Health-related documentaries have grown in popularity since the success of Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me in 2004. However, while non-fiction films have tackled fast food, corporate farming and ways to fight disease, few of them interact with a growing concern in the United States and beyond: how the food we eat is making us sick and fat. Fed Up, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, is a call to get children and their parents to eat healthier – a goal that is harder to reach since so many foods perceived to be ‘healthy’ are full of artificial sugars and ingredients that just make you want to eat more.
Now, director Stephanie Soechtig (Tapped) is joining forces with a couple of trustworthy sources – journalist Katie Couric, producer Laurie David (An Inconvenient Truth) and executive producer Heather Reisman, the CEO of Canadian bookseller Indigo – to inform and enlighten audiences with Fed Up, which opens in select theatres May 9.
We Got This Covered recently sat down for an exclusive interview with Soechtig, David and Reisman at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto. We spoke about why now is the right time for another health doc, how they found the teenagers that are followed in the film, their plans to get children to see Fed Up, and more.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
Q: This year marks the 10th anniversary of Super Size Me. Why is it time for another doc about health problems and the obesity epidemic?
Laurie David: I don’t think Super Size Me accomplished what it needed to accomplish. I mean, look at the food we’re eating. Super Size Me was focused on fast food and I think in general, people have this concept that fast food maybe isn’t the healthiest. But I don’t think people understand that when they’re in their supermarket and they’re buying salad dressing and ketchup and tomato sauce and healthy Granola bars, that they’re actually buying things that are loaded with sugar and that can potentially make them sick.
We have one in three kids in America overweight or obese. We’re heading to a time where one in three people are going to have diabetes. And, we’re also at a point where this generation of children is going to live a shorter lifespan than their parents. Come on, this is an emergency!
Stephanie Soechtig: Every film pushes the envelope. With Super Size Me, they eliminated super-size portions from McDonald’s. Food Inc. pushed the needle a little bit further. We’re now going to push it all the way over. I think there’s a lot more to tell still, so I think that’s why. There’s a big need for it.
Q: How did this documentary come into shape?
Laurie David: It really started with Katie Couric, because she had been covering the issues of diet and exercise for her entire career. And she asked, “why is everybody getting sicker and sicker? Why haven’t we figured this [diet problem] out and solved it? There’s got to be more to the story.” And so she had interviewed Stephanie, who did a great documentary about bottled water called Tapped, and [Couric] connected with [Soechtig] when she interviewed her. Katie called her and followed up, and she wanted to see if Steph wanted to explore this issue in a deeper way and try to come up with some answers. Then, they brought me in.
Stephanie Soechtig: We said we wanted to create a food movement much in the way An Inconvenient Truth created the climate change movement. And who better to reach out to than this illustrious producer?
Laurie David: And I said yes immediately, not knowing either one of these women. I had made the very wise decision to recruit Heather and brought her onto the team.
Q: Fed Up follows a few teenagers, who are overweight and who give very revealing insights into their difficult time losing weight. How did you find these teens and how emotional was it to record their experiences?
Stephanie Soechtig: It was extremely difficult. It took about eight months to cast the film. We gave the families video diaries. So, not only were they incredibly generous and courageous with the things they spoke about on camera, but there was also a lot of work involved. Every two weeks, they were mailing back these cameras to us for us to download [the footage] and send back. It was important to us that we find families that represented different socioeconomic [statuses] and different parts of the country, so that we were representing everyone. Because, this is everyone’s problem. And we wanted to make sure that we weren’t stereotyping the issue in any way. This is why you see such a broad mix of kids and families in the film.