BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Kern County native David Mitchell is not a running back. He's not a linebacker or a defensive end.
But Mitchell's got serious game, and it will be on full display this Sunday at Super Bowl XLVIII.
The 47-year-old, who hails from Shafter, has been producing some of the most watched and influential commercials ever to appear on television, and at least two of his productions will be featured during Sunday's telecast.
"It's fun to be televised in that arena, with that many people watching," Mitchell said Friday from his office in West Hollywood. "'Puppy Love' already has more than 24 million views. It's crazy," he said.
Indeed, the Budweiser commercial that portrays a budding friendship between one of the brand's big Clydesdale horses and a tiny golden retriever puppy has already gone viral -- long before its scheduled air time during Sunday's game.
Mitchell says he sometimes has to pinch himself to make sure he's not dreaming. To have his productions garner that many views, and this much attention, is a reality he never could have imagined after transfering from Cal State Bakersfield to San Diego State University in the late 1980s.
But Mitchell is no newcomer to the field. A music video he produced a few years ago for singer George Michael was nominated for a Grammy for Best Music Video. And his commercials have been featured as part of the top television venues in the world, the Super Bowl and the Olympic games.
"A lot of people watch the Super Bowl for the commercials," Mitchell said. "So, yeah, it's great to be there."
But Mitchell, who grew up riding a tractor on his father's farm, is quick to credit his mentors, legendary film director Ridley Scott and his brother, the late director Tony Scott.
The Scott brothers founded a film company in 1968 that would eventually become RSA Films, the company that created the Budweiser commercial and a Coca-Cola commercial that will also be aired Sunday.
Ridley Scott directed such films as "Alien," "Blade Runner," "Thelma & Louise" and best picture Oscar-winner "Gladiator."
"I fell into working with some of the giants of the industry," Mitchell said. "I was fortunate to work and learn under the guidance of such great people. You can't ask for anything better than that.
"I'm just lucky. So lucky."
Mitchell has teamed up several times with Jake Scott, son of RSA owner Ridley Scott. "Puppy Love" is just one example of that collaboration.
As a producer, Mitchell works with the director and the ad agency "to make sure everybody gets what they want.
"They hand me a budget. They hand me a script. And they say, 'Make it happen.'"
Mitchell's sister, Debbie Porwoll, a Bakersfield teacher, said she loves hearing her kid brother's stories. He's been to China, Africa, Italy, France, Spain, London -- the list goes on.
He once worked on a project with the late film actor Marlon Brando.
Brando would often call him late at night to talk about some aspect of the project. Mitchell would pick up his phone and hear that unmistakable voice: "David?"
He also got to know pop-rock singer David Bowie on another project.
"I'm just so proud of him," Porwoll said. "He came from a town of 7,000 people, and now he works all over the world."
There's no doubt that going viral is a heady experience. But Mitchell may be most proud of the commercials that go beyond the basic goals of advertising.
He and others in the field seem to be saying that, sometimes, a television commercial designed to sell us a product may also buoy us, even embolden us to think -- about life, about love, about finding our way in the world.
In 2012, Mitchell produced a Nike commercial that featured an overweight 12-year-old boy jogging down a rural road. The narrator of the work, titled, "Find Your Greatness," argues that greatness is not born in us, but comes through inspiration, determination and hard work.
Can a TV commercial inspire us?
Watch Mitchell at work. Then you be the judge.