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MAR
14
3 YEARS

SXSW: Morgan Spurlock's 'POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold' Brings Its Pitch to Austin

“The amazing thing about this,” Spurlock said, “is that we made an independent film that from the day it opens will be in profit.”

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
sxsw

Morgan Spurlock’s latest meta-doc, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, reaped another positive reaction from the crowd at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday afternoon during the film’s only SXSW appearance. Spurlock and his writing/producing partner Jeremy Chilnick came into town for the event, part of the Festival Favorites program.

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions picked up Greatest Movie just before Sundance in January for Sony Pictures Classics to release. SPC’s Michael Barker was on hand to gauge the response as the Austin fest provided a fitting venue to promote the film ahead of its April opening in theaters. (SPC brought Get Low here last year and has Incendies and Oscar-winning best foreign language film In a Better World in the SXSW program, as well.)

Spurlock cracked during his intro of the film that, “It’s a special day for me. I don’t know if this will ever happen again in my life: Conan O’Brien is my opening act.” The documentary Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop had had its world premiere right before Spurlock’s film. He then added, “That’s what happens when you go to basic cable,” to oohs form the audience.

Spurlock’s fifth film to screen at SXSW, Greatest Movie explores the worlds of product placement, advertising and marketing in entertainment and the greater world even as Spurlock himself attempts to have his entire film funded by brands. During the process, Spurlock seeks input and advice from people as diverse as Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Donald Trump, L.A. Reid, Michael Levine and others as to how marketing works to influence people (and how he can tailor his pitches to influence advertisers). Meanwhile, he slowly picks up support from brands Hyatt, POM Wonderful, Sheetz, Jet Blue, Mini Cooper and others, hawking them in the film as he goes. (During the post-screening Q&A, he said he was turned down by loads of companies, including Circle K, 7-11, Taco Bell, Burger King and, of course, McDonald’s.)

At one point in the film, he does interviews with J.J. Abrams, Peter Berg, Brett Ratner, WGA West president John Wells and Quentin Tarantino, who discuss the pressure on them from corporate overseers to insert products in their movies. In a funny moment, Tarantino notes that brands such as Denny’s, which he always wrote into his scripts, actually go running from him (forcing him to create his own), and Ratner finally utters the immortal phrase: “Artistic integrity? Whatever.”

One of the most impactful moments for my money is the excursion to Sao Paolo, which affords viewers a look at what a major metropolis would look like without any billboards or other advertising on taxis, buses or buildings. (The Brazilian city recently passed a “clean city” bill that bans visual pollution.) It’s breathtaking in its simple lack of clutter and the focus residents now attest to.

Another is a visit to a “neuromarketing” expert that highlights how advertisers can trigger addictive parts of your brain with the right pitches. Scary shit. (The rest of the film is pretty hilarious.)

On the plus side, Spurlock interviews OK Go and ends up recruiting them to record a song for the movie as The Greatest Rock Band Ever to Write a Theme Song. It plays during one of the montages.

Several audience members asked during the Q&A if Spurlock would provide transparency as to the amounts the sponsors spent to participate in the film. Spurlock admitted that putting the figures on the website is a good idea and stated that POM, which has its name above the title, ponied up $600,000 of the film’s $1.5 million budget, with another $400,000 deliverable upon hitting certain web impressions, DVD sales and theatrical box office. The other sponsors split the rest.

“The amazing thing about this,” Spurlock said, “is that we made an independent film that from the day it opens will be in profit.”