Morgan Spurlock Previews 'Morgan Spurlock Inside Man' Season Two: A Lot More Travel and Living Out of a Bag (Q&A)
The filmmaker talks to THR about his partnership with CNN and what struck him while filming: "There was a time when we put astronauts and rock stars on the cover of magazines. Instead, it's people who come out of reality shows or who make a sex tape."
What struggles do paparazzi face? How much of our information is in the hands of the government without our knowledge? Morgan Spurlock examines each one of these pressing questions in the second season of CNN’s Morgan Spurlock: Inside Man as he uses his signature storytelling style to step inside the shoes of NCAA athletes, church preachers and even separate income families.
The Supersize Me director embarks on his fifth television venture covering the different facets of American society in eight hourlong episodes. Following Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown's season premiere on April 13, Inside Man will supply viewers with facts and figures, blending humor, entertainment and investigative news in a docuseries format.
The native-born West Virginian, who was the youngest of three ballet-dancing brothers -- Spurlock did his fair share of ballet for eight years of his life -- used to pour his creativity into writing comics throughout college. His writing skills eventually led to filmmaking and the creation of Oscar-nominated documentaries and television series. Spurlock spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about his vision for season two of Inside Man, the wide array of topics he has covered and … "handsome mustaches."
What was the idea behind Inside Man when it first began?
Back when [his production company Warrior Poets] did 30 Days, when we pitched to FX, I was going to be the person in every episode. When I told my girlfriend that, she said, "You're not going to have a girlfriend for very long." The episodes that rated the highest of 30 Days were the ones I took you inside the problem. I thought, "What if we created a show where I take you inside the problems," whether it was immigration or medical marijuana or end-of-life issues? I become your eyes and ears. It’s a vicarious journey you’re going through with me. When I experience something, you experience the same thing.
You're accustomed to independent-style filmmaking. How has the collaboration been with CNN on these episodes?
CNN is an incredible partner. They have been since the time we first pitched the show to Vinnie Malhotra to when Jeff Zucker came in, who has been incredibly supportive in our vision for the show and his vision for the network. We've been incredibly fortunate to work in a place where we are not only financially supported in the way we want to make it, but also creatively. It's rare and doesn’t happen all the time. It's Amy Entelis, Lizzie Kerner, Jeff and Vinnie who have your back and will fight for your show and who will do everything to give you a leg up in the network.
Spurlock took a closer look into America's obsession with pets. He volunteered for the Animal Rescue League of Berks County in Reading, Penn.
What was different about your approach to season two?
We weren’t spending too much money and energy on things that weren't necessary, so part of what you see in season two is much tighter and shorter, which made the production easier. There was less being home and a lot more travel, living out of a bag, in this season. I think it made the show better because it is me taking you inside every single problem and every single conversation. We've had a great time making this show. Any time you get to do a show is great, and doing a second season is better. We're hoping for a third season. The amount of information packed in 43 minutes is fantastic. It's a weekly steak you get to enjoy.
In an earlier interview you commented on today's "polarized" news. How did you achieve an objective stance throughout?
When we first met with CNN, we talked about film projects. We didn’t look into a television show. And CNN has done a good job in being in the middle. They are not MSNBC or Fox, trying to create a polarized conversation. They asked for ideas for TV shows, and Inside Man was something we've been knocking around for awhile. We threw the idea out in the room, and it’s a show where we take you in, present both sides to the issue, and walk away hoping you form your own opinion. When I learn something, you learn something. And together we come to the conclusion.
What struck you when covering these topics?
In the celebrity episode, there is an understanding that we have a value system in America that is skewed toward this idea of fame and being famous. It’s fascinating but disturbing at the same time. There was a time when we put astronauts and rock stars on the cover of magazines. [Now], it's people who come out of reality shows or who make a sex tape. We're creating idols and heroes who don't represent what we should show as society. In the episode, we see this machine, how it works, and I become part of that machine. We see the demand, desire and chase for this. It should shift people’s perception in a good way. There's a great episode that we did on Edward Snowden and the NSA on spying and privacy. People will be floored with what happens on a daily basis since we unknowingly are a part of this.
Spurlock stepped inside a paparazzo's shoes as he waited outside Reese Witherspoon's house to snap a photo.
Where do you draw the line? You are known to immerse yourself fully in the work you do, sometimes risking your health and safety.
I asked my girlfriend, "What if we did something on the porn industry?" and she said absolutely not, "or prescription drugs?" and we drew the line there as well. I'm not going to become a junkie. It's a fine line, and it's a choice. Years ago when we did 30 Days, there was the episode where someone was going to go on human growth hormones and steroids. I didn't want that to be me taking steroids. I drew the line there. I think it depends on the topic.
You have a Supersize Me app on the market. Can you explain a bit more on that?
I met a developer in the Pacific Northwest, Jason Bane and his team, and we talked about doing an app. Originally, the idea was a game, then we made it where people can actually use it in their daily lives. I thought it was genius. You can get it for free in the app store. It has almost every chain restaurant listed, and it tells you the calories, fat, sugar. You can feed it to "Fat Ronald," and he'll eat and get sick or eat and get health problems. The app is doing fantastic. The 10-year anniversary of Supersize Me is approaching, and we will announce our plans later on.
What defines your production company, Warrior Poets?
Handsome mustaches. That’s what makes us different from everyone else. I've got great partners. Jeremy [Chilnick] and Matthew [Galkin]. They are two brilliant filmmakers in their own rights -- smart guys. I have a company where it’s not only about me. I have the backing of an incredible group of people who are so talented and who will continue to elevate the production. That means a lot when you have a valuable team around you; it changes everything.
Spurlock traveled to Nashville, Tenn., to explore religion in today's world and became a guest preacher at an atheist church
In light of the recent news on your next series, Seven Deadly Sins, how has the collaboration with Showtime been? How long have you had this idea?
Working with them has been fantastic. It’s David Nevins and Amy Israel. We’ve been given creative freedom to come up with the show we want to make. The notes from the network are thoughtful and precise on what we should change and focus on. That is who you want to be in business with. When they know what their brand and identity are. When you create content with them you can make what you want, but at the same time keep it in the same sphere of what they desire. We pitched the idea and it was greenlighted two years ago. It’s a nonfiction series that looks at the seven sins, with focus on all real people living today, and what’s out and about in the world right now. It’s dark, weird and different than what we’ve made in the past.
Do you call yourself a journalist or filmmaker first?
I am a filmmaker. I was a writer before anything else, but these days I'm a filmmaker. It’s something not a lot of people get the opportunity to do. The fact I can make a movie, a TV series, and go back to make another movie, I feel blessed. And both are gratifying for different reasons. Film is an internal medium. Movies transcend culture and borders. They are truly a global conversation. But the great thing about television is that there is an immediate return. There are deadlines. You make a program, get it on the air and receive immediate feedback from an engaged audience. CNN is week-to-week feedback, and it’s been overwhelmingly positive for season two.
Season two of Morgan Spurlock: Inside Man premieres Sunday, April 13, at 10 p.m. ET on CNN. Take a sneak peek into Morgan's stint as a paparazzo in the clip above.