Could speaking with documentarian Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me, Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?) be the greatest interview I’ve ever conducted for the Twin Cities Daily Planet? Or even better, is the Twin Cities Daily Planet, the greatest online daily ever? Perhaps, but nonetheless it was great having a chance to moderate Mr. Spurlock’s post-screening Q&A at the MSPIFF screening of his latest documentary, POM WONDERFUL presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, before we spoke properly the following morning for this interview.
Being touted at Sundance as the first “doc-buster,” The Greatest Movie Ever Sold could very well fit the bill and even get people interested in products they might have not haveknown about prior. A very charismatic individual who was full of energy and wisdom speaking to the sold-out crowd, Spurlock should consider motivational speaking engagements or even stand-up comedy along with his work as a filmmaker. He was sporting his trademark handlebar mustache, although his hair was filled with Mane ‘n Tail, a shampoo and conditioner mostly used on horses; now that Spurlock has secured them as a sponsor for the film, he has been using the product since they came on board.
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The film could very well be the first of its kind that was fully financed through product placement. A tricky endeavor, of course, but through the film, Spurlock goes behind closed doors to pitch his idea to numerous brands trying to secure funding and essentially be a walking billboard for these companies. However, Spurlock managed to maintain creative control of the film’s content and final edit. Someone even asked, “Do any of these companies get a percent of the films box-office gross?” He said they wouldn’t, since Spurlock will be endorsing all the products for close to a year and at every festival and appearance he makes with the film and they will have a lifetime of product promotion with the eventual DVD/Blu-Ray release.
Wearing a black sports coat, on stage and in our interview, with all 22 sponsor logos spread across his entire jacket as if he were a NASCAR driver, Spurlock said he knew the making of his latest doc would be challenging, but “All of us are suckers when it comes to marketing and advertising for product placement.” Is he right? Maybe, but what makes his new doc so interesting is that he went into many of these meetings unsure of how other CMOs and/or executives at the companies felt about their products being used to help support the film.
Pomegranate juice POM WONDERFUL gets top billing in Spurlock’s film. Hugh Wronski, senior regional publicist for Landmark Theaters, said, “POM WONDERFUL dropped off a lot of its pomegranates juice to the theater, so we might have to give some of it away.” Don’t count on receiving a free bottle of POM WONDERFUL when the film opens this Friday at the Uptown Theatre, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the film takes off this weekend and attracts great word of mouth.
I spoke with Spurlock at the Hyatt hotel—one of the sponsors of the film—in downtown Minneapolis. Spurlock handed me a card-key with himself appearing on the card-key, and said the Minneapolis Hyatt was the first one he saw with the new key-card. We spoke briefly before the interview about The Simpsons, which last year he directed the 20th anniversary special of, and we talked about the episode where Homer goes to Clown College and how he was driving to work and realized that it was “New Billboard Day” with all new advertisements, that got him interested in going to Clown College. The first question I asked Spurlock, since we were at the Hyatt, was how his evening was at the Hyatt—now better known as “the greatest hotel you’ll ever stay at.”
Press the play button below to listen to the interview.
Film still courtesy Sony Pictures Classics