Raj Suri always wanted to play baseball, but he was cut repeatedly from the Centennial High School team, so he tried acting instead.
That decision might be about to pay off big time.
The Ellicott City native spent $300 and several hours filming with his friend, director Ryan Anderson, to make a commercial that has been chosen as a finalist for Doritos' annual $1 million Super Bowl advertising contest.
Now working as a software engineer in Arizona, Suri, 39, also produces and acts in commercials and the occasional movie. He met Anderson at a local film festival and approached him about the Doritos contest four years ago. The two have submitted entries every year since, and while Doritos representatives have told them they enjoyed the spots every year, this is the first time they've cracked the top five.
"It's really rewarding because every year we've honed our craft," Suri said. "When you put time and energy into something and you learn and get better, it's just very satisfying."
The commercial, "Time Machine," was filmed at Anderson's parents' house in Arizona and stars Anderson's 6-year-old son, Gavin, as "Jimmy," a little boy who dupes an unwitting neighbor, "Mr. Smith," (played by Daved Wilkins) into giving him his Doritos in exchange for a ride in a cardboard time machine. Anderson's mother handled Hogan, the golden retriever that was also featured in the commercial.
The idea for this year's commercial came after Anderson's son asked him to make him a time machine.
"He told me about it, and I said, 'This is brilliant,'" Suri said.
In an alternate version, the machine actually works. But Suri, who wrote and produced the clip, came up with the twist at the end that he thinks will be the reason the commercial wins the contest. The amount of buzz it has generated has him feeling confident.
"To see the level of sharing that is going on on social media is mind-blowing," he said. "The support has been spectacular. You guys are deciding our future just by the level of sharing. I don't even have time to check my phone. I go on Facebook and clear my notifications, and then I come back and have 30 more."
Suri and Anderson will travel to New York to watch the Super Bowl in the Doritos suite with the other finalists, none of whom will know whether their commercial has won until they see it during the game.
Even if it doesn't win, he said, the experience has been unforgettable.
"It's humbling," he said. "It really is. Win or lose, we created something spectacular."
Voting is open to the public online and closes Jan. 29. Voters may cast one vote a day per device. To check out and vote for Suri's commercial, visit doritostimemachine.com; to view and vote for the others, go to www.doritos.com.