Morgan Spurlock talks A Day in the Life Season 2 debut on Hulu
Acclaimed documentarian Morgan Spurlock returns to Hulu this week for Season 2 of his hit series A Day in the Life. Comedian and eccentric podcast host Marc Maron leads this charge of new episodes, with a show devoted to his life behind the mic interviewing the top tier in today's comedic talent.
To watch Episode 2.01: Marc Maron right now: CLICK HERE
Though Morgan Spurlock is currently on his press field trip in support of Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope, his latest theatrical feature film, we were able to catch him in mid-transport to chat about this smaller, more intimate, yet equally as important endeavor to find out what we can expect in the coming weeks (a new episode will be available starting every Monday). We also delve into his own skills as an interviewer, and learn what it takes to make the cut on A Day in the Life.
This is our conversation.
Let's talk about reality series. I was watching a show last night. I saw one of my friends on it. He had a different name, a fake wife, a new house. I had no idea he was going to be on this show. And up until that point, I'd bought into everything this show was selling. But now, I can't believe a word of it. If this aspect of the show is fake, how do I know the rest of it isn't? Being the investigative journalist that you are, how often does this happen nowadays? Is there anything real in reality television at this point?
Morgan Spurlock: Hey, they bring these people to Vegas, they give them brand new homes, they give them brand new clothes...I think it happens a lot of the time on these quote-unquote reality shows. I think some of them are the furthest thing from reality ever. However, I think that's why they started making this deferentiality between different shows. Now you have to say you are scripted reality. Now they let you know there is a scripted element to the show. So you don't talk too much about it. But still, I find that to be a bit annoying.
Seeing this person lie about who they are really took me out of the experience. I had to delete the rest of the episodes off my DVR. It ruined the whole thing for me.
Morgan Spurlock: You have to realize that when it comes to these reality series, they are very different from a documentary series, where you are getting something that is very truthful and honest. How the content is portrayed is a very different animal. Reality TV is coming off this idea that we are seeing real moments in real time. We are seeing someone live their life. They have turned it into entertainment, rather than having a moment pass as a "moment".
You are a documentarian first and foremost. So, in your eyes, a show like A Day in the Life is completely different than what we now label as a "reality" series...
Morgan Spurlock: That is the thing. Nobody knows the restaurants that are in our show. We actually created all new restaurants for the series. No...I am kidding...The difference here is that we are flies on the wall. This is an omniscient experience that we are having. Where you are living your day vicariously through these characters, seeing what happens to them. You are along for the ride. To me, that is what should happen with any series. We shouldn't be there affecting the outcome. We should never be changing the world they live in.
The show is called A Day in the Life Of. Is this in fact one solid day of shooting? Or do you shoot on various days, and edit it to look like one day?
Morgan Spurlock: We will go in, and sometimes we will miss an exterior shot. You will miss a transition. We find ourselves doing some pick-ups to go with that one particular day. But that day, with that one person? Nothing outside of that person's life is happening outside of that day. We are with Marc Maron for that one day. Or we are with Mario Batali for that day. That's it. You only have that one shot. In A Day in the Life Season 1, with all of our people, that's all we had. We were there from the time they woke up, until the time they went to bed. And then it was, "See you later." That was it. From there, we had to go figure it out.
I remember watching one of these MTV reality series shoot on the beach. I don't remember which one it was. But the crowd was interrupting the people in front of the camera. They director was making them go back and do scenes two or three times. These moments that are supposed to be real life, but they are repeated and run through again and again. Do you ever find, on your show, that there are moments were you have to have someone do something again, or saying something again, to get it right?
Morgan Spurlock: No. For us, unless it's something simple, like walking out of a building, something we missed...We try to avoid all of that. If you didn't get it? Too bad. You will just have to get it next time. You will have to cover it with something else. I don't want to ever change the momentum of a moment, especially in a series like this. You want to keep that moment happening from the moment you start shooting in the morning. We try to remain true to that the entire morning. We don't want to come in and start manipulating the world these people live in. At all.
With your own Celebrity in front of the camera, aren't you able to step in and explain a moment if its missed? People like seeing you on camera, so you can always act as that bridge...
Morgan Spurlock: I try to avoid that in terms of story points. If it's something we can go back and pick up...Whether it's an exterior or a close-up of something...Where you can just get the shot, and you don't need the person? We will go with something like that. It's not nearly as difficult as starting a conversation all over again can be. Which, opening that door, you are going to have even bigger issues once you get into the editing room.
What is your take on interviewing subjects for a show. What is your process?
Morgan Spurlock: I think about where I want the conversation to lead. Where I want it to go. I make a list of questions that will start to get deeper into their point of view, deeper into their psyche. You want it to become more of a conversation than an interview. More great things come out of a conversation than they do out of an interview. If you are just there asking questions, I think it becomes a very one-sided piece. In a conversational environment, you draw more out of people than just by putting them under a lamp.
In terms of promoting your last film, The Greatest Story Ever Told, it seems like you had your interview answers all quite rehearsed. Do you find that to be the fault of the interviewer? That they don't know how to pose more than five questions to you? Or was it more about that film and what it was about in terms of selling it to an audience?
Morgan Spurlock: On my end, you have to consider that with POM Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold, I called 650 companies. I got fifteen to say yes. What you see in the film is one of 650 conversations that I had with people. By the end it becomes incredibly rehearsed. You know exactly what to say to get in the room. You get your pitch down to an elevator pitch. It becomes an easier way to convey the information. To convey thoughts, emotions, feelings, whatever it may be...No one wants to watch 650 phone calls. That's why you edit it down to get the movie you wind up with.
I was actually talking about the interview answers I saw you give, when you went on various shows to promote the movie. You're usually quite personable and funny, but on the interview circuit, you seemed pointed in delivering a specific pitch, and the answers never strayed to far from that.
Morgan Spurlock: I think, when it came to that movie, people just wanted to ask the same questions. Literally, there were a few things that people wanted to keep coming back to. Of course, Mane and Tail, Mane and Tail...It is a hilarious product and a great story. That's the reason that came up in every interview. Who doesn't want to talk about a shampoo that is for horses and people? Even when you talk about it now, it sounds fantastic! (Laughs) That was a very special movie, where there were talking points that people wanted to concede, and jump into. The same talking points.
Talking Points. I guess we should hit on some of those in regards to your Hulu series. Are you doing six episodes like you did in Season 1?
Morgan Spurlock: No. We are doing ten episodes for A Day in the Life Season 2.
Can you run through who we'll be seeing this time out, and why you specifically chose those individuals?
Morgan Spurlock: Yeah, I mean, we picked people from very eclectic and different environments. Marc Maron? I have been a fan of his for years, and years, and years. He is just a brilliant comic. Now he has one of the most important and listened too Podcasts in the country, with his WTF Podcast. I think he is someone that has continued to be very tenacious in his career. He has been very smart about the things he has done. So I picked him. And Mario Batali? I picked him much like I picked Richard Branson, because this guy is overseeing a massive food empire. The guy has restaurants around the world, he has TV series, he has cookbooks. Here is a guy that represents what a lot of young chefs want to be. Another person, who is one of those chefs, is Stephanie Izard, who we saw on Top Chef. Now here she is. She is going to try to build her own career. We get to see someone that is at a very different place than Mario Batali. It is eye opening. We have the MMA fighter, Jason "Mayhem" Miller, someone who is representing this new energy in this new sport. Much like we are seeing with Linsanity in New York. Mixed Martial Arts is becoming a worldwide phenomenon. Here is someone that is right in that epicenter. He is a great person to use, to show what goes on in a day in their life. Ahmir-Khalib Thompson, ?uestlove, the drummer on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The Roots have been musical pioneers. Even though he is in the back of that band, he has been a front man in a lot of ways. I think we get to show that he is more than a drummer. I think people will be inspired by his day. Then you have another musical group, Das Racist. Over the course of our day with them, they end up working on a project with Philip Glass. One of the most prominent composers in the world today. What I love about this series...What I loved about Season 1, and what I love even more about Season 2, is that it keeps things eclectic and unique. It shows us people that are very fascinating. This is a window into their lives that we'd never get to see if it weren't for this show.
Marc Maron is someone who gets comedians to open up in ways they've never opened up before in public. He wrings some pretty emotional interviews out of these guys. Here, he is on the other side of the mic. What was the interaction like between you and him?
Morgan Spurlock: I've known him for a long time. Maybe ten years. I was on his Podcast a couple of months ago. I was on with a lot of different people. We were talking back stage, and I told him that we'd just gotten green lit for this upcoming second season. I told him he'd be the perfect person to do the show. He is the ideal candidate. He has spent hundreds of hours interviewing these other comics. Now, we can go through the process with him. That it could be very eye opening. He thought that was a very smart idea. This is a guy...I don't know how many pilots he's done over the years that have never gotten picked up. He's been attached to countless shows on different networks. Here is a guy that said, "I am going to do it my way. I am going to find my own path." What he has created with WTF is very impressive and unique. I think it is true to his voice and his nature. That is one of the things I've said. We want to just be along with him for the ride during one day. That is why he decided to come on the show.
Are you able to build a relationship with the other people on the show, or is it like you said? You stay behind the camera, being a fly on the wall...You never get involved...
Morgan Spurlock: You get to know people to a point. But you don't want to come in and be all like, "Hey! How about after this we go hang out? How about we go get dinner when we're done!" I want to keep some sort of a reality. I want to keep it real, rather than build towards something that isn't going to build towards the best story for the viewers. The last thing I want to do is come out of this with a bunch of new best friends. Ultimately, I just want to tell the best story possible.
When are we going to see A Day in the Life of Morgan Spurlock? Or do you feel we've seen enough of that in your movies?
Morgan Spurlock: Nobody wants to see that! It would be the most boring A Day in the Life ever.
No way! My favorite episode of 30 Days was the one with you and your girlfriend.
Morgan Spurlock: The minimum wage episode. But there, we had thirty days to cut down to a show. (Laughs) That's what we have to do for A Day in the Life. I'd have to shoot thirty of them to get just one episode. I think this is a show that is much better spent on interesting people, and there are far more interesting people.
What did you learn this time, doing these ten episodes, that you didn't learn the first time? What was the learning curve this second time out?
Morgan Spurlock: The biggest thing is, once you've done this, it becomes easier to get people interested in a second season. In season one, we had an unproven concept, so it was a much harder sell. We had so many great people. I think that first season was fantastic. Going into the second season, you realize that you have a proven concept. Then it is a lot easier to get people to listen, to pay attention, to commit. We have a great second season, and I can only think that season three will be even better.
Do you already have the people you want for season three picked out?
Morgan Spurlock: We always have a good idea about whom we want. I'd love to have Barack Obama. That would be an amazing day. Hopefully we can pull that off.