Filmmakers SEE THIS MOVIE!
You guys remember Super Size Me? That movie where that guy ate McDonalds for a month and almost died? Well, he’s back. And he’s made an absolutely brilliant and scary documentary.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is a documentary about product placement in the film industry. Morgan Spurlock (aka the Super Size Me guy) sets out to create a movie that is nothing but product placement, based on the assumption that product placement is what makes blockbusters. The film is extremely meta. For example, you’ll watch Spurlock go into a pitch meeting with potential sponsors to get them to fund the film, and that meeting winds up becoming a major plot point in the film they are funding (and a scene that you are now watching–see? Meta).
As an aspiring screenwriter/filmmaker myself, it was heartening to see the business side of the film industry in action. There’s a good 20 minutes spent watching Spurlock at work: glad-handing, smiling, making deals, and all of a sudden it seems so…easy. These people are not the big bad suits in the board room–they’re mothers, fathers, brothers, people like my friends. Even I, the lifelong introvert, found myself thinking, “Hey…I could do that.”
As the story continues, the client list grows, as does the number of strings. Eventually and on numerous occasions, Spurlock expresses concern about how fuzzy the line is between sustaining your work and selling out.
How easy it would be to end up drowning in the whirlpool of commercial money and not even know it? If you’re making a film with a scene in a restaurant, why not use a restaurant that’s going to pay YOU to film there, right? It beats the hell out of paying for it or, harder still, finding a place that will let you film for free. But how far can you travel down that road before it takes you beyond necessity? How long before you sit down and write the line, “Yeah, walk away like you always do, in your Guess jeans and Sketchers” into your script?
Near the end of The Greatest Movie, it seems like everyone is telling you to sell, to promote your “brand”, and that no one ever got anywhere in America by being quiet. And I found myself thinking, “God, that would be so much easier. Just forget my ideals ever existed and become who they want to see. Smile, and shake their hands, and life would be a breeze…as long as I could live with that gaping hole in my chest.”
I think everyone who’s thinking about making a film, and particularly about getting involved in Hollywood films, needs to see this movie. Whether we like it or not, movies are a business, and before getting into it, we (that’s me included) all need to figure out how far we’re willing to “buy in” to the machine. Better to draw a line now–at least then you’ll have a shot of knowing when to turn back now.