The Time I Directed the Star of a Super Bowl Commercial
Updated: Feb 13
I stayed out of her way. That’s how you direct the truly talented ones.
It was a Saturday in August 2008, and I needed the scene to work or the whole movie might fall on its under-budgeted face.
I had purposely under-scripted the flashback sequence, believing the right actors would improvise on a few family scenarios I’d imagined and create a moment that was undeniably human.
The scene not only worked, it ended up being the emotional anchor for the entire movie, a sequence that wells every eye in the theater at every screening. Guaranteed.
Looking back, the scene’s success is owed almost entirely to the understated yet nonetheless perfect performance by Michelle Simms.
I still marvel at it all these years later and sometimes ask how did that happen?
Then I remember. I got out of her way and called action. That’s how you direct the great ones.
Too often, self-absorbed movie directors wax poetic about their coaxing a brilliant performance from an actor as if it was their on-set pontification that made the difference and not the actor’s interpretation, choices, and will.
I go the other way.
Give a great actor a good scene. Tell her where to stand. Then shut up and call “action.” Let the results speak for themselves.
Michele Sims is a great actor. I knew it fourteen years ago because I’d witnessed her preparation, precision, and execution first-hand. That’s why I’m not the least bit shocked that she’ll be starring in a commercial for Carvana that will air during the first quarter of this Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Starring isn’t really the appropriate word. She is the commercial.
The ad has already made its way around the web, so there’s no harm in me embedding it here. I suppose I could do a little waxing myself about how flawless Michele’s performance is, how through physical performance and perfect timing she builds the character from scene to scene and carries the story to its hilarious climax.
It’s better, though, if I just shut up, get out of the way, and let a brilliant performer do her thing. Always is.
Carvana, the online car buying hub behind the spot, is aiming to go big in 2022, shelling out a reported $6.5 million for 30-seconds of air time in a premier spot during the game’s broadcast.
They’ve got a winner of a commercial, not because it will make all the post-Super Bowl Monday morning listicles, but because it’s a rare breed of ad that’s not only outlandishly funny, it’s human.
Carvana can thank its star for that.
In the years since I directed Michele in a little movie that’s now long-forgotten and seldom visited on IMDB.com, I’ve followed her journey as a working class actor dedicated to the craft and committed to enduring the fleeting success and inevitable torture those not blessed with A-list anointment endure.
The fringe plays. Low-budget horror films. The comedy sketches lingering in the web’s outer realms. Michele Simms has been great in all of them, even if the world hasn’t yet noticed
I’ve worked with hundreds of actors over the years–most of them good, a few great–and I can’t think of a more deserving performer to finally achieve the success of starring in a Super Bowl commercial.
I hope the rest of the world sees this ad during the first quarter of the big game and finally realizes what I knew the moment I called action on a tiny set fourteen years ago.
Get out of Michele Simms’s way. Watch what happens.
It’ll be worth it.
Always is with Michele.
Look for "Oversharing Mom," the Carvana commercial starring Michele Simms sometime during the first quarter of Super Bowl LVI this Sunday.
And whatever you do, don't leave this page without first watching her match wits as a Chicken with the great Werner Herzog:
Fred Smith is an author, screenwriter, and devoted fan of working artists. His debut novel, The Coolest Labels, is available on Amazon.com.