Film’s Director, Adam Collis is ASU Professor and Head of University’s Film Spark
Professor at ASU and Executive Director at ASU Film Spark, Adam Collis has directed the deviously delightful new film, “Car Dogs,” which was shot entirely in the Valley. As an added bonus, many ASU students served as crewmembers and got the in-depth experience of making a feature film. “Car Dogs” stars Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, Oscar nominated Nia Vardalos, George Lopez, Patrick J. Adams and Chris Mulkey. The film will have its red carpet debut March 20 at Harkins Camelview in Scottsdale and will play in select Harkins theaters beginning March 24.
The premise of “Car Dogs” is a crazy romp with the staff car dealership at Chamberlain Auto as they set out to sell 300 cars in just eight hours. What happens during the course of the day is a wild ride of backstabbing, conniving, loyalty and friendship. Collis and the cast and crew of “Car Dogs” constructed a film that showcases filmmaking in Arizona and tells a behind-the-scenes story of the often painful and cringe worthy experience many of us have gone through during the process of buying a car at a car dealership.
Revving up for ‘Car Dogs’
Collis is hopeful that the quality of “Car Dogs” will lead the Arizona’s new Film Commission to push further film initiatives in our state. “I’d like to tell the new Film Commissioner, Matthew Earl Jones that Arizona really should be Hollywood’s back lot,” says the director, who hopes that more feature films and television shows will be shot here in Arizona. He feels that Jones has a good plan to make that happen and “Car Dogs” is a part of the dawn of new filmmaking progress in our state.
Collis continues, “’Car Dogs’ gave 85 ASU student interns the opportunity to learn feature filmmaking from an Oscar-winning actress. That came about in a very serendipitous way – kind of an ‘Arizona luck’ sort of story.” Back when the film school was a young program and, as Collis asserts, the fastest growing film program in the country, his superior at the time asked him to place underclassmen on to senior thesis films, a class that Collis was teaching. He jokingly told his boss that he simply didn’t have enough senior thesis films to involve that many film students, and that they should just make a feature film. “The truth is that I was joking about it. I wasn’t really serious,” says Collis. “But, he took me seriously and asked, ‘Do you have a script that you could do really inexpensively in Arizona?’”
It turns out Collis had a student from a class he was teaching in Los Angeles that had a great script about his experiences in a car dealership and the working world surrounding that. “It’s such an American rite of passage,” Collis explains.”It’s like baseball, apple pie and buying cars. Everybody in America has some kind of touch point with buying a car.” Everyone can relate. Everyone can resonate with what takes place in “Car Dogs” over the course of a business day.
‘Not only did Mark Edward King write a great script, but he grew up in Scottsdale and he went to ASU for a time,” says Collis of King, who wrote the “Car Dogs” script. “That felt as serendipitous as it could get.” King said yes to moving ahead with the film.
The Octavia Spencer Factor
Having the involvement of Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer was a monumental score for Collis and the film, “Car Dogs.” Throughout the film, Mark Chamberlain (played by Patrick J. Adams) is at odds with his father Malcolm Chamberlain (played by Chris Mulkey) and how the patriarch runs things at the dealership. In a last ditch effort to make the “300 car sales-in-a-day” stick, Spencer’s character of Mrs. Barrett becomes a pivotal one where the emotional side of business becomes paramount.
“This is the pivotal scene of the movie,” says Collis. “She’s the customer and if he can close and really negotiate a good deal, yet really be true to his own morals, he can close the deal and fulfill his own character arc at the same time. They sell all the cars that they need to and he preserves his soul.” The scene is tense, emotional and revealing.
Nia Vardalas Sinks Her Teeth in to ‘Car Dogs’
Nia Vardalos also joined the cast as the car saleswoman who can go toe-to-toe with her cutthroat male counterparts, yet brings a soft perspective at points during the film. Collis says, “I think that Nia‘s dramatic chops go much deeper than people understand. She’s certainly done
films above and beyond ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding.’ We tend to think of her as a comedienne… It was exciting to give her the opportunity that was a little bit against the type that she’s most known for.” He particularly enjoyed how Vardalos really sunk her teeth into some very dramatic scenes in “Car Dogs.”
George Lopez Gets Serious
Likewise, comic and actor George Lopez played a role different from his typically lovable and laughable type. In “Car Dogs” his character can be ruthless, although he does have a few unforgettable comic moments. “George Lopez is another great example of how we tried to cast against type,” Collis explains. “John Jackson came on early,” says Collis of the casting director for “Car Dogs,” who had also cast the films “Sideways” and “Nebraska.” “He was an ASU alum that I was connected to by another alum. He gave us a real legitimacy, so we could reach out to the agencies and they’d return our calls. More than the access he gave us, it was his outside-the-box thinking. Like, who would have thought to cast George Lopez in this role?!? That role was written for a 24-year-old white guy - a cocky car salesman... It was not written for a 50-year-old Mexican comedian. Everyone is blown away by George in this one. I think he is so good.”
Zooming into Release
“The film will be released in Phoenix and if we do well in Phoenix, then we’ll have the option to expand the release,” Collis states. “Part of the exciting story for me is that we’re hoping to do something a little different, which is to not launch the movie in New York or Los Angeles, but to see if we can launch a major motion picture right her out of Phoenix.”
“At the end of the day, this is a fun, entertaining movie about a dude and his team of dudes trying to accomplish an impossible task,” finishes Collis.
Opening in These Theatres March 24: Harkins Avondale, Harkins Casa Grande, Harkins Chandler Fashion, Harkins Flagstaff, Harkins Superstition Springs, Harkins Christown, Harkins North Valley, Harkins Prescott, Harkins Shea, Harkins Arizona Mills, Harkins Tempe Marketplace.
CAR DOGS Official Channels
‘Car Dogs’ Synopsis
With everything to gain, and even more to lose, Mark Chamberlain (Patrick J. Adams) and his brazen sales team have just eight hours to sell more cars than have ever been sold in a single day. As the clock ticks down, their outrageous tactics step up, with each salesperson ready to do whatever it takes to be top “car dog”. But for Mark, the stakes are much more than a paycheck. Leading the pack is sales vet, Christian Caldera (George Lopez). He’s slick, fast talking, and conniving; able to get customers to both open their wallets and part with their better judgement. Hot on his heels is Sharon Stavron (Nia Vardalos). She’s smart and savvy, outmaneuvering the competition with her wit and charm. Sales vet, Scott Williams (Dash Mihok), has a baby on the way that's keeping him from doing his job. Mark’s best friend, Boyd Robertson (Cory Hardrict), wants the best for Mark but also for the team. And Tyler Bedloe (Joe Massingill) is the rookie of the team, trying to compensate with enthusiasm for his lack of experience - though that may not be enough to get him through the good natured hazing that is the rite of passage for all “newbies”. Undermining the team’s efforts is Mike Reynolds (Josh Hopkins), Mark’s underhanded and manipulative rival who has an agenda all his own. As victory comes within reach, Mark is pushed further to the edge by his ruthless and manipulative boss, Malcolm Chamberlain (Chris Mulkey), who also happens to be his father. Mark is forced to come face to face with his own reality. Is he his father? Or is he a man who can stand on his own two feet? And in one incredibly tense and life changing moment, he must decide if he can save his team, retain his self-respect, and still come out ahead of his old man.
History of Film Spark
In Fall of 2009, film professor Adam Collis, hosted a simple video-conference between his students and the cinematographer of The Hangover films. The students liked it so much, Collis set upon a mission to connect ASU students with the best filmmakers and executives in the world.
Since then Professor Collis has connected ASU with 4 Oscar-winners, 5 Oscar-nominees, 3 studio chiefs, the presidents of the Academy and the Directors Guild, as well as numerous blockbuster producers and award-winning directors. Film Spark’s Feature Film Internship Initiative gave 85 ASU students and 15 recent alumni the chance to learn filmmaking on an actual feature film set from an Oscar-winning cast and crew.
In Spring of 2015, President Michael Crow and Dean Steve Tepper recognized the value of Collis’ efforts and formally established ASU Film Spark at the ASU California Center in Santa Monica with a staff of five. Turning a professor’s passion project into a university strategic initiative is yet another example of why U.S. News & World Report named ASU the "Most Innovative University in the Nation."