Gavin McInnes, funny who co-founded Vice Magazine as well as a number of enterprising short films, went up against science in a documentary that aimed to break the Guinness world book for consistent movie watching.
Netflix added a prize worth $10,000 and eight people climbed on board for the chance to win the title and the cash. The rules? Each contestant had to stay awake without the assistance of any drugs and watch as many films as possible within the confines of a clear plexiglass box in the middle of Times Square. Elongated blinkers would be axed. It was a fight to the finish.
And their documentary, “A Million in the Morning,” is the finished product. Not only does it expose the quirkiness one would rightfully expect from a mission such as this, but also the affects of not sleeping for five days. “When they needed someone to host (‘A Million in the Morning’), they chose me. We were actually working on a pilot at the time and I said, ‘sure I’ll stay awake for five days.’ The thing with staying awake for five days,” explained McInnes, “it’s like saying, ‘sure I’ll take acid.'”
McInnes described the initial thesis as a lose question where everyone involved wanted to see where this documentary experiment would go. “We took it the only place it could go, which is crazy-town. And the top hated it, gave everyone shit and I think some people lost their jobs.”
But staying awake five days is no simple task. Competitors, host and crew all attempted the feat at a cost they hadn’t seen coming. Doctors had no idea what participants could expect without their nightly z’s so what came out was a huge surprise. “One thing that happens is you start remembering all these songs that get stuck in your head from childhood that you wouldn’t have thought of before. It’s kind of a cleansing thing, in a backwards way. Sleep depravation makes you nuts; (the crew) kept throwing a bunny head at me and I hallucinated it everywhere I went. It was a total brain journey.”
And the experience of living without sleep in Times Square for a week was further authenticated by the friends, and enemies, made along the way. “We were awake so long we got to know homeless people. And one night we were crossing the street and someone tried to kill me. I’m not kidding. I was attached to the camera because of my mic cord and a Maserati picked up speed and was headed straight for us –probably some Russian coke dealer, who knows– but luckily the camera guy saw him coming and got us out of the way in time.”
Recovery from such a process isn’t as timely as one might think, and McInnes described it as a regular night’s sleep, plus a few hours. But all said and done, he won’t be participating in anything like this soon. “I’m glad I have (the experience) under my belt, but I’d never do it again. It’s like natural childbirth: next time I’d want an epidural.”
The documentary is available for purchase and more information on “A Million In the Morning” can be found on their site, www.amillioninthemorning.com