abandon the game, leaving the quarterback and center alone on the field.

"I've got the pizza in my hand and look up and scream as they run straight at me," Stephen said.

Snow started falling halfway through filming, so Stephen had to add digital snow for continuity.

Then, Pizza Hut changed the rules and extended the deadline. They asked for film of people simply saying, "hut." Their example of the clips, strung together in a montage, showed an amateur quality. Contestants could upload as many videos as they wanted.

Stephen scrambled to re-edit the original, squeezing in as many "huts" as he could and giving the video a less professional feel. He uploaded his original video and two variations.

At least one commercial using his footage will air Sunday, Stephen said. Pizza Hut is keeping the commercial under wraps.

Stephen hopes it will get more than one showing because of the amount of time the company devoted.

Viewers should watch for a clip with a "blue winter feel" and snow. Stephen thinks it is the only clip with snow. Local actor Jeremy Heesen is featured as quarterback.

Hopefully, winning first place will mean his video gets a highly visible spot in the commercial, Stephen said.

The contest is making news, with an article written in Forbes and postings about it online.

"It's really cool," Stephen said. "We didn't realize how big this competition was."



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