Morgan Spurlock Supersize Me By Scott Calonico. A deceptively simple premise; what happens to a person who eats McDonalds for breakfast, lunch, and dinner over a month’s time? Morgan Spurlock acted as both director and guinea pig for this valorous experiment...
A deceptively simple premise; what happens to a person who eats McDonalds for breakfast, lunch, and dinner over a month’s time? Morgan Spurlock acted as both director and guinea pig for this valorous experiment.
At the crux of Spurlock’s film is the lawsuit against McDonalds by two overweight teens who claim that they were beguiled by the glow of the golden arches. Is this yet another example of our litigious mentality or a warranted warning about the toxic environment in which we live? Supersize Me undoubtedly serves as a clarion call about the dangers layered between the two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun.
Broken into tasty bite-sized morsels, Supersize Me exemplifies everything a great documentary can do.
Spurlock sat down with Cashiers du Cinemart contributor Scott Calonico at the 2004 South by Southwest Film Festival for some questions.
Scott Calonico:As a fellow film maker, I’m interested in the mechanics of how your movie was done. I mean, did you just go, "I’m going to go make a feature"?
Morgan Spurlock: I worked in the business for a long timeI made shorts, commercials, music videos, industrialsI’d been doing it for a while. My production company, The Con, started doing things online. Our goal was to create programming on the web and then springboard that onto television. Our first show was called "I Bet You Will" which started on the web and then we ending up selling 53 episodes of that to MTV. We’d go out on the street and get people to do crazy things for money. It was a great, funny show. When we launched on the web, that was pre-"Survivor," pre-Everything. So it was very timely.
When the show got canceled, we had a little nest egg of money and I’d wanted to make a feature for a long time. In 1999 I’d written a play called "The Phoenix" that won the New York Fringe Festival. I’d just finished writing that adaptation and I wanted to make that into a film. I’d watched a lot of plays that had been made into movies and all of them felt like "plays that had been made into movies". I didn’t want it to be like that. I wanted something affordable that we could do, yet would also have a good story.
SC:Did you go to film school?
MS: Yeah, I went to USC in their Broadcast Journalism school. I was from West Virginia and if you want to work in the business you go to LA. So I applied and applied to the Film program and I got rejected five times. I wouldn’t apply to UCLA just on general principlejust because I’d been going to USC for so long. So the last time I applied, I also applied to NYU. I got rejected by USC but I got accepted to NYU, so I left.
SC:What was the editing process like?
MS: We had 250 hours of footage. Basically i would just sit down and write scenes for the movie. I’d write the voice over kind of just going through the tapes. I’d try to find all the scenes that joined together.
We had two editors who were working on the scenes at the same time. One scene we had was like 20 pages (about 20 minutes) long and they were like "Jesus Christ, what is this going to be, a miniseries"? Then we’d start cutting down and trimming down until we did our first assembly. That cut was like two and a half to three hours long. The film’s 98 minutes now.
SC:So there are going to be a lot of extras on the DVD?
MS: Oh yeah, lots of extras. There was this great scene where we got access to an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. The stories these people had really played into this idea that there really is such a thing as food addiction. For me, that was a great thing to hear these stories. I thought that was something a lot of people would be able to relate to. But it kind of took the pacing of the film in a different direction, so that’s why we ended up taking it out.
There’s also some footage of me having these withdrawal symptoms, you know, because there was so much fat and so much sugar that it really did affect my body. Like two days later I was having these massive headaches and my body hurt.
SC:So you were just able to walk into these McDonald’s restaurants? They didn’t make your turn off the cameras?
MS: Yeah, we’d just walk in. But in New Yorkyou know, New York is the most paranoid city in the countrywe’d walk in with the cameras and they’d be like "What are you guys doing, you can’t do that". After we left New York, most places were like, "What are you guys doing?" and we’d go "Oh, we’re making a movie" and they’re like "Oh, okay". We were never hiding it. There were never any hidden cameras; we were always very open about what we were doing.
SC:If you read the history of the McDonalds Corporation, it’s pretty amazing. Most of their assets are all tied up in real estate. They pretty much own the property that most of their restaurants are built on.
MS: Yeah, they rent out the locations to their franchisees, so they have the power to shut down a restaurant—Snap—just like that. There’s a great Canadian documentary called Maxime, McDuff & MCDO about these kids who try to unionize McDonald’s and every time they get close, McDonald’s would shut down the restaurants. You watch that and you really start to realize the power the company has.
SC:So that’s next?
MS: My life for the next year or so is going to be this movie. Because after the theatrical run, I’d like to get out and go to the schools and go on a lecture tour in the fallcollege, high school, junior highscause the kids need to see this movie, the school lunch boards. The school lunch programs are a tragedy. The food is atrocious in most schools. That’s where we need to focus our efforts.
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