All documentaries encounter unexpected delays. I’m disappointed to share with you that we’ve been hit with a doozy. Here’s what happened.
Late last year, I was contacted by PR representatives from the Solo Cup company who (unsurprisingly) had become aware of our project. They wanted to know more, and offered to make themselves helpful. I was skeptical at the outset, but as I had more conversations with these reps in the early part of 2013, I became very excited. They informed me that Solo had already begun doing some archival research on our behalf: collecting old print and video advertising materials for the original “party cup”, even offering to make early product-design sketches and technical drawings of the cup available to us as visual material. Even better, they offered to connect me with some potentially fascinating characters from the party cup’s early manufacturing days.
Solo (through their representative) asked me to send over a short synopsis of our film and summary of the background materials I was interested in, based on these conversations, so that we could start moving forward. You can read it here if you're curious, but here's the short version of it: “I, Party Cup” would not be a piece of “outsourced PR” for Solo, but neither would it be a Frontline-style investigative “expose” of corporate/environmental malfeasance; instead, it would be more akin to an episode of “This American Life.” A vignette; a story. Just like the trailer said.
A few weeks after I sent this document, I received a call from the Solo representative. All the background information, almost all of the materials, even the people they offered to connect me with—it was all “gone.” The rep denied that it was ever there to begin with. He explained to me that because Solo was acquired by the Dart Container Corporation last year, all of this “institutional knowledge” was no longer available. Even though we’d already been discussing it for months—and *they* had offered it up, unbidden, in the first place!
I couldn't help but assume that something in our film treatment/summary had spooked someone. I said as much to the representative; he denied it. I asked how these resources could be “there” one day and “not” the next, especially when Dart had completed its acquisition of Solo in May 2012—before our Kickstarter even launched. At this point the rep seemed pretty uncomfortable, but he held his line--professionally, to his credit--that Dart/Solo wouldn’t be able to help me (though he did offer up a contact at Dart if I wanted to keep at it). And he said he was sorry for the inconvenience.
The simplest interpretation of what happened seems to be that after quite a lot of friendly and open discussion about collaboration, some decision-maker at Dart read our synopsis and felt it was necessary to 180 on us. It’s a very disappointing setback, but that's their right—and it doesn’t make our film any less possible to make. It’ll just take more time—since research and preparation will be going back nearly to square one. For this, I apologize to all of you who were looking forward to seeing “I, Party Cup” this spring.
I plan to keep a channel open with Dart as we move forward, just in case they change their mind, but at this point I’m taking them at their word. And I’ll keep all of you informed as we continue to push our story forward.