Morgan Spurlock is an admitted workaholic–he’s still delivering shows for his CNN series “Inside Man”–who can’t say no. And he’s prepping a new Maker channel to launch in August. He admits that he sleeps about four hours a night.
Still, given a window to shoot a half-hour doc short about three sets of artisans, he took it. He shot with a small crew, traveling to Georgia, San Francisco and Japan over three weeks. “I’m in a fortunate spot, as a filmmaker,” he told me, “to actually take projects you want to make vs. ones you have to make. I have the ability to take 6 weeks or a month to do short films. When I have a window I jump at the chance.”
Tuesday night he debuted his new half-hour doc “Crafted” at the Los Angeles Film Festival, which was made available exclusively Thursday on Amazon Prime Instant Video.
The short looks at three sets of artisans:
Old friends Luke Snyder and David Van Wyk, of Bloodroot Blades in Arnoldsville, Georgia, left their day jobs to go into the business of forging blades with a variety of materials, making them sought-after for their handmade knives.
Cortney Burns and Nick Balla, the husband and wife chefs who run the San Francisco restaurant Bar Tartine (authors of the 2015 James Beard Award-winning cookbook, “Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes”) make their own ingredients and create their dishes in-house, including aged cheeses, spices, koji and bottarga.
And Japanese potter Yuji Nagatani, the seventh generation head of family pottery producer in the remote mountainous region of Iga, Japan, makes exquisitely designed rice cookers.
“Creating high-quality products that hold meaning – from making food to crafting tools – takes a relentless level of commitment and passion, particularly in our society where disposability reigns supreme,” says Spurlock.
“Crafted” was produced by Spurlock’s New York-based Warrior Poets Productions and is distributed in the U.S. by Kinonation. Amazon Prime Instant Video members can watch the film for free, while non-members can purchase the film on Amazon Prime Instant Video.
Warrior Poets, run with his producing partner Jeremy Chilnick, has produced docs “One Direction: This Is Us,” “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” “Comic-Con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope,” “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?,” and “Freakonomics.”
When I spoke to Spurlock on the phone, he revealed his next feature–a horror documentary. Details below.
Anne Thompson: What made you want to make a sponsored short?
Morgan Spurlock: I’ve been doing a lot of original digital content with different folks and companies like Maker TV. Brands come to us to produce original content and help with their digital content strategy. When I got approached by Haagen Dazs about doing a doc about artisans, that’s something I believe in. Branded content can have the ability to leave a bad taste and you can feel your skin crawl, but that only happens when a brand wants to force an imprint on something. I was given the freedom to make the film I wanted to make, to tell a story about people around the world who take the time to care about the things they make.
Haagen Dazs gets an end credit and presentation credit. Other than that it’s more about an idea and to get people to think about the ideas. These people have an alignment of ideologies, ultimately. We want people to think about something important, artisans crafts, who care about their product. It’s not hammering home Haagen Dazs messaging.
How did you pact with Amazon?
We wanted to find someone to help get it out in the largest way possible.
How did you choose your subjects?
We worked with Pilot, a fascinating company. Chefs started the company, asking ‘how do we create a company to help other people in and around the food space doing stuff that should be recognized, and help them in the greater media landscape?’ They identify people all around the world who live and breathe and inspire. We started with 10 candidates and whittled them down to the five we shot with.
You’re still shooting CNN’s ‘Inside Man’?
As a story teller I like to work and keep working, it’s great, especially when I’m telling stories I believe in, in the best of worlds.
We’ve had a great run with ‘Inside Man,’ we’re on Season Four. They’re supportive, and let you make the show you want to make thats a gift.
You shifted gears from the first season?
The first season we were focusing on heavy social issues. Now it’s more questions we all need answering, like, “can we live for ever?” and “why are we not traveling to space?,”compelling subjects and topics we all talk about; not as heavy social issues.
Are you doing more long-form documentaries?
I’m prepping a long form feature “Rats.” We don’t have a distributor, it’s equity financed. I always wanted to make a horror film; so why can’t I make a horror film? So I’m making a horror doc.
And I’m about to launch a digital channel with Maker, Smartish, in August. One of the things my whole background prepared me for was running a digital company creating content. I delivered the first content for Hulu (“A Day in the Life”), AOL and Yahoo (“Failure Club,” “Losing It with John Stamos,” “Mansome”). SmartIsh is what that is, I am, it bridges the gap between smart and funny, educates and entertains you. It’s a niche on the web landscape that doesn’t exist. It’s a great opportunity.