This Is Them

A documentary film about pop sensation One Direction hits theaters August 30

Aug 30, 2013 | By Cameron Keady
COURTESY CTMG, INC.

The boys of One Direction warm up before a performance in This Is Us.

The singers of One Direction have taken their talent around the world. Now they are taking it to the big screen, in a documentary film called This Is Us. Directed by Morgan Spurlock, the movie follows each band mate’s journey from small town to superstardom. TFK caught up with Spurlock to talk about making the film, and what it was like to work with one of the world’s biggest bands.

TFK:

Your past works have included documentary films like Freakonomics and Super Size Me. Was This Is Us a big shift in focus for you?

MORGAN SPURLOCK:

It is a big, massive undertaking to make a movie like this. My goal was to make a fun, pop documentary. I wanted the movie to capture today’s pop culture and translate to a mainstream audience. You don’t get a chance to make a documentary that is much more accessible or mainstream than this.

TFK:

How did the opportunity come about for you to direct this film?

SPURLOCK:

I’d been considered in the past to direct other pop documentaries, like the Katy Perry and Justin Bieber films, but because of time and other commitments I was unable to. So when I got the call about the One Direction movie, I didn’t want to miss another opportunity like that. As a documentary filmmaker it’s a rare opportunity to make a movie of this scale, especially about a band like One Direction. These boys are at an incredible moment of their careers where they’re still kind of exploding through space. There are so many things about this film that I was really excited about.

TFK:

Have you worked with musicians before?

SPURLOCK:

When I first started working on documentaries, I did stuff with independent music record labels, but nothing on the level of One Direction.

TFK:

How long were you filming this movie?

SPURLOCK:

We started filming in January 2013. We went to Tokyo with the band and followed them on their first trip into Asia. It was amazing capturing that moment. The last thing we shot was their first stadium show in Mexico, which was also an incredible experience. It was about six months total of shooting.

TFK:

What was it like traveling to all these places, each one with such a huge One Direction fan base?

Director Morgan Spurlock joins the band mates at the film's premiere in London, England.
KARWAI TANG—GETTY IMAGES
Director Morgan Spurlock joins the band mates at the film's premiere in London, England.

SPURLOCK:

The “fandemonium” of 1D is universal—it doesn’t matter what country you’re in. From the thousands of girls in Japan to the thousands camping outside the hotel in Mexico, to the thousands that are chasing the bus down the street in Paris, this band has transcended culture in a way that is remarkable. They have touched and spoken to people on such a deep and global level. It’s very inspiring.

TFK:

How did you choose which concerts and locations to include in the final cut of the film?

SPURLOCK:

The decisions are ultimately all about story. I had to think about how each scene [pushed] our narrative forward and contributed to the plot.  And that’s the hard part; we had about 963 hours of footage we had to cut down to a 90-minute movie.

TFK:

What is the narrative you were trying to create and follow?

SPURLOCK:

I wanted to tell a simple story. This is a movie about friends, dreams, and family. You see how these boys, who were pushed and supported by their families, were given courage and motivation to go out and chase their dreams. As that starts to happen, and they start to explode, they develop a new family of band mates. Each of these guys understands what the other is going through. They are all far from home and away from their families, and in such a different world from where they started. Out of that shared experience comes a very deep friendship that will last a lifetime. I wanted that idea to be alive and well in the movie.

TFK:

Was it ever a challenge to show the band as normal guys, and not just a huge pop sensation?

SPURLOCK:

It was easy because they’ve surrounded themselves with people who have not let them go cuckoo. Each one keeps the others grounded to reality, and reminds them where they are and who they are. They have an amazing support team who has been around them since day one of this journey. Everyone cares for and trusts each other. When you reach this level of success, trust is a big component of that.

TFK:

You visited each band mate’s hometown. What was that experience like?

SPURLOCK:

It was great. When you see where they come from, there is nothing more humanizing than that. They come from humble beginnings and very simple lives. Speaking with their families was a very heartwarming and emotional experience. These young men essentially went to a talent show at the age of 16 and they never really came home again.

TFK:

How was it working with Zayn, Niall, Louis, Harry, and Liam?

SPURLOCK:

They are so much fun. They’re so charming and so likeable and they really do just love to have a good time. For me, the most important thing was to show as much of that fun essence as I could. I wanted to create a real open and honest portrayal of who they are. I think the film does that well.

TFK:

Do you have a favorite story or memory?

SPURLOCK:

The very first time I met with them to have a conversation about the film a food fight broke out during our meeting. I was just sitting there and the boys started jumping on the chairs and chucking dinner rolls at each other. I realized then that this was going to be a great movie.

TFK:

What’s your favorite One Direction song?

SPURLOCK:

I have officially become a Directioner over the course of making this movie, having seen them in concert over 30 times. I love the songs “She’s Not Afraid” and “Kiss You.” If you go to a One Direction concert, bring earplugs. Not for the music, but for the screaming fans.

This Is Us is rated PG and opens in theaters today.