The Man Behind McDonalds Meltdown Comes to UNCW
Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 21:10
Any man willing to eat nothing but McDonald's for a month to prove a point would have been labeled a lunatic before Morgan Spurlock made a movie about it in 2004. But there were two long lines of audience members at the foot of each aisle in Kenan Auditorium on Oct. 17, waiting for the chance to ask him a thing or two at "The Greatest Lecture Ever Told."
"He must be insane," said a UNCW student into the microphone. But Spurlock doesn't seem insane. Yes, he did amass a quarter of a million dollars' worth of debt before hitting it big with his social documentary Super-Size Me, in which he took a big bite out of the fast food industry, without suing, and surprisingly met success at Sundance. Sure, he advised the crowd that anyone who drives a Volkswagen should set it on fire and hitch a ride home.
But that doesn't make him insane. It makes him money.
His latest film, a satirical documentary entitled "Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," follows Spurlock as he tries to sell advertising to fund the very movie he's filming. It isn't that Spurlock is against product placement. It did help him make his movie and pay his bills. But his documentary addresses a concerning situation that is spreading furiously through the film industry; when the products placed in the story become the story.
"Dasani is not a proud sponsor of this lecture," Spurlock says, gesturing towards a half-empty water bottle left for him to enjoy during his lecture, "I do not endorse this water, although it is very nice. You can almost taste the diabetes in the water."
The movie also addressed the frustration of filmmakers with big corporations; Spurlock had called 600 companies to sell advertising, and only 2% said yes, including Pom, Sheetz and Mini Cooper. After the film was showed, seven more brands signed on as sponsors, only one of which purchased product placement, says Spurlock.
"You need to have a real persistence in vision. I went to school with people infinitely more talented than me, who are now very talented insurance brokers," he told a student who asked what it takes to do his job.
"You need to want to do it every day."
Another student asked how long he had thought he was going to go broke and starve before Super-Size Me took off.
"I was paying credit cards with credit cards at the bitter end," says Spurlock. He recalled getting calls from debt collectors, who wondered how he could maintain a company of five full-time employees.
"Do they get paid?" The companies would ask. "Not really," he would tell them.
When asked where he draws motivation from, Spurlock named his parents.
"I never saw my dad quit, and my mom used to say, ‘If you can help, you should.'"
Spurlock answered questions from the crowd for almost an hour, many of which were aspiring filmmakers and documentarians.
"We only have the auditorium until nine," said one of his aides. They feared that the Meet and Greet, where members of the audience could come up and shake his hand, would be pushed off schedule.
"I'll stay a little longer," said Spurlock.