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Morgan Spurlock, the documentary filmmaker who has explored the issues of consumerism, terrorism, fanboys and manscaping in some of his past work, recently stood among a crowd of thousands of screaming girls at the worldwide premiere in London for his next project, concert film One Direction: This Is Us.
“As a doc filmmaker, we’re used to this, people camping out for movies, it’s kind of the norm,” he jokes with The Hollywood Reporter about the experience, which he describes as “both spectacular and bananas.”
Spurlock spent six months following the British pop boy band — which is made up of Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson — and capturing their every move for Sony’s 3D concert film.
“They’re one of the biggest bands on Earth right now who, when we were diving in, were just on the precipice of exploding into such a global phenomenon. How do you not want to tell that story?” he says.
Spurlock says he had been approached, along with many other directors, by Sony to direct the studio’s previous two concert docs — Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and Katy Perry: Part of Me, but he had been in production on his own films at the time.
Then in June of last year, Sony called again, and Spurlock’s schedule was finally open enough for him to take on a concert doc.
Sony’s film was a major step up budget-wise for the indie filmmaker, whose previous pics include Super Size Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. While he might not seem like the most obvious choice to helm the 3D concert pic, he’s had a fascination with consumerism and popular culture that would make sense for this project.
“The biggest reservation I had was making a movie with the size and scope in 3D for Sony. That was the biggest fear I had — making that jump into a larger film than anything I’d ever done,” he says.
Working on the project also meant jumping into the world of One Direction, who, since being put together by Simon Cowell on the seventh series of the Britain’s The X Factor in 2010, have been catapulted into music super stardom. To date, they’ve notched up more than 30 million sales worldwide in just over two years, including 19 million singles, 10 million albums and more than 1 million DVDs, according to their management company.
“It’s one of those things that when you’re there it’s surreal,” Spurlock says of being in their world. “You feel like you’re in a Kafka film … Everywhere these guys go — they get out of the car and five people turn into 500 people.”
“I’m 42 years old and this is the closest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole like to what I can only imagine Beatlemania must have been like back when it was really blowing up,” he adds.
What Spurlock found most fascinating about the boy band was their relationships with their families, which he says keeps them all grounded.
“These guys are so normal, they are so grounded, they are so spectacularly ordinary and they’re in this extraordinary situation. They have these incredible families who has instilled such humility and respect into these five young men,” he says.
But one type of relationship that wasn’t a focus in the film was the boys’ romantic relationships. While several of the members are in relationships, their significant others are not in the spotlight in the 3D doc.
“I didn’t really want to focus on the girlfriends because these guys are young,” he says. “They’re 19 to 21. When you’re 19 to 21, you know what happens? You break up with girlfriends.”
He adds: “From my point of view, the most important story is about these five guys who continue to support one another, push one another within this group. For me, their relationship was much more important.”
One Direction: This Is Us opens in theaters Aug. 30.
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