When filmmaker Morgan Spurlock decided to make a documentary on product placement in films, he got the idea to fund the entire project by selling product placements within the movie.
But there was one prospective sponsor that wouldn't give him the time of day.
"You won't be seeing toys for this movie in your Happy Meals," said Spurlock, with a laugh.
Spurlock rose to fame with the playful, irreverent, devastatingly revealing documentary "Super Size Me," an expose on the fast-food industry for which Spurlock ate only McDonald's food for a month. He documented a 24.5-pound weight gain and a cholesterol level that went from normal to 230, as well as other health problems.
"Nope. No action figures for this film, and no sponsors in the food industry," the filmmaker said. "People actually said, 'You're not going to do to me what you did to McDonald's.' "
But Spurlock's current project, "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," did find sponsors and get made, and Sundance tickets are selling well, with seats remaining for the Ogden screening only.
"People will see parts of it they find to be more heated and controversial, but in the end, it's really just an honest exploration of this world," said Spurlock, 40. "The film is really funny and incredibly engaging. You get to see rooms you never see, where they do advertising and marketing."
Spurlock said he and producing partner Jeremy Chilnick were drawn to their topic when they noticed an explosion in the amount of on-screen product placement.
"The concept of branded entertainment really became big about two years ago, with brands putting their products in reality shows, and sponsors are paying for the whole production."
"American Idol" puts cups of Coca-Cola in front of judges and makes sure the Coke logos are facing forward. "The Biggest Loser" coaches preach the virtue of brand-name diet-oriented products, such as Jell-O, Yoplait and Subway sandwiches.
"Ever since I was a kid, all I wanted to do was make movies and TV shows," Spurlock said. "I was rejected from USC film school, but I was always someone who consumed news and loved investigative journalism. Once I started making documentaries, I was tapping into a passion I already had."
"Super Size Me" was Spurlock's first film to come to Sundance, in 2004. The low-budget film generated an enormous buzz.
"(Movietone film critic) James Rocchi, who I met at that Sundance, said to me, 'How does it feel to be the belle of the ball?' Suddenly I was that guy at Sundance. I was the guy who made the film with no money, and my life was changing before my eyes. I'm getting chills just thinking about it. It was remarkable. I felt like the luckiest guy on the planet. It changed my life completely."
Spurlock brought his "Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden" to Sundance in 2008, but the reception was cooler. The buzz seems to be back for "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."
Spurlock said that he loves Sundance for the regular people you meet there.
"So many people are film lovers, from all over the country. I love how many people appreciate the films, and are people just like me, who are just fans of the movies. I love going to screenings, talking to the audiences after the film. They are people as passionate as myself. It's a great way to get a real response and gauge a film."
He hopes to come to Ogden if he is still at the festival when the time comes, Spurlock said.
What would he like audiences to take away from his film?
"I don't really want to plant a seed, but I know what I take out of the film," Spurlock said. "I think the film will open a lot of people's eyes and will affect people in different ways. There are parts that will blow people's minds. It's amazing what we captured over the course of the film. It's smart, it's funny, and I think this is definitely a really fun movie."
• “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” (90 minutes, USA), 6:30 p.m. Wednesday