The signature style of Backyard Productions director Rob Pritts is to find uncommon takes on otherwise banal situations and behavior.
Once a simple industrial filmmaker from Arlington Heights, Rob was plucked from Chicago’s northwest suburbs and thrust into the spotlight after directing a commercial for WLUP Radio/Chicago. He holds a bachelor’s degree in cinema from Southern Illinois University.
With a client list that includes LG, Charter, AT&T, SEGA, Twix, Snickers, Altoids, Minute Maid, M&M’s, AXE, American Express, ESPN, Dr. Pepper and Molson; and celebrity talent, including Jerry Seinfeld, Denis Leary and Sean Hayes; and brooding thespians such as George Hamilton and William Shatner, it’s easy to see why Pritts is in demand. He has won and/or been nominated for every major award in the industry and earned a Gold Clio for "Bob in a Box," the first spot he ever directed at Backyard.
If you have a degree in what field is it? I have a BA in film production from Southern Illinois University. The department was going through an experimental phase so we watched a lot of Brackage, Anger and Benning. It’s when I learned that you don’t need a lot to happen in the frame to make things interesting. A film I remember well, called Argyle, won the local Big Muddy Film Festival; it was one shot, twelve seconds, filmed on the deck of a boat heaving in a stormy surf. In frame were people’s legs being sprayed with sea water, soaking their pants and, from what I remember, their argyle socks.
If you could choose one person to work with who would it be? This guy Trent Steele who wears a ski mask and chugs 40oz bottles of malt liquor on YouTube. It’s some of the best performance art online.
Who was the client for your first advertising project? I wrote and directed a spec spot for WLUP, a local radio station in Chicago. It featured a homeless guy living in a wooden crate being taunted by local street kids while trying to find a radio station using his ancient Zenith and a roof-mounted satellite dish. I cast a deranged janitor I knew who worked at a photo studio, my son and some neighborhood kids. It won a Gold Clio, so I learned early on to trust my instincts no matter how strange.
If you were to change professions, what would you choose to do? Competition BBQ smoker. I cook a killer fifteen-hour, slow-smoked pork shoulder that I think would do well in a cook-off.
What do you consider to be the greatest headline of all time? “Think Small.”
From where do your best ideas originate? The alpha state, right before I fall asleep.
How do you overcome a creative block? Take a nap.
If you could choose any product to create an ad for, what would it be? Mayonnaise. It’s an awesome condiment and I’ve never seen a good commercial for it.
Do you have creative outlets other than advertising? Writing and grocery shopping.
What’s your approach to balancing work and life? I really don’t look at what I do as work; it’s an integral part of my life. Creativity isn’t something you can just turn off; great ideas can come while waiting for potato salad at the deli counter.
What product/gadget can you not live without? I think most gadgets get in the way of creativity. With iPhones, iPads and GPS we’ve lost our abilty to get lost.
What’s your favorite quote? “I am, at this moment, writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.” —Ignatious J. Reilly, Confederacy of Dunces
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? You are your own best audience.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? To not listen to that agency guy who told me, “You go tell our client his idea sucks.”