Morgan Spurlock’s Tips for Filmmakers

At the Sheffield Doc/Fest, Morgan Spurlock, director and creator of the documentaries Super Size Me and POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold gave some great tips to filmmakers during his film’s panel. Those of us that know the Academy Award nominee from the hills of West Virginia know that he loves to push boundaries in his docs, and he has made quite the name for himself for that very reason. We’ve learned to love him and respect his work. So we certainly appreciate any advice he offers.

If you’re in your own movie, don’t be afraid to cut yourself. He surrounds himself with “no men” those that will honestly tell him what they think. I had a friend and mentor tell me, never be afraid to kill your babies in the editing room. You may love it, especially if you yourself is in the film, but if it’s not absolutely necessary for the movie to progress forward, chop it. ​

Keep it on the fly. They don’t shoot anything multiple times. Everything is shot in real time. Rarely do they use a tripod. ​

Love thy lawyer. Spurlock says, “I love lawyers. A good lawyer will keep you out of trouble. A great one will help you cause it. We want to make sure we can dance as close as possible to that edge of that line, but stay on the side of the law.”

Do what needs to be done. Everybody worked for free on Super Size Me. He did odd jobs during the production to keep it flowing. His grandparents paid for the crew to fly out to the premiere at Sundance. ​

Keep it positive! He recommends keeping a good team surrounding you. Drop all negativity, no matter what. His biggest goal is to always hire people smarter than he is. ​

Envision how you’re going to market the film before completing it. This is something I repeat constantly, both in my own head and in the Filmmaking Blog. I believe it is vital to the success of your film. ​

Listen! Listen to people. Make sure that everyone has the opportunity to chime in whenever possible. ​

Trust your editor. Spurlock says, “If you want to empower the editor, don’t hover over them. The more you leave the room, the more they’re involved, the more they’re invested. That’s the reason all of our editors want to come back. They get a real sense of creative freedom, which makes all the projects better.”​

​Great advice! Do you have any advice you would add to this?

For more on Morgan Spurlock advice, check out this video about his doc POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold How I sold out


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