Docs

Quick question: using controversial voices

One might think that having a big Hollywood name as the narrator of your doc would help attract positive attention to it. But in these politically heated times, the added weight of stars that are controversial for questioning the government could either help or hinder the sales of a film. Tim Sparke, the managing director of London-based MercuryMedia International and ep of Loose Change Final Cut, feels that since documentary filmmaking is about making statements, it doesn't do any harm to have a name onboard who pushes people's buttons. Loose Change questions the current reports of what happened in New York on September 11. 'We're not afraid of being controversial as long as it's not ludicrous,' says Sparke.
March 1, 2008

One might think that having a big Hollywood name as the narrator of your doc would help attract positive attention to it. But in these politically heated times, the added weight of stars that are controversial for questioning the government could either help or hinder the sales of a film. Tim Sparke, the managing director of London-based MercuryMedia International and EP of Loose Change Final Cut, feels that since documentary filmmaking is about making statements, it doesn’t do any harm to have a name onboard who pushes people’s buttons. Loose Change questions the current reports of what happened in New York on September 11. ‘We’re not afraid of being controversial as long as it’s not ludicrous,’ says Sparke.

War Made Easy, a new doc that questions American political choices from Vietnam to Iraq, is narrated by Sean Penn. George Matta, president of the film’s distributor, Montreal-based Mundovision, feels having Penn onboard is a boon for the film. He points out that Penn is respected in many circles, including amongst television programmers and doc executives, for some of the political positions he takes. ‘We can’t be liked by everybody,’ says Matta.

The important thing when choosing a celebrity narrator for your film, says Sparke, is to pick someone who fits with the cause you’re covering. ‘If I was doing a documentary about prostitution, I’d choose the governor of New York,’ he says. ”Cause he’s now a celebrity and has an intimate knowledge with the subject.’

Mundovision is currently licensing War and Reel Bad Arabs to broadcasters around the world. Loose Change Final Cut is available on DVD or can be streamed through the website loosechangefinalcut.com.

About The Author
Meagan Kashty is an associate editor of realscreen, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Meagan is an award-winning business journalist. Prior to joining the realscreen team, Meagan was online editor of Canadian Grocer, named Magazine of the Year at the 2015 Canadian Business Media Awards. She can be reached at mkashty@brunico.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @MegKashty

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