FRESNO, Calif. — Morgan Spurlock turned down Justin Bieber and Katy Perry. But he decided it was best not to say “no” to One Direction.
The documentary filmmaker — best known for casting a light on corporate America and fast food chains — declined opportunities to direct concert movies for Bieber and Perry because he was tied up with other projects. The call to helm “One Direction: This Is Us” came when he was between films.
“I got a call a year ago and was asked if I had heard of One Direction. I knew all about them because I was in Britain two years earlier filming ‘New Britannia.’ It was at that time they were exploding. Because I knew so much about them, and after not being able to direct the other concert films, I didn’t want to miss this opportunity,” Spurlock says. “Plus, this was a chance to have access to one of the biggest bands in the world and to shoot in 3-D.”
Collecting the footage took months. Spurlock traveled with the band carving out interview time whenever the five band members — Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson — weren’t performing, rehearsing, recording an album, doing press interviews or napping.
“We would grab them whenever we could,” Spurlock says. “It gave me a new appreciation and respect for what it means to be a pop star.”
The only way Spurlock would agree to make the film was if he got full access to the band members and their lives. His conditions were met and that’s why Spurlock was in the middle of the pandemonium when the guys went on a shopping trip and got trapped by thousands of adoring fans outside the door. It’s also how Spurlock was able to capture a very tender moment when Malik fulfills a childhood promise to buy his mother a house.
The last five concerts of the band’s 2012 tour were filmed for the performance part of the film. Some nights, Spurlock only shot from the audience; other nights his camera operators roamed the stage like a sixth member of the band. Shooting that way meant there was little chance of seeing a cameraman on stage during the performance.
Shooting the concerts was full of logistical nightmares, such as a scene in which the band members are carried out over the crowd to a small stage in the middle of the arena. That would have been a tough sequence to film under normal circumstances, but the movie was being shot with heavy 3-D cameras.
“It’s easier to deal with 3-D now because the cameras we shot with were smaller, but still big enough that our steady cam operator was walking around with 100 pounds of equipment,” Spurlock says. “But the 3-D worked great especially with their faces. With a lot of 3-D, faces look flat but you can see incredible depth in ours.”
There’s at least one face you won’t see in any dimensions. Unlike his past work, Spurlock doesn’t appear in the film.