Read Shockya's interview with Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who directed, produced and stars in the upcoming documentary ‘Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.’ The movie, which is set to be released in select theaters on April 22, 2011, follows Spurlock as he explores product placement, marketing and advertising in such outlets as films and television shows. In the film, he details what goes on in pitch meetings and marketing presentations, and how even the smallest ads affects people’s everyday lives. Spurlock discusses with us, among other things, why he decided to make ‘The Greatest Movie Ever Made,’ and whether he was able to keep final control over the final movie.
Interview written by: Karen Benardello
Question (Q): Was your outfit (the jacket with the sponsor’s patches on it seen in the movie) the sponsors’ idea?
Morgan Spurlock (MS): Here’s the worst part, it was all my idea. If you watch the film, this whole pitch of the suit was my brainstorm. So now, these are my own chickens going home to roost. It comes with the territory now.
Q: Did you think when you were first starting out that you would even have a film?
MS: We had no clue when we started. We thought it was a great idea. We didn’t know if it was even possible. As every advertising agency said absolutely not, we won’t do this, with the exception of Kirshenbaum. As we call every every product placement company, and every product placement company said “We are not helping you, we want nothing to do with this movie.” Only two would go on camera and do interviews, which were Norm Marshall and Britt Johnson. Then we started calling brands ourselves, we said let’s grab our own destiny, let’s start calling the companies on our own. Me and Abbie Hurewitz, my co-producer for the film, literally started calling brands over and over and over again. “No, no, no, no, absolutely not, we want nothing to do with this, I already saw what you did to that other corporation, no way do we trust you with our brand.” Some of the things they said were some of the most terrible things. At some point, you go, why are we still doing this? Nobody’s saying yes. The thing that kept us going the whole time was for every person at the top that said “I don’t want anything to do with this movie, there’s no way we’re helping you,” all the people that worked underneath them who passed us up to that person would say to us on the phone, “I’ll do anything I can to help you that won’t get me fired.” So the fact that everyone at the bottom wanted this movie to be made but no one at the top did, we said we have to figure out a way to get this film made. What happened at the end is that we called about 600 companies. You say, how did you call 600 companies? We broke it down by category. We try to fulfill every category we can. We go by shoe. So think of every shoe company. First off we called the Nike, the Reebok, the K-Swiss, the Puma, Converse, all the way down the line, until we ended up with Merrell, the greatest shoe you’ll ever wear. We called all the beverage companies. If you’re going to have a beverage company, start at the top. We called Coke, Pepsi, RC Cola, then all the way down the line until we magically ended up calling Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice. After 600 companies, 580 of whom said no, we ended up with 20 companies that said yes, which is incredible. The tenacity isn’t even the right word to begin to explain the amount of work it took to get us started, to get these companies on board, it was pretty phenomenal. That was nine months until the first company said yes. It was January 2009 when we really started to brainstorm and decided to do this. The first company saying yes was August, September (2009). It was eight, nine months until Ban Deodorant said “Yeah, we’re in!” It was $50,000 dropped in the bucket. But what that one step did, Ban coming on board literally gave us the ability to say “Well, Ban Deodorant’s doing it.” No one ever wants to be first. No company ever wants to be first and no body ever wants to be last. Once we pitched Ban and Ban said yes, then we went and met with Pom. We called them on the phone, and Pom said, “Well, Ban’s doing it.” So it was Ban Deodorant, lynch-pin of ‘The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.’
Q: We saw the process of choosing the theme song. What was it about OK GO that led you to believe they would be the right fit?
MS: We tried to get a lot of other people, like Jay Z and P. Diddy, who have real brand association. These people didn’t want to do interviews. There were real big artists, like Beyonce, the people who have real brands and real ties to products who wouldn’t do it. OK GO was a band, who, the minute we started talking to them, they’re already done sponsorships. They did an amazing thing with Range Roover. They’ve already worked with brands, and had a lot of brand experience and with commercials too. Like they said in the film, some of them were a little dirty, not like they should have done it. So when I met with them, I thought, these guys are great. So when I proposed to them to do the theme song, they jumped at the chance.