As part of the school of documentary filmmakers who prefer to insert themselves into their films, Morgan Spurlock has found a new way to become the test subject of his own experiment. This time, it’s much less harmful to his health than what he did in his breakout film, “Super Size Me,” in which he documented the effects of eating only McDonald’s food for 30 days.
Now, Spurlock is risking his artistic integrity by opening himself up for product placement promotions with “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” or, sorry, “POM Wonderful Presents: The Best Movie Ever Sold.” POM Wonderful, a pomegranate juice company, was his largest sponsor.
The bulk of the film is spent exploring the process of landing sponsors for the film. Once those sponsors are landed, Spurlock consumes the products onscreen and goes as far as to have three commercials inserted into the film. He even gives Ralph Nader a pair of Merrell shoes (yes, another sponsor). In our interview, he manages to sneak in a few flattering comments about those sponsors.
Sounds a bit sleazy to some, but Spurlock defends the film’s integrity.
“We retained creative control of the movie so I think that enabled us to be free to make the movie we wanted to make,” he explains. “Was that film free of compromise and not having to acquiesce to sponsor requests? Absolutely not.”
In the film, some of the advertising executives and potential sponsors wonder out loud if a film exploring the process of putting products in a film would be interesting at all, but with fast-talking Spurlock, things never seem to get boring.
“What I think makes the film so great is that you start to see how the sausage is made,” he says. “To have that captured in real time in a movie about the movie that’s being made while you’re actually watching it is pretty incredible.”
Surprisingly, McDonald’s didn’t bite
“To make a blockbuster, you’ve got to have a fast food partner,” Spurlock says. “I really wanted In and Out Burger to do this, but we couldn’t convince. Of course, we called McDonald’s but they didn’t call back. Taco Bell, no. Wendy’s, no. All the way down the line. But you’ve got to leave something open for the sequel.”
Heidi Patalano is at Tribeca all throughout the festival, bringing you updates, reviews and interviews. Follow her on Twitter at @HeidiatMetro.