SOAKING up a bubble bath with your young son and a miniature pony might not be the most politically correct way to spend an evening. Film it to show the rest of the world and it sounds so very wrong.
And doing it just to advertise a product - in this case Mane ‘N’ Tail, a horse shampoo reformulated for humans - takes it into the realms of selling your granny.
But before anyone calls in social services, or even the RSPCA, it’s worth noting that the film which launched Sheffield DocFest this week is the latest offering from Oscar nominated Super Size Me film-maker Morgan Spurlock.
The bath scene is just his way of best showing the shameless world of Hollywood product placement, advertising and sponsorship.
POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is his new $1.5 million independent documentary, entirely financed in exactly that way with the same type of corporate buy-in as many Hollywood blockbusters.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our full video chat with Morgan Spurlock.
Spurlock, who shakes a finger at the process with a healthy amount of cynicism, explains: “The film is about product placement and advertising – which paid for and makes this film possible.
“One of the sponsors is a shampoo for people and horses. So at the end of the film you see me in a bathtub with a miniature horse and my son, all enjoying Mane ‘N’ Tail.
“It leaves me fine. The question is how will it leave my son later on in a few years? How warped is he going to be from all this? I don’t know.”
Spurlock’s controversial Super Size Me documentary in 2004 had him piling on almost two stone in a month when he ate nothing but McDonald’s fast food for 30 days.
He says he hasn’t had a McDonald’s meal since he has no plans to have one any time soon. Though he did ask if they wanted to sponsor his new documentary. It was a no.
He said of his latest release, which got its European premiere at Sheffield DocFest: “The biggest intention of the film is to wake people up to the idea of marketing and advertising.
“We live in a time where we become so blind to the amount of messaging in our everyday lives that we don’t even recognise it, or notice it, in television, films and the world around us as we walk down the street.
“The film pulls back the curtains so we see the machinations of how all of this comes to be and at the same time making you infinitely more aware. This is something we wanted to tackle. Seeing my favourite films and TV shows be co-opted by brands.”
But he adds: “Oh, I’m buying in. The film does a great job of talking about this whole idea of Hollywood film-making. And if you’re going to make a film in Hollywood you need to buy into this way of making movies.
“We won the trust of companies and they said it was such a little amount of money it was totally worth the risk. It makes them look smart and savvy.”
His next project will take an affectionate look at dedicated movie and comic memorabilia convention fans, sellers and stars, in Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope, featuring Marvel comic legend Stan Lee.
Sheffield Doc/Fest organisers are hoping they can get him back for another European premiere. Widely acknowledged as a top documentary and digital media festival in the UK, it will have crammed 120 films and 70 sessions into five days, at The Showroom, until Sunday.
The guest line-up also includes BAFTA award winners Molly Dineen and Nick Broomfield, legendary American cameraman Albert Maysles, plus celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding couple, Pat and Sam.
* For DocFest info, screenings and talks schedule visit sheffdocfest.com