In his breakout 2004 documentary “Super Size Me”, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock attempted to show the world just how bad McDonald’s is for you (particularly if you eat it all day, every day.) Now, Spurlock is going after all the big guns in his latest, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” an expose on the world of marketing, advertising and product placement.
Not so surprisingly, Spurlock couldn’t get corporate sponsorship from many of the companies featured in the film (including his old friends at McDonald’s.) Still, the ever-undeterred Spurlock sat down with MTV News at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival to talk about what it was like getting turned down by some big corporations and, despite all that, how he still managed to make a “docbuster.”
Hilariously sporting an entirely corporate-sponsored jacket (Hyatt, JetBlue, and Pennsylvania’s “greatest convenience store you’ll ever stop in,” Sheetz — which is providing collector cups for the movie’s impending release — were game with Spurlock’s vision), the director explained to MTV News that the three biggest sponsors of the project benefited from a commercial spot inserted within the movie itself. “It’s the first time ever there’s a film that has commercial breaks inside of it that, literally, are [woven] seamlessly into the movie.”
But it seems one of the sponsors, POM Wonderful (which also appears on Spurlock’s jacket) couldn’t get on board with one of his ideas for their ad: to boast the fact that their product helps erectile dysfunction.
“We were pitching them commercials, one of which was talking about the fact that [POM] is 40% as effective as Viagra. So, in the film I’m talking about this stuff and I say that it will improve your erections. Then the camera pulls out a little more and there I am standing next to a giant erection and a POM bottle as I drink it,” he says, adding, “They didn’t like that idea.”
Nevertheless, Spurlock and his crew still made the ad, about which he joked, “Luckily, I drank plenty of POM for that shoot”). He even toyed with the idea of putting it at the end of the movie, but ultimately had reservations about allowing that to be the last image he left in the mind of Sundance audiences. Yet when the initial pitch got a rousing reaction from the crowd at Saturday’s screening, he thought, “Maybe we should have put that at the end of the movie!'”
If POM was a little hesitant, it was nothing compared to the responses he got from fast-food chains he tried to have in the “docbuster” (that’s a documentary/blockbuster), including his old Big Mac-laden stomping grounds. “We tried,” Spurlock said. “I called McDonald’s, I called Burger King…not Subway, not even In-N-Out…White Castle…would be on board. But, no. Nobody wanted to play with us.”
In fact, it wasn’t just a simple “no” that Spurlock received from McDonald’s; it was no response whatsoever. “They just didn’t call back,” he reveals. “The blow off was no returned phone call, ever.”
Still, that wasn’t even the harshest rejection Spurlock got while seeking sponsors. “The most memorable blow off, which is in the film, was Guess jeans. We were trying to find a clothing sponsor and [a Guess rep] said, ’No, no, no, no, we will never, ever put you on a billboard,” he says with a laugh, “You know, it’s like she was very clear that you are so not Guess jeans material.”
Will you check out Morgan Spurlock’s latest, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” when it hits theaters?