Spurlock joined TheWrap’s CEO and editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman for a conversation Monday at TheGrill, TheWrap’s fifth annual Media Leadership Conference at the Montage in Beverly Hills, where he revealed that the film opened all the doors that’s led to his current career path.
“I remember thinking, ‘We should figure out a way we can do this every week,'” he reminisced on how he felt completing the film before it hit Sundance. “How can we do this faster? How can we do this on a much more timely basis?”
Not only did he gain 25 pounds thanks to putting himself on an all-McDonalds diet for 30 days for the film, he turned it into a docu-series for FX called “30 Days,” which ran for three seasons and showed various people immersing themselves into different lives (and led to new CNN series “Inside Man”).
Spurlock is also the co-founder of content creation firm Cinelean, which is now distributing “We the Economy,” 20 short films from directors including Catherine Hardwicke, Adam McKay and Ramin Bahrani, on how money is made, distributed and subsequently shapes lives and societies.
The films were each made for $100,000 to $150,000 and last between 3 to 8 minutes. The series’ distribution model is also unusual in that it’s being offered to the public, online — for free. “With ‘We the Economy,’ the goal is not to make money,” Spurlock said. “It should be out there, for free.”
Ten economists advised on the project, guiding filmmakers on the important points to focus on and the important questions to ask. “The films, for us, should generate a huge amount of conversation,” said Spurlock.
A free app goes along with the film, which has educational materials for teachers, questions and quizzes to share with friends, and to Spurlock, whether it ever makes money, it’s already a success. “When films don’t have to perform against a return investment, when you’re not fighting against revenue, you automatically win,” he explained.
Spurlock also pulled no punches regarding traditional filmmaking and filmmakers. “You shouldn’t be surrounding yourself with Yes-Men,” he said. “You should be surrounding yourself with No-Men … people who will say, ‘That’s a terrible idea. This should be so much shorter. This is so not good.’ You want to have people around you who have your best interests in mind, who have the project’s best interests in mind, who will continue to cut the legs out from under you so they’re saving you from yourself. That’s what filmmakers need more than anything.”
And that’s how he operates as well. “I’ve got an office full of No-Men. They love talking shit to me all the time,” he said.
It’s also not surprising that Spurlock doesn’t believe money solves all problems. “A lot of times money will create more problems. If you start looking for that to be the answer, that’s not the answer.
“You can’t wait around for someone to knock on your door,” he continued. “You have to hustle. Every time you have success, you don’t say, ‘Great, time to take a break.’ It’s time to do more work, time to capitalize on that success. Because at some point, it’ll go away. At some point it’ll stop and I don’t what it to stop yet.”
For the record: A previous version of this story misidentified “30 Days'” network. TheWrap regrets the error.