An Interview with Morgan Spurlock and Holly
Opening in theatres from director Morgan Spurlock, creator of the documentaries “Super Size Me”, “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden” and “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” comes something a little more near and dear to his heart with “Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope”.
This documentary tells the story of the fans, vendors and people who see this annual convention as a way of life and a chance to show what they are capable of in the comic book world. Interviews with attendees and those from the entertainment world as well as the reason for Comic-Con; writers, illustrators and graphic artists from the world of Marvel, D.C. Comics, Dark Horse and others.
I had the chance again to speak with Morgan about his film and with Holly, one of the cast chosen to talk about her experiences at Comic-Con and about what has happened since her appearance in the documentary.
Hi Morgan and Holly, thanks for taking time today.
Morgan: Oh absolutely.
Holly: Yes, thank you.
Morgan, I met you when you were here in San Diego promoting “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”. We were talking about ‘Mane and Tail’ shampoo and I had the long ponytail.
Had or have?
I still have it.
Oh my god! Yes, I remember you! It’s so good to talk to you again, that’s so great.
So tell me, how did you go about choosing the people to be in the film?
We put out a big casting call once we knew the movie was happening. We used the mailing list from Comic-Con and other Con’s. We also used Harry Knowles from ‘Ain’t It Cool News’ who is an executive producer on the film, and he sent out a blast via his site. We were bombarded with over two thousand people sending in letters and videos wanting to be in the film. From there we whittled it down to stories about people who were going to achieve certain goals. Like Chuck who wanted to make sure his business stayed afloat with his paper comic book business. We wanted to make sure make sure that we found the most interesting folks. I think the cast we got is amazing – we got really fortunate with Holly, Skip and Eric, Anthony Calderon and Chuck. With this year we will try to shoot with a couple of people this year, what I’m hoping is that we can have a couple of big screenings at Comic Con. If that happens we will shoot that with Q/A’s after that. Like Holly’s career has taken off just in the two years since we shot the film and when you see what’s happened to her post film is really, really exciting.
How did you manage to fly below the radar? I mean yes, there are a lot of people and there are a lot of cameras but there aren’t a lot of Morgan Spurlocks running around. That had to be difficult?
I think there were a few people who knew what we were doing and people who had submitted video kind of knew what we were doing. We didn’t make a lot of noise but then I don’t make a lot of noise about most films I make so that it doesn’t cause a lot of distraction. I try to keep things under wraps as much as we possibly can with the exception of telling who we need to tell. It wasn’t like we had one or two people either. We had a crew of 150 people making this movie. It was the biggest crew I’ve ever had in my life! We had 15 full time cameraman and another 10 field producers who could pick up cameras and we had fifteen to twenty-seven cameras rolling at any one time. We shot 650 hours over six days. There was a lot going on so it wasn’t like we were invisible. Luckily, 150 in the field of 150,000 is still very small.
With your other films you are in it, how did it feel to be away from the eye of the camera?
It was fantastic, it was great and I highly recommend it and want to do it as often as I can! With this film we went to a lot of investors while we were trying to raise the money to make this movie and there were a lot of them that said ‘we will give you the money to make the movie as long as you’re in it’ and I said well we will find investing somewhere else. We basically walked until we found an investment team that would get behind the kind of movie that we wanted to make and weren’t going to force us into a position to make something that we didn’t believe in. I’m a fan and I’m obsessive about certain things in this culture. There are people who are much more emblematic of this kind of passion than I am and we wanted to make sure it was those people who would be front and center in the movie. It was the right choice.
Do you feel like the ‘comic book’ side of Comic Con is fading off?
The only aspect that is fading off is people buying physical paper comics just like every bookstore in America is dying off. Barnes and Nobles are going away just as Borders is and people just don’t buy print comics. I read comics now than I ever have in my life. As an adult I download and read more comics on my ipad than I ever did as a kid because it’s quicker to get them. I don’t even have to go to a comic book shop. I can go right online and buy five comic books without ever leaving my apartment. The accessibility and interest level in comic is greater than ever before and reaching an even greater audience. What is dying is people buying paper anything. I think that side of the Con is an argument that is a bit insular in its viewpoint.
In the film you talked about Hollywood, television and video games have been dominated the Con, how can they balance that with comics?
You have to think that the DC booth is still one of the biggest booths there as is the Marvel booth. The Dark Horse booth is a big booth. I think the small comic purveyors, which are the smaller people on artist alley, are always going to have smaller booths and smaller print because they don’t have the dollars to jump up and be as loud as someone else. There is something else they say which I don’t completely agree with is that movies are completely dominating Comic Con. Hollywood dominates the press of Comic Con now, they don’t dominate Comic Con itself. If you go to Hall H where they do the movie teasers there is 6,000 people. That still leaves 144,000 people all over that Con that aren’t in Hall H. The movie portion is a smaller portion of the giant Con. It just dominates the media because Angelina Jolie was there for a press conference. What are you going to write about? Angelina Jolie showing up for a press conference because that’s news much more than the small comic book purveyor with his new title. For me, I think comics are still recognized as part of this but it becomes a financial battle at that point. You are never going to win a battle with Rock Star games; they have the biggest video game title in the world. What you do is say how can you offer unique and creative opportunities to these people. They could have easily gotten rid of these people years ago at Comic Con. If Comic Con didn’t care about comics and only cared about making money then they would have gotten rid of the small places and brought in the big studios and let them dominate the Con. They recognize that the heart is still those folks and that’s why they are dedicated to make sure they have a presence.
Holly, how has your experience working with Morgan helped you and what new projects do you have going?
After the movie was filmed we were still pretty much trying to make it. I ended up moving to L.A. and getting out of San Bernardino, which was nice. We ended up working for BioWear and did a bunch of suits for BioWear which was really, really cool. We did a live action trailer for them. I did a few official costumes. It’s been pretty much a freelance thing. I did a project with James and Steve that was pretty much amazing. I got to do production design for that and make some monsters. I am looking for more cool designs work like that in the future. I’m still doing what I love to do while trying to make it.
The end of the film shows a little of you working on the ‘Mass Effect’ film?
Obviously it takes a while for these things so once it actually does get into motion I’m hoping I get to learn more about it. It’s going to be awesome once it goes forward.
What do you think about the gossip about the ‘Mass Effect’ ending?
That’s actually a big deal and it’s been all over my feed recently and I’ve been meaning to make a video about it. I think people are jumping the gun on the ending. How I feel about it is that we haven’t seen how it’s going to include. We just don’t know. Being upset about an ending, I understand because I care about the characters as well but I think there is a lot more to it and people are jumping the gun. I think people should wait it out and have fun playing the game.
What are you working on next Morgan?
My next film which we are finishing right now will premier at the Tribeca film on April 21st so two weeks after this film opens. It’s a film we did with Wil Arnett and Jason Bateman that looks at the magical work of manscaping called “Mansome”.
I’m kind of in shock right now.
It will be a very special film <laughing>
Who came up with that idea?
That idea was cooked up between Wil Arnett, Jason, Ben Silverman and they called me and I said this was a great idea and said ‘I’m in’.
Did you use any product placement to fund this movie?
Yes, didn’t you see? This whole thing was brought to you by DC and Marvel. Oh yea and George Lucas and Lucas film apparently. When we first started making this film we were in the process of finishing “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” while we were shooting this. We walked into the building and saw all these products. There’s no way you can chase these things and once we got permission from the Con to shoot there everything kind of got piggybacked in which was great.
Saved you some hassle?
Could you imagine trying to get okay’d for all that? It would have taken 10 years!
It’s nice in the film that you see all the artists and actors speaking about their memories and how they feel about Comic Con. Was it easy to grab and get them on camera?
The minute we knew we were going to Con we got the book with all the schedules and panels trying to see who was going to be there. We started chasing them immediately calling their agents, managers and publicists. The onset was overwhelming and most people said yes. There was a few that said no and they were there on a limited window of time and has to do with a release of a film and they are doing nothing but press. Most of them had a real relationship with Comic Con in the past and could speak legitimately and openly and even heartwarmingly about their experiences there.
Was it an enjoyable break after doing such weighty subjects that you’ve done before?
This is something that I’m really passionate about. This film spoke to every bit of the fan boy inside me and my geek obsessions. To make a film like this with Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Thomas Toll and Harry Knowles it really was a dream come true. To have everything fall into place as it did, get the cast that we did and the access we did it was a really special project in so many ways. I felt very fortunate to get to do this.
How did you get all the producers to join in?
The whole conversation and the idea of the film came from a conversation I had with Stan Lee. It was Comic Con 2009 and I had just been hired to make the Simpsons 20th anniversary special for Fox so we were down there casting for Simpson superfans. We were trying to find people who could come out and talk about their love of all things Homer. That night I went to a party and met Stan Lee. I went to Stan to tell him how much he changed my life as a kid and how when I reading him back in West Virginia growing up, he gave me the courage to want to tell my own stories. They motivated me to be a creative person and he was like ‘Morgan, that’s nice. WE should make a movie together, we should make a documentary and make a documentary about Comic Con’. I took that to heart. I met his producing partner and he said ‘if you want to do that – we are in’. Met a few other people who thought it was a great idea and the next morning I’m at breakfast talking to Joss Whedon. I said Stan’s in and by that point we had flushed the idea out a little more and want to follow people into Comic Con and tell of their experience. Joss says ‘I love it, I’m in!’ and I find my friend Mark Ytullarde, on the board of directors of Comic Con. I called him and told him about the film telling him Stan Lee and Joss Whedon are on board. He says he’s been working for Comic Con for the last two decades and literally every year someone wants to make a movie and we say no. This time – I think it will work’ and they came on board.
Are you going to try to get the film outside the United States since Comic Con is truly worldwide?
Absolutely. We are going to be announcing an international plan for this very soon. Right now we are dealing with the domestic release but the film is going to go international very, very soon.
To anyone who enjoys Spurlock’s work let me tell you something about the man that I have seen. He is dedicated about whatever subject he is working on, he loves what he does and he has a sense of humor that it totally enjoyable. Now, taking on Comic-Con he once again proves that there is a story to be told and he’ll happily be the one to tell it.
Check your local theatres for COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE and take the time to see it!