Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 08-26-13

One Direction

One Direction

“One Direction: This Is Us” – In theaters August 30th

“One Direction: This Is Us” – In theaters August 30th

Morgan Spurlock, director of “One Direction: This Is Us”

Morgan Spurlock, director of “One Direction: This Is Us”

“One” opening: Concert documentaries work because everyone gets the best seat in the house to see global headliners at affordable ticket prices wherever they live.

The key to success is pairing the right filmmaker with the right artist or group and then finding the right timing to put the movie in the marketplace. That was the winning combination in domestic theatres for concert hits like Paramount’s “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” ($73 million in 2011), Sony’s “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” ($72.1 million in 2009) and Disney’s “Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert” ($65.3 million in 2008).

Next up in the concert spotlight is the worldwide music phenomenon One Direction, whose five members star in the 3D “One Direction: This Is Us,” directed by Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”), opening wide Fri., Aug. 30 via Sony’s TriStar Pictures. That's good timing that will put it in megaplexes when moviegoing expands for the summer's final holiday weekend, ending Mon., Sept. 2 with Labor Day.

Spurlock’s documentary cameras provide an intimate all-access look at the blockbuster English-Irish pop boy band’s life on the road, telling the story of the meteoric rise to fame for Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson. The focus includes their humble hometown beginnings to competing on “The X-Factor” – they finished third in the UK show’s seventh series and then signed with TV producer/personality Simon Cowell's Syco Records — to conquering the world.

The movie’s producing team includes Simon Cowell, Adam Milano, Morgan Spurlock and Ben Winston. It was executive produced by Richard Griffiths, Harry Magee, Will Bloomfield, Doug Merrifield, Jeremy Chilnick and Matthew Galkin.

Morgan Spurlock’s been one of Hollywood’s best known documentary filmmakers since his 2004 hit “Super Size Me,” which looked at the fast food industry and unforgettably hammered home the consequences of eating too much fast food. To do so, Spurlock put his own health at risk by eating nothing but fast food for a month just to see what can (and did) go wrong.

When Spurlock’s documentary about product placement, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” opened in 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing him for a column here and we had a great time talking about how Madison Avenue’s advertising and branding impacts all our lives today.

I was happy to have the chance to catch up again with Spurlock recently to discuss the making of “One Direction: This Is Us,” a film he told me he was excited about directing from the very first moment he learned he was up for consideration.

Q: How did this movie come about?
A: Well, I was very excited to get the call from the studio to even be considered for this movie. When they called me and asked if I’d want to come in to meet with them about directing the movie, I jumped at the chance. A few years earlier, I’d been called to come meet with the studio about the Justin Bieber film, but we were making “Greatest Movie Ever Sold” at the time so I couldn’t do that film. And then last year I got called again to see if I’d be interested in coming to meet about the Katy Perry movie (Paramount’s 2012 music documentary “Katy Perry: Part of Me”). At that point, we were finishing and delivering both “Comic-Con” (the 2011 documentary “Comic-Con: Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope”) and “Mansome” (the 2012 documentary about what being a man means today) so there was no way I could even think about adding another movie.

So when I got the call about this last June, I really just jumped at the chance. I was like, I really don’t want to let another of these opportunities pass me by. As a documentary filmmaker, opportunities like this are very few and far between. One, to work with a studio. Two, to have a budget larger than any film I’ve ever made. To have access to the type of equipment and technology. To make a movie in 3D. To tell the story of a band that is at this incredible massive explosion in their careers – one of the biggest bands in the world and they’re continuing to like shoot through the stratosphere in a rocket.

For me the biggest thing when people say to me, “Why make this movie?” is apart from all the reasons I just told you, you also have to understand that as a filmmaker you want to make movies that people will see. I want people to see the films that I make. And the day this movie comes out it’s going to come out on more screens and in more countries around the world and be seen by more people than any movie I've ever made to date. So for me it was a no-brainer!
Q: It certainly makes sense. So you went in and talked to Sony.
A: I had to really hustle for it. It took a real kind of pitch process. There was a long courtship. They whittled it down to like three directors, of which I was one, and then it was last August or September that I found out that I was going to get the job. Then we began pre-production and didn’t start shooting until January 2013.
Q: How do you prepare to do a big film like this?
A: The biggest thing was just starting to figure out what is the story we’re going to tell and how do we get into that story? For me, the root of this story from Day One was that it was a story about dreams and about family. So how do we tell the story of dreams and family with these boys and have the access to do it?

So we started breaking down our production schedule. When will we start shooting? We locked into the first time the boys went to Japan as being the start of our film and when we were going to start shooting. Following them through the launch of their new tour – the UK/European tour – and climaxing in Mexico. So we knew that was going to be our time frame and our timeline. And then it was just getting access to them and their families to tell the bigger story beyond that.
Q: Had you known the guys in One Direction prior to that?
A: Not personally. I knew of them because about two years ago I was doing a TV series for Sky Atlantic in London called “New Britannia.” I was basically shooting all over the UK when these boys were exploding. Like when One Direction was completely blowing up, I was in-country and was witnessing this firsthand. Everything they did was in the press. Every story about them was front page news. I was kind of witness to this phenomenon happening. So when the studio called and said, “Have you ever heard of this band One Direction?” I was like, “Of course, I have. They’re one of the biggest things out there.” And they said, “Do you want to come meet with us about making a movie?” I was like, “Absolutely, yes, I do.”
Q: When did you first meet the guys and how did that go?
A: The very first time I met them would have been about last June. About June 2012 I flew down to Charlotte, North Carolina just to meet them and see a show. It was just very cordial (and) nice. They knew I was one of the filmmakers up for the gig. I watched their show and as I was watching 20,000 girls just scream at the top of their lungs for two hours I was like, “This is going to be a fun movie!”
Q: So through your director’s eyes you were seeing how you’d put all that together on film?
A: Yeah. Even from that first minute when I saw the pandemonium that was happening around them in Charlotte, I was like, “There’s something really special we’re going to be able to do with this movie.”
Q: Over the years, we’ve heard people talk about other groups – typically, The Beatles – and how the guys react to this constant screaming and fan attention. How does One Direction handle that? Are they oblivious to it by now?
A: I don't think it’s one of the things you’ll ever get used to. I think that at some point you start to realize that it just becomes part of your life. I think it can still be overwhelming. I think it can still be exciting. I think it can still be scary at times, depending upon the situation. But, I think, for them they are ultimately at their core very grateful for the opportunity they’ve been given and they are so good to their fans. They’re so open and giving to them, spending time with them, talking to them. I think that’s one of the reasons why they continue to be so successful.
Q: This movie must be very important to them.
A: They made a concert movie that they filmed in the UK a couple years ago, but this is the first one that’s really given you access in a way that you haven’t seen before. So you’re spending time with them. You’re going home with them. You’re meeting their families. It’s intimate. My goal from the beginning was to try to create a really intimate portrait of each one of them. And in an hour-plus movie that’s a lot to try and take hold of. But I think the film really delivers on that.
Q: Of course, this is a concert film, a documentary. Was there a screenplay? Did you structure anything on paper?
A: Basically, when we had the original idea of what the movie would be about, I had an idea of the story I wanted to tell, but nothing where we sat down and wrote out (a screenplay). We always write an outline. Whenever I start a movie I write an outline – like in a perfect world, if everybody had unicorns and rainbows, what would happen once we started shooting? So you write that out. I do that on every film, no matter what it is and it never fails that the minute you start shooting all that stuff you wrote down doesn’t happen so you throw it out the window!

But what it does is it, at least, gives you a kind of roadmap of where you wanted to be heading in the beginning. And I think what that does is when you start going down the path and things start going in different directions or don’t happen the way you imagined, it enables you to make decisions that I think help you support a narrative in a way that is most beneficial to the movie.
Q: Tell me about shooting. When did you begin to shoot? In making a typical fiction movie, you might begin shooting on Day One with a scene that’s at the end of the movie.
A: That’s right. And it’s the same thing with a doc. The thing we were shooting first was a scene in Tokyo with the boys arriving at the airport that starts at about minute 25 of the movie. It’s not something that happens very, very early on.

But when you’re making a documentary, the biggest thing is you want to make sure you’re hitting big story points. It’s the first time the boys have gone to Japan. They’ve never performed in or been to an Asian country. So this is a big moment – not only a big moment for them personally, but a big moment for the band and the fandom. So we wanted to make sure we shot that.

From there we go back to the UK and we start shooting them preparing for their tour. They’re basically getting ready for the biggest tour of their lives, a world tour, and you’re seeing the rehearsals. You’re seeing the fittings. You’re seeing the practice that goes into that. Again, it’s all about access and I think the movie really, really shows you. Bands like this tend to get thrown under the bus quite a bit. I think what it does is show you how much work goes into being a band like One Direction.
Q: Were you shooting in 3D or did you convert to 3D?
A: We converted to 3D. The only thing that was shot in true native 3D was the actual concert, itself. Everything else was 2D that was post-converted.
Q: In shooting, what were some of the biggest challenges?
A: When you’re dealing with a movie like this, it’s just time. You’re always fighting against the clock. Like this is the first time I’d ever been hired to do a film where the day that I started I was given a release date – “We’re so happy you’re making the movie. Congratulations! Oh, by the way, the movie comes out August 30th.” And you’re like, “Oh, wow, I’ve got quite a bit to do in the next nine or 10 months.” So you’re constantly fighting against time and you’re working against these schedules. These guys are some of the busiest guys on the planet right now. As you’re trying to make sure you get access to these intimate stories, sometimes that doesn’t always fit in with the time frames.

There’s days where shooting is difficult, but the boys were really committed and wanted to power through. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to open up your life to someone with a camera and a documentary film and I really commend the boys for doing that. There’s a lot of trust that goes into making a movie like this and I think that over time I earned that trust.
Q: You were with them with your cameras as if you were doing a reality TV show.
A: Yeah. We were spending days and weeks on end with them. I was really fortunate to have a great team of producers on this film. Ben Winston, who produced the movie with us, has known the boys for a very long time. As I came back to start overseeing the edit, he was able to go out and field produce and make sure we were getting great stuff. Having somebody like him on board was a real asset.
Q: I’m thinking that shooting a concert must be much harder than it appears to be.
A: Oh, yeah, it’d be much harder and I think that’s why I was really, really fortunate to have someone like Tom Krueger, who was our concert (cinematographer). He did “U2 3D,” probably one of the best concert 3D movies ever made. (The 2007 documentary was directed by Catherine Owens & Mark Pellington and covered U2’s worldwide Vertigo tour.) So to have him come on and be our (concert) director of photography was a real gift.

We had Paul Dugdale, who came in and helped oversee the production of the concerts. He came on as a consultant for us on the film and he was just fantastic. This is a guy who did “Adele Live at the Royal Albert Hall” (2011). He did a beautiful film with Coldplay (the worldwide concert video “Coldplay Live 2012”). He’s doing a movie right now with the Rolling Stones. He’s a very brilliant concert mind and for him to come on and lend his expertise so I’d have a better understanding of what should happen was a real blessing.
Q: How many cameras did you use?
A: We were shooting eight cameras a night. So we were shooting eight true 3D cameras and then we also had some 2D cameras that were in the crowd shooting audience reactions that we would then convert later on. But every night – we shot five shows – we had eight 3D cameras shooting.
Q: I’m thinking that to coordinate what all those eight cameras were doing you must have needed the equivalent of a TV studio control room.
A: We did. We had Mission Control where we were shooting everything. Not only were we looking at monitors, but we were looking at 3D monitors, so we’re watching the film in live 3D. So everybody in the control room’s wearing glasses so it looks like you’re at a Buddy Holly concert. We’re all wearing our thick black glasses watching everything in 3D. It was an amazing experience for me. It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had making a movie in my life.
Q: After you finished shooting, there must have been a tremendous challenge in editing with all that footage to go through.
A: There was a huge groundswell of material that came in. The ratio of this movie was about 500 to 1. We shot almost a thousand hours of footage – doc footage and concert combined. So to go in and whittle that down to what essentially becomes a 90 minute movie is a tremendous undertaking.
Q: How long did you shoot?
A: About six months. Post-production also started in January (2013) and took about seven months. The concert (at the O2 Arena) was shot in London, but the behind-the-scenes footage was shot throughout the UK (in) Ireland, Scotland, England. We shot in Japan in Tokyo. We shot throughout Europe (in) Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium. It was a tremendous undertaking.
Q: Looking ahead, will you ever be able to make a small documentary film again?
A: : I hope I always can make documentaries. It’s going to be hard going back to making small low budget documentaries after this. I hope I don’t have to! (LAUGHS)
Q: The leap from doing this to doing other big studio films could certainly be there.
A: From your lips to God’s ears. That would be an incredible (thing). The goal for me from when I was a kid was that I always wanted to make movies. You know, when I was six or seven years old sitting in a movie theatre, I wasn’t saying, “I can’t wait to go make documentaries.” I started making documentaries when I got out of college and fell in love with the medium and really became incredibly passionate about it – the stories you can tell, the lives you can affect, the situations that you can actually get yourself into. I really enjoy that. But I’ve always wanted to make the leap into telling narrative stories and, hopefully, out of this will come something really spectacular.