What does it take to create stories that make a difference in the world, Morgan Spurlock, asked the Internet Summit Thursday at lunch. Spurlock found fame with the documentary “Super Size Me,” going 30 days eating nothing but fast food and reporting the results.
“I made this little movie shot for $65,000 and realized U was that guy, the Kevin Smith (director of “Clerks”) or Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”) who was the “belle of the ball.”
Once he realized his “Super Size Me” doc, a hit at that year’s festival, would change his life, he immediately began thinking about what he could do next.
What he did was create several widely viewed docs, but perhaps even more meaningful to him, short films, many only 3 minutes, on the economy, the medical and other advances at GE, and a series for Star Wars. He showed examples at the Internet Summit and they are all unique, moving, emotional and slick.
As an aside, I predict we will be seeing many more video-centric presentations at these events, though most may not be as professional as Spurlock’s. they impact an audience exponentially more than some data-packed slide. The trend is likely to parallel the increasing dominance of video online.
In fact, you can’t get the real impact of his presentation without the videos he showed, but most are available online. See the links at the bottom of the story.
Spurlock said that the crucial ingredient in making these sort of stories is that “You have to be able to take and accept criticism.” He showed photos of himself as a teenager in black leotards and ballet poses. “That was not the coolest thing to be doing inWest Virginia when I was growing up,” he said.
In other words you need courage.
And you need support. Spurlock said the support of his mother and father gave him the courage to take risks. He added, “You need people who believe iin your vision. People who are going to take whatever comes with it. They’re on your team.”
He continued: “You have to have persistence of vision, of where you want your brand or your product to end up.”
He inserted business lessons throughout his talk, always accompanied by relevant examples. “You can’t predict change,” he said, “but you can plan your pivot and have multiple stories going forward.
“We already knew what we wanted to do next. We asked ourselves, how can we do more with this content? How can I ride this on a longer tail? How can we continue to create compelling content?
“You want to have your own derivative impact,” he explained.
For example, he produced an educational version of “Super Size Me,” at a price schools could afford.
Later he did a series of short films for General Electric. “You have to decide what stories you want to tell.They wanted to do a film about a machine.”
How do you get past that? “You have to create an alignment of ideologies,” Spurlock said.
Focus Forward series – and more
Focus Forward, a remarkable set of 150 short films no more than 3 minutes long made by 20 of the top documentary makers resulted. They were about people changing the world. In the film shown at the event, doctors save a little girl from cancer with an innovative approach.
Then, Paul Allen, billionaire Microsoft investor, wanted to do a series about economics. Spurlock pushed him toward the same sort of approach he had used with Focus Films. He got some of the world’s most famous filmmakers and actors to participate.
That resulted in another remarkable set of short films at Wetheeconomy.com. Launched half a year ago, Spurlock said they exploded in a way no one expected for films about economics. They have received 45 million views.
He then did a short film for Toyota about the use of hydrogen as a fuel, and a series of unusual short films promoting the latest series of Star Trek films.
His final point: “The more risk you take, the less risky things become. Push out of your comfort zone. Risks and chances will change your business forever.”
We asked the person sitting next to us, “What did you think?”
“I think it emphasized the importance of taking risks to tell meaningful, emotional stories.”
Many of Spurlock’s videos are also available on YouTube. All of these short films are impressive, but if your time is limited, try the 3-minute Focus Films.
Youtube video of his Ted Talk on brands.
We the Economy