November’s Tongaler of the month is 1st place winner of the $20,000 Benjamin Moore “Big Transformations on a Small Budget” Project and Pitch-creator extraordinaire, Courtney Dixon. In just three short months, Courtney has reeled in $9,350, earning her the title of highest paid female creator on Tongal. As if that wasn’t huge enough, her amazing Benjamin Moore commercial, “Spend Less, Get Moore,” is currently being broadcast on TV. Any creator out there can tell you that this is exactly the type of thing people spend years trying to accomplish, having it happen in less than 90 days is basically unheard of. Honestly…we couldn’t think of anyone more deserving.
Caleb Light-Wills – How and when did you first find out about the site?
I had just decided I was moving back home, to Georgia, and I happened to randomly find the website at around 3 in the morning. I saw the pitch phase was open and thought I would give it one last go before I left. Needless to say, I have yet to move back.
C.L.W. – Were you apprehensive about the Tongal process or was it something you understood?
C.D. – I remember reading through it and thinking the set-up had to be too good to be true. Not only could I make money in every phase, but also I could have a direct line to the brand representatives themselves. In my case, the ideas were already provided all I had to do was make it my own.
C.L.W. – Most people only know Courtney Dixon as tiny thumbnail on a profile page. Can you give us a little background about yourself?
C.D. – Growing up in the middle of nowhere I had a lot of imagination and a lot of time to kill. So we made recreations of movies as kids.
Later, I moved out here started taking film theory classes, working on sets, writing, etc.
A couple weeks into film school I was so blessed to get really large budget to direct a short that I had wrote as a school assignment. I showed up on set to a huge crew, grip trucks everywhere, and a closed restaurant just for us in the heart of Hollywood- I did not know whether to cry or throw up. I didn’t do either one. I told myself to stop being a girl about it and just film. It ended up doing fairly well in festivals and I was hooked from that moment forward. Now here I am.
C.L.W. – What is your production background like?
C.D. – Filming is my life. I work a full time job to pay rent and I spend the rest of my time trying to shoot. I am a film school drop out because of finances, it was the hardest decision I ever had to make. Thankfully, I was able to learn the basics of filmmaking. I was determined to prove to myself that, what I might not know technically, I would make up for creatively. It just means I have to work that much harder on every project. Learn as I go.
C.L.W. – “Big Transformations on a Small Budget” wasn’t just your first Tongal win, it was your first Tongal project. How does it feel to come right out of the gate with such a huge win?
C.D. – I still keep checking to make sure it is real.
C.D. – Honestly, I liked a couple of the concepts to start with, but I tried to storyboard all of them out to see what would actually fit into 15 seconds and still tell a cohesive story. For me, his idea flowed the best with the allotted amount of time. Then I just built from there.
C.L.W. – How long did it take you to shoot “Spend Less. Get Moore” and what was your process like?
C.D. – Music is fundamental for me as a director. I can spend hours searching for the perfect song. With “Crazy as You” I knew instantly.
The shoot was one day, there were 8 of us. The preproduction is what took a couple of weeks. I knew I wanted it highly stylized so the design elements had to be key. I wanted the couches to be characters on their own as well. So we built them. I have a problem with thinking outside of my means sometimes. So I have to scale back, get creative, and think of how I can do it with the money given. That usually means a lot of diy projects. I go to the team and I’m like this is what we are going to build. I usually get looks like I am crazy. Halfway through the build we are all certain I am.
I discovered my intense love affair with the hardware store from this shoot. Being able to take PVC pipe and turn it into a couch bordered a religious experience for me, haha.
The lips couch was slightly harder. We used wall insulation as cushioning and they are not joking when they say that it’s itchy. I advice reading the directions on anything because they tend to put a couple of key facts on there that probably should not be overlooked.
I was very nervous to go up against Sean Clark. His videos for Benjamin Moore and others have been amazing. Then when I saw he had also done David’s concept that gave me even more anxiety.
I think it was so cool though to see how the same idea can be interpreted so differently and they each can be so unique.
All of the videos turned out great. I was really impressed with how much the other filmmakers could do with 15 seconds.
C.L.W. – Did you ever imagine that Benjamin Moore would ask you to cut a broadcast version of the spot and actually air it?
C.D. – Not in a million years. I set the bar really high for myself though so I try and make every project as perfect as it can possibly be. In the end, there are a thousand things I would have done better on every project, but hindsight is always 20/20.
However, in the make believe world I live in, every commercial we do goes on tv… as for the real world I live in, this is the first to actually do so and that is amazing to me.
C.L.W. – Having been through it twice now, what are you thoughts on our tournament / pitch process?
C.D. – I’m sold! I love being able to work so closely with a brand. I feel like I do not have to walk blindly into a project and there is a lot of freedom in knowing that. I can be as creative as I want while still remaining in their boundaries.
C.L.W. – What are some key factors you take into consideration when figuring out whether or not to participate in a project (money, competition, time, difficulty of task, exposure, etc)?
No matter what brand or contest, the idea is pivotal. It is the jumping off point for everything. A good idea is magical.
C.L.W. – Has Tongal helped you professionally, like has it helped you build a usable portfolio, get gigs, jobs, etc?
C.D. – I can say I have a commercial on tv now! It also has a huge impact on my portfolio. When a brand allocates money for me as a filmmaker just to produce a commercial for a contest, I take it seriously, it is benefiting my reel way beyond what I could do on my own right now.
C.L.W. – What have you spent your earnings on?
C.D. – More projects! In life and work, I have a problem with just enjoying the moment… everything is a chess game and I am always thinking three moves ahead. So the money gets spent before it even makes it to my bank!
Maybe a little will send me to a beach somewhere, anywhere soon.
C.L.W. – What’s next for you on Tongal or otherwise?
C.D. – I am always, always working on commercials- I am a tongaler for life!
I just started my own Production Company, Slate825 Productions. 825 is the address of the house that I grew up in. It’s the house that built me.
I have a short film, Cold Feet, a drama that I am trying to get Ben Savage for, from Boy Meets World. He doesn’t know it yet. He will soon. I fully intend to stalk.
C.L.W. – How can people stay up to date with your work?
C.D. – Tongal has been so incredibly supportive and helpful through every step of the way. I feel like everyone there sincerely wants us all to do a great job. I feel incredibly lucky to have stumbled across this site!
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