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VIDEO: Morgan Spurlock on Why 500 Brands Didn't Want To Sponsor His Movie

Photo of Dana Harris By Dana Harris | Indiewire January 24, 2011 at 8:43AM

At a dinner for Morgan Spurlock's "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," the director demonstrated his sartorial sponsorship, talked about the advantages of sporting a festival 'stache and predicted that more brands will find their way into indie movies. The full video's below, which also captures the filmmaker's branded blazer -- one that would put any NASCAR racer's to shame.
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At a dinner for Morgan Spurlock's "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," the director demonstrated his sartorial sponsorship, talked about the advantages of sporting a festival 'stache and predicted that more brands will find their way into indie movies. The full video's below, which also captures the filmmaker's branded blazer -- one that would put any NASCAR racer's to shame.

indieWIRE: OK, here we go. Stretch out your arm... We have Jet Blue, going into Hyatt, going into Sheetz -- I don't know what the hell that is --

MORGAN SPURLOCK: Sheetz is a convenience store chain in Pennsylvania.

iW: Mini, Amy's -- Amy's is Amy's ice cream?

Amy's Organics is like pizza, soup...

iW: OK. Seventh Generation, Mane & Tail, Ban...

Oh, this Ban's better. (raising his arm)

iW: When did you become conscious of building your name and your filmmaking as the Morgan Spurlock brand?

You know, I never really thought of it until I sat down with David Wales. He runs a company called the Ministry of Culture. He's a futurist, in essence.

iW: Like a Faith Popcorn.

Exactly. And he said, "You are a brand. You have to understand that."

iW: I'm surprised that you didn't see yourself as that. Your face was so prevalent in "Super Size Me," your look is the same, same mustache...

Oh, the best part about this mustache is if I shave it off, I'm invisible. It's like Clark Kent and his glasses. I go on vacation, it's the first thing to come off.

iW: So this is the festival 'stache.

Right. Exacly. (laughs) It's true.

iW: When did you get Pom on board?

October or November 2009. And it was amazing, Suddenly we had a title sponsor, they agreed to commit up to a million dollars... and then the contracts start coming in and what they want in return and that's when the negotiation really starts.

iW: Did anything make you blanch and say, "Oh my God, I can't do this?"

Oh, completely. The number of times they want you to hold things or say things or make comments about things. You start to put the kibosh on it all.

iW: How do brands react to you saying, "Sorry, not gonna go there"?

Most of them knew that we were trying to maintain a real level of creative control. But there were certain things that they wanted us to do. Jet Blue wanted us to interview someone in their terminal. Sheetz wanted to make sure that we got gas at their store.

iW: Who said no?

Oh, hundreds and hundreds of people said no. Ben Sherman, Reebok, Nike, Old Navy, Tommy Hilfiger, every clothing company you can imagine.

iW: Why did Old Navy say no? I'd think you'd be so in with the hoodie crowd.

I know, right? But I must have called five or six hundred companies to be in this film and we got 15. Every fast food restaurant, every beverage company...

iW: Why'd they say no?

People were afraid. "I value my job." The other question is in a different economy, how many people would have been as not as risk averse? As people were getting fired, fewer and fewer people wanted to be the guys who said, "We should do this."

iW: Do you think your film has a chance to change the way that branding will affect independent filmmakers in the future?

That's a good question. I don't think anybody will do it this extreme.

iW: No, I don't expect anybody else to do the same kind of schtick. But for brands, in the way that they think about independent film --

I think the tide has turned. Brands are saying where can we get the greatest amount of eyeballs for the least amount of money?' Nobody's watchig commercials. I don't go through any clickthroughs on a website. If you're a car company, you're like, "Wow, we can give them a car to use and $5,000, and suddenly Paul Rudd or somebody is driving off in my car." I think it's going to change. I think they see this an opportunity to have a real niche audience for a small amount of money. I think it will happen.

This article is related to: Video, Features, Video: In Their Own Words