Famous documentary filmmaker delivers speech on campus

Morgan Spurlock, best known for his documentary Super Size Me came to campus last Thursday to talk about his new film. Photo by Meghan Harris // MUSG

Marquette Student Government hosted “The Greatest Lecture Ever Presented” in the AMU ballrooms on Thursday — an exaggerated title that fit its speaker, documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, to a T.

Spurlock spoke on the influence of product placement in media and his newest film, “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” released in April 2011.

Spurlock’s controversial reputation attracted many students to the event. Some began arriving an hour before the doors opened to get prime seating. More than 500 guests attended.

Spurlock is best known for his documentary “Super Size Me.” The film documents Spurlock’s 30-day diet of McDonald’s and the psychological and physical effects it had on him.

“I loved ‘Super Size Me’ and the point he got across through the movie,” said TeAngelo Cargile, a sophomore at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Cargile met with Spurlock after his presentation.

“Meeting him was epic,” he said. “He changed the fast food industry and how it advertises. He’s bringing controversial issues to light, and that’s what I want to do with my life.”

Spurlock’s goal was to make a film “all about product placement, marketing and advertising, where the entire film is funded by product placement, marketing and advertising.”

As the title suggests, one of the largest sponsors recruited is POM Wonderful, but other brands, including Ban Deodorant, Trident, Hyatt Hotels and Old Navy, also took part.

However, finding companies to take part in the film was not easy. Spurlock even turned to McDonald’s for an investment.

“They never returned my calls,” he said. “I can’t blame them. I haven’t set foot in a McDonald’s since March 3, 2003.”

After Hyatt Hotels agreed to invest in Spurlock’s documentary, other major brands followed.

“Hyatt really opened the floodgates for us,” Spurlock said.

Eventually, Spurlock convinced enough companies to invest in the film. Even before its release, the film already made a profit, as several companies jumped on the bandwagon later on.

“It doesn’t surprise me that so many companies wanted to come along toward the end,” Spurlock said. “In business, no one wants to be first, but they don’t want to be last, either.”

Spurlock captivated the audience with hilarious stories about meeting with companies and lessons on the influence of product placement.

“The College of (Communication) treats us well,” said Eric Decker, a freshman in the college. “He did a great job on keeping everyone’s attention, and I thought the presentation did a great job digging deep into the world of advertising and product placement.”

Spurlock’s film was nominated for Best Documentary in the Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards and was released at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.