AU MA Social Media

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Morgan Spurlock: Selling A Movie, One Talk At A Time

Posted by zachthebernstein on June 6, 2013

How do you top going to prison, filming in a war zone, or eating nothing but McDonald’s for a month?  Well, if you’re filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, you make a movie about advertising – and sell it like crazy.  Spurlock’s movie, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” is all about product placement.  He gave us an in-depth look into the filmmaking process at a TED Talk – “The Greatest TED Talk Ever Sold,” as the title would claim – earlier today.

If your goal, as Spurlock’s often is, is to “examine societal issues in a way that makes them engaging,” it maybe makes more sense.  Especially when you consider that, for Spurlock, nothing he had done before “could ready me for anything as difficult or dangerous as going into the rooms with these guys” – cut to multiple clips of him pitching his movie to advertising firms.  Sure enough, Spurlock is rejected by almost every single one.

It’s because the film is about transparency, he says.  “Transparency is scary…it’s unpredictable…and it’s also very risky.”  Especially when your job is to spin, as advertisers are paid well to do.

“We don’t want to tell your story,” Spurlock imagines one of these firms saying in a more, shall we say, transparent moment.  “We just want to tell our story.”  That’s the story of branding, including Ban deodorant – whose executives appear more interested in taking part in the film, but seem not to know how to describe their own product.  (In all, Spurlock noted, 17 companies signed on to his film.)

Intrigued, Spurlock asks a firm, Olson Zaltman Associates, to brand him.  His “brand” is simple – “a playful, mindful brand.”  That fits well with Spurlock’s previous work, like “Super Size Me,” as well as his decision to auction off the branding rights to his TED Talk on eBay.

In fact, Spurlock is almost too playful here.  He clearly enjoyed himself, and so did the audience – and sure, who wouldn’t enjoy listening to him? – but there was little in the way of a powerful idea, the kind TED is known for.  Only Spurlock urging the audience to “Encourage people to take risks…We have to embrace fear.  We’ve gotta put that bear in a cage” – cut to a picture kids with a tiny cage.  Like I said, playful, but not particularly strong, considering it’s the sort of thing you might see on a motivational poster.

“And ultimately, you have to embrace transparency,” he adds.  This was interesting, since Spurlock notes earlier that politicians and CEOs seem to use this as a buzzword but fail to back up their promises.  Does the word hold any weight here?  Not really.  Sure, we need to embrace transparency.  Is that all?

But Spurlock is also mindful.  At the end of the speech, Spurlock announced the winner of his eBay auction: Technology company EMC, cutting him a check for over $7,000 – which Spurlock donated to TED’s parent company, the Sapling Foundation.  Ostensibly to cover his next speaking engagement, of course – that’s Spurlock’s playful side.  But perhaps they’ll bring back, say, Elon Musk instead.  That’d be a more mindful choice.

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