Morgan Spurlock's new doco

BRIDGET JONES
Last updated 08:54 29/07/2011
Lyle McMahon

Film maker Morgan Spurlock talks about his latest project. By Lyle McMahon.

Morgan Spurlock
Supplied Zoom
A scene from POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.
MORGAN SPURLOCK
JACINDA BOYD/Auckland Now
MORGAN SPURLOCK: The documentary maker is in Auckland to promote his latest project, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

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Morgan Spurlock went to film school to make movies about made-up stories. Then he ended up in front of the camera, eating a lot of cheeseburgers and found fame as a documentary maker - everything changed after that. 

After making Super Size Me, Spurlock was sent scripts for what he describes as "terrible" movies - including a Revenge of the Nerds remake and Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo - but he says couldn't bring himself to direct them.

Luckily the lure of documentary-making is too strong. Spurlock is in New Zealand to promote his newest film, the mouthful that is POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Decked out in a black suit covered in logos, Spurlock describes the documentary as an in-depth look into the world of branding and product placement in movies and TV that was funded by branding and product placement. The film's production was entirely paid for by 20-odd big name sponsors.

He says the inspiration for the film was easy to find.

"I live in New York City where, these days, you can't leave or go anywhere without someone trying to market or sell you something.

"Whether you're on a bus or in a cab or an elevator or getting gas for your car or standing in front of a urinal. There's no more me-time anymore. My me-time is gone, now it's 'you sell me me-time'."

From (not-so) secret boardroom discussions, marketing meetings and pitching sessions, the film gives the audience a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into most Hollywood blockbusters and prime-time TV shows.  Spurlock hopes it will be an eye-opener for people.

"I think the average Joe sees [product placement in movies], but doesn't know that it's there.

"This film does a great job in pulling the curtain back and showing you what goes on in a way that hasn't been done before.

"I think you'll never look at film the same way again, you'll never look at TV the same way. It will change the way you look at marketing in your life."

But unsurprisingly, Spurlock says after the success of Super Size Me, in which he lived on McDonald's for a month, he had a tricky time getting backers for this latest film.

"Absolutely, nobody wanted to talk to me, nobody wanted to hear from me, nobody would get on the phone.  I called 600-plus companies to sponsor this movie, of which 16 said yes."

The challenge to get companies on board was so hard that Spurlock wimped out at the negotiation table. So there's no lifetime supply of pomegranate juice in his fridge.

"I was such a terrible negotiator; I didn't negotiate any of that in my contract.

"It was so hard and took us so long to get brands to say yes. I don't want to ruin or try and sour that they want to give us money."

But those few businesses that said yes seem happy with the result, according to Spurlock.

"No sponsor has told me that they are pissed off, that they hate it. I'm sure there are brands in the movie that would love for things to be a little different, to be edited differently, and portrayed differently. But that's not what we sold them."

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What he did sell them was the ability to influence the overall shape of the film, making it difficult for Spurlock to balance objectivity and getting his movie made.

"Once you get involved with a brand, it's not a 20 per cent chance, a 30 per cent chance or even a 50 per cent chance, there's a 100 per cent chance that a brand will infect and influence your content - as they did with our film. With our movie it works, because that's what the whole movie is about."

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