The Greatest Documentarian Ever Interviewed

April 13, 2011 Updated: April 13, 2011

PROMOTION PLIGHT: Morgan Spurlock director of the documentary 'POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.' (Sony Pictures Classics)
PROMOTION PLIGHT: Morgan Spurlock director of the documentary 'POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.' (Sony Pictures Classics)
LOS ANGELES—Wearing his snazzy product placement logo suit, Morgan Spurlock greeted me warmly in early April in the mezzanine of West Hollywood’s hipster Andaz Hotel with a firm handshake, direct gaze, and endearing smile.

Spurlock was in L.A. promoting his new film, “Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” and “promoting” is definitely the right word.

In his new documentary, Spurlock, of “Super Size Me” fame, explores the following question: Backed by the right brands, could a documentary reach the same marketing success as Hollywood’s latest blockbuster?

“We wanted to make a documentary blockbuster, a ‘docbuster,’” he said.

“Now with all of this stuff around [referring to the products and logos of his sponsors in the room], are we going to be able to create a blockbuster? We have more co-promotion happening than a documentary ever had!”

Only now, Spurlock explains, as the marketing goes into effect, does the real experiment begin.

“The cross-promotion starts to happen, and the things start to get put out in the world—the T-shirts go out, the posters go up, all the things you do to create this kind of 360 marketing environment around to be like a blockbuster film.”

“Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” documents Spurlock raising capital to make a movie entirely with the muscle and resources of product placement. As we spoke, there was a bevy of Pom Wonderful juice bottles for our drinking pleasure—making his point abundantly evident (and tasty).

“We got people to give us money to make a film that tears apart everything they are giving us money to do—and that’s an accomplishment,” boasts Spurlock.

“I love the film that we made, because ultimately what I think the film is, is exactly what we pitched—the film is incredibly transparent. I think that the film is really honest, and it is very fun. It shows you the ‘behind the curtain’ that you never got to see, and the conversations and those interactions. Literally, [it’s] that tug of war that happens when it comes to brands getting involved in content creation, and you do start to see me become corrupted along the way, which I also think is great!” he admittedly jokes.

On the matter of “becoming corrupted along the way,” I had wondered about this very thing. I asked if, like in “Super Size Me,” did he secretly wish that he hadn’t been quite so successful in demonstrating the film’s premise? In “Super Size Me,” Spurlock’s self-sacrificing experiment of eating greasy fast food for three meals a day for a month resulted in an alarmingly quick deterioration of his health. The film garnered Spurlock fame, an Oscar nomination, and likely led to McDonalds removing its oversized portion option, which Spurlock cleverly appropriated as the film’s title.

In “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” Spurlock becomes bloated by a different kind of “grease.”

“It was similar,” answers Spurlock of the comparison. “You want this to succeed because you want to land in this completely branded environment; ultimately you didn’t want the brands to say no because then, ultimately, what’s the film?