Greatest Movie Ever Sold: Interview with Morgan Spurlock

 

 It was two years ago when we first got the idea to make POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

 

It began with a conversation between me and my producing partner and co-writer, Jeremy Chilnick, where we talked about the TV show Heroes and their less than subtle inclusion of the Nissan Rogue into the show‘s storyline.

Big Summer Movies

We then started talking about all the big summer movies, from Transformers to Iron Man to James Bond, and about how all those product placements were more than just advertisements for products, they were tools that made these movies’ footprints and awareness even bigger. These co-promotions helped turn them into blockbusters.

And we wondered, if a little movie, even a documentary, had the same type of partnerships and co-promotion opportunities, could it have a bigger presence? Would it have the same influence? Could a doc reach the same level of awareness and marketability of a summer blockbuster? Would it be a doc-buster?

Brands Are Everywhere

Brands are everywhere these days. It seems like I can‘t go to any event these days without someone sponsoring it.  Sporting events, concerts, anything. So, why not a movie?

Better yet, why not a movie that examines the whole phenomenon that is actually paid for by the companies themselves. That was the jumping off point.

Back in 19th Century

Now product placement isn‘t a new phenomenon. In the 1800s, Jules Verne sold the naming rights to shipping companies in Around the World in 80 Days, and in the early days of film, Thomas Edison put ads for his own products in his movies. But television has always been its own animal. When it first began, shows were actually paid for and written by the advertisers, and the whole purpose was to sell a product. Let‘s not forget that soap operas were created by soap companies for the sole purpose of selling more soap to moms!

But as the popularity of film and television grew, the power of the advertisers diminished. It became about star power. It became about the content of the shows and the creativity of their creators. Over the last few decades though, that power has slowly been chipped away as more and more networks and outlets are competing for the same ad dollars and the same eyeballs. And so, the advertisers began to have power again–not only to get the air-time they wanted, but with the ability to dictate the content.

TiVo Revolution

And so, here we are once again as we were in the beginning, with the birth of a new film and TV revolution (actually the TiVo Revolution), at the crossroads of money, power, influence, distribution, and creativity.

I wanted this film to explore the give and take that happens when you–play the game or at least what happens when you try, and I think the film will open a lot of people’s eyes to the unbelievable conversations and situations that happen behind closed doors everyday in the entertainment and advertising businesses. It doesn‘t matter if you‘re a writer, director, producer, or musician, you are affected by this on some level, but not nearly as much as the consumer.

For in the middle of the thousands of hours of commercials and advertisements that we all see in our lifetime, there is an invisible curtain that makes us think this is the norm. That it‘s the way it should be.

Absurdity and Pervasiveness

The movie documents both the absurdity and pervasiveness of product placement in our daily lives and I saw my role on this film as both a filmmaker and an anthropologist. I needed to be careful that I did not become part of the punch line or part of the campaign. I had set out to see how important advertising is in our daily lives, maintaining that perspective was the only way I could get the movie made. I also wanted to maintain a healthy respect for all of the sponsors and what their goals are and meanwhile I remain the third eye observing it all.

I think this film does a great job of pulling that curtain back in a way we‘ve never seen. After people watch this film, I think they will start to look at everything a little differently, especially the way they are marketed and advertised to every single day of their lives.