Fifteen Minutes of Fame: Cannibal

Fifteen Minutes of Fame: Cannibal

"There's a shocking ambition among people to be on television," notes Perry Grebin, director of the documentary American Cannibal. "They believe that the reality show is the easiest route. American Cannibal is a documentary about the appetite that we have for watching ourselves become entertainment." 

 

Co-director Michael Nigro explains the making of the documentary. "It was a classic bait-and-switch. The contestants thought they were going to a show called Starvation Island, but it was pretty much a lie," he says.  

Perry adds, "The first day the contestants arrived on the island, they were told they were, in fact, on American Cannibal. Nobody left. Nobody was afraid. They still wanted to do it."

One of the people interviewed in the documentary is Kevin Blatt, a former adult movie producer. "He is the dark side of fame. He represents the slime. He represents anything that you wouldn't talk about at the dinner table," says Perry.

 

During the making of American Cannibal, Michael and Perry were amazed by the lengths some people were willing to go to for stardom.  "I'd love to be naked all the time!" one contestant gushes on tape. 

"Would you be willing to eat one of their fingers or toes?" contestants are asked.

"Not the thumb, or, like, the big toe," one hopeful replies.

"Do I have to chew it and spit it out?" another man inquires.

Reflecting on the documentary, Michael says, "Whether or not they were going to have to eat somebody was irrelevant. They would do it to be famous. Back in the day, people used to be famous for an achievement. Now it seems fame is the achievement."

"What gave you the idea to do this?" Dr. Phil asks the directors. 

Perry replies, "We just thought there was a lot of low-brow stuff on television. Why does television have to promote all the stuff? Why does it have to go to that level? We went into pitch meetings. We followed writers into pitch meetings."

"You followed these two particular writers pitching this idea of Starvation Island?" Dr. Phil asks.

"They eventually got to Starvation Island. They began with sitcoms, found that nobody would listen to them, and they started doing reality TV," Perry answers. "That's what was going to sell. They knew that."

 

Dr. Phil turns to Kevin Blatt in the audience. "[The two writers] actually pitched this to you, correct?" he asks.

"That's correct," Kevin replies. "When they came to me about this Starvation thing, I said, 'Well, this is really something. We can really see people get real. When you take away the cameras, you take away the booms, there really is no such thing as reality television, Dr. Phil."

"What was the most shocking thing that you guys came away from doing this with?" Dr. Phil asks. 

"We shot for two-and-a-half years. Three hundred hours of footage, we boiled down to 90 minutes. We found very early on in the documentary that when we turned the camera on, everything changed. Their behavior changes," Michael reveals.

Perry concurs. "If you watch enough reality shows, you see how they're just squeezed and bent. Reality is just twisted up until it becomes just hype. We actually have come to a point where we much prefer the imitation of reality than the real thing. Hype is really all we're after. This is why Anna Nicole Smith leads the news, ahead of anything that really, really affects the country."

"Were you guys at all surprised about how base this got down to, in terms of what people were willing to do?" Dr. Phil inquires. 

"It's incredible to watch people parade themselves in front of the camera. Hundreds of people across the country, different cities, different places, they all have different demographics, they all come from different families, but there is something about the fame that they believe is on the other side of that lens that makes them do whatever it takes to get on television," Perry explains. "We're showing people at their worse, and Kevin is no exception."

Dr. Phil addresses Kevin again. "You objected to the way they portray you in this documentary," he says.

"When I originally saw the movie, I wasn't very happy with the way I was portrayed," Kevin admits. 

"Why?" Perry asks. 

"You guys did paint me a little bit to be a scumbag and sleaze ball, but we got past that," Kevin replies. 

Perry is aghast. "Painted you? It's color-by-numbers with you, Kevin," he counters. 

"I am Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter. Since I've gotten in the adult industry, there's a big A hanging on my chest. That big A has cost me a lot of things over the years. I've never been able to find the right lady. I've never been able to settle down and start a family," Kevin complains. 

"Thank goodness for Kevin, because he makes the movie very interesting," Perry says. "God bless you, Kevin. You're a sleaze ball. You're the villain. I thank you for it, but at the same time, you represent going the lowest anybody can go."