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10 years later, 'One Direction: This Is Us' is a fascinating look back on one of the world's biggest boybands

10 years later, 'One Direction: This Is Us' is a fascinating look back on one of the world's biggest boybands
  • Ten years ago, "One Direction: This Is Us" hit theaters.

  • The documentary followed the five band members on their tour and told their life stories.

  • Critics liked it. Fans loved it. Insider spoke to the producers and editors about the film.

Ten years ago, the five floppy-haired members of One Direction made the jump from international pop singing sensations to the silver screen.

A 90-minute documentary about the band — with members Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson — was released in theaters and followed the young A-listers on tour and back home, right at their super-fame tipping point.

Fans already felt ownership of the young 20-somethings, often posting about their favorite members in online forums, but this documentary offered something they didn't have before — unprecedented access.

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Directed by Morgan Spurlock, the movie delivered a quick-hit history of the band: verité-style footage of their lives on tour and at home, a chronological dive into their rise to fame, talking-head-style interviews with the band and their closest collaborators, and even 3D concert footage.

Ten years later, producer Adam Milano and editors Pierre Takal and Cori Wapnowska looked back at the making of "One Direction: This Is Us," a film that teeters a line between cult classic for a loyal fandom and, perhaps unexpectedly, an exemplar of 2010s filmmaking and culture.

The 2010s were a perfect storm for the creation of 'One Direction: This Is Us'

Back in August 2013, the world was a different place: Barack Obama had been sworn into his second term in office, twerking had just gone mainstream, and everyone was doing the "Harlem Shake." There was also a hunger for big-budget music documentaries following the success of 2012's "Katy Perry: Part of Me" and 2011's "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never."

"This genre of movies was really working at the time, theatrically," "This Is Us" producer Adam Milano told Insider.

Back then, Milano was working at Simon Cowell's label Syco Records, which first signed One Direction. He'd previously worked at Sony Pictures as a film executive working with Cowell, who alongside Nicole Scherzinger was credited for putting the five members of the band together on "The X Factor UK" in 2010.

"One Direction had some big songs and were rapidly becoming this supergroup," Milano said. "As I was leaving Sony, Hanuman Gala, who was the president of production at the time — she and I connected on, 'We should try to get a One Direction movie going.'"

Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles at One Direction This IS Us premiere
One Direction has been on hiatus since 2015, two years after their film premiered.Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

The timing was perfect. The band had two consecutive No. 1 albums to their name — "Up All Night" and "Take Me Home" — and a growing young fanbase with millions of singles sold.

Pierre Takal, the lead editor on the film who previously worked with MTV and VH1 throughout the 2000s, said the early vision for the documentary was simple: "Gather as much personal information about each member, and see what you can do with it."

"You had five distinct stories, which was part of the challenge — you don't want to fall into the formula of telling one story, and then the next story, starting from zero each time," Takal continued.

The movie was inspired by the Beatles mockumentary 'A Hard Day's Night,' both in tone and in fan adoration

"One Direction: This Is Us" opens with a series of photographic stills of baby photos and sleepy suburban streets as the members of One Direction share memories from when they were kids and their young dreams of stardom, which they would go on to achieve.

The structure of the movie is familiar to music-documentary fans: Follow the artists from their origins and hometowns, include concert footage and intimate scenes with family, discuss insecurities to add depth, and cut to backstage debauchery to keep it light.

The mood board included the 1964 Beatles mockumentary "A Hard Day's Night," which followed the legendary band through a day in their life.

"It's different from what we made, but the boys were always funny," Milano said. "We knew it needed to have that kind of levity."

It proved to be an organic reference point. Throughout "One Direction: This Is Us," the band jokes around, even dressing up in prosthetics and interacting with their fans, who were none the wiser.

"That was definitely not concocted for the movie, that was them doing that and we got the coverage," Milano said.

Takal sees the Beatles connection in a different way: In the intense fan adoration that followed the band wherever they went.

When they captured the sound of 20,000 fans screaming at London's famous O2 Arena for the 3D concert footage, Takal recalled, "I had to actually cover my ears during the cheering."

Milano still remembers the scene in the movie where One Direction enters Madison Square Garden in December 2012. It was their first time headlining the iconic venue and tickets had sold out in minutes — the crowd response wasn't much different from what was recorded in O2.

The documentary also highlighted tender moments behind the scenes

But all docs require balance, so the team made sure to weave in emotional moments, like when Malik bought a home for his mom. The movie's crew followed Malik's mom and sisters as they toured the new home. Malik's busy schedule, of course, didn't allow him to be there.

"It's like a dream come true," she says to her son over the phone. "You always used to say, 'I'll always get you a house, mum, when I'm older.'" She starts to cry, and he responds, "That's the best thing about what we're doing."

Still from One Direction This Is Us movie of band members wearing sunglasses
"One Direction: This Is Us" has a mix of sentimental moments, funny scenes, and concert footage.Christie Goodwin/Sony Pictures

"The conversation was how do we create a little bit more sensitivity and intimacy that it's not just, 'They go around driving forklifts backstage while they're on tour,'" Milano said. "Those are fun scenes, but you can't have it all at 11 all the time. You have to bring it down and incorporate some more heartfelt stuff."

The film also weaves in scenes of the band members' parents talking about when their sons left home to lead superstar lives. Milano said those scenes, placed after ascendant live music coverage, brought a kind of sweetness to the doc — One Direction was breaking records, but they were also missing their families.

Still, the filmmakers wanted to avoid turning the documentary into a cliché that explored the "dark side" of fame.

"It's a pretty ruthless world. You don't get to be a kid," Takal said. "There's no coach that's going to tell you what to do when it's all over. But we couldn't go very far into that — those moments had to be kept short."

3D elements were the film's other big draw, made possible thanks to the big budget and big-name director

In the early 2010s, 3D was viewed as the future of filmmaking and the One Direction documentary wanted in on it.

"Being able to see your favorite boyband in 3D was really marketable at the time," Milano recalled. "It's funny how that's not the case anymore."

"Morgan Spurlock had a lot of creative control — he had the trust of the studio," said Wapnowska. Previously, Spurlock had worked on hits like "Super Size Me" (2004) and "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" (2011).

Filming was done with dozens of cameras and the idea was to "get people in expensive 3D theaters."

"People thought everything was going to be 'Avatar' because it made James Cameron so much money," Wapnowska added. "Avatar" debuted in 2009 — in 2D as well as 3D — and made over $1 billion at the box office.

Of course, "One Direction: This Is Us" was not "Avatar." It was designed to appeal to a large group of band loyalists, not the general public, and it was shot in under a year to accommodate the group's impossible schedule loaded with tours and recording sessions.

Still, Takal said, the movie budget of $10 million was "a pretty big amount" at the time for a documentary like this.

The investment seemed to pay off almost immediately when the film made $8.9 million on the first day of its theatrical release. It would gross over $68 million worldwide.

'One Direction: This Is Us' was always for the fans

When "One Direction: This Is Us" was released in August 2013, it was mostly met with positivity from critics who saw it for what it was — a keepsake of sorts made with fans of the band in mind.

"The main criticism from older people about One Direction, or any boy band, is that 'they get created in a lab and it's all just to make money,'" Wapnowska said. "But then you see the humanity of it unfold, these kids handling this type of success in a really healthy way — and with a kind of irreverence and inner joy."

harry styles signing autographs for fans at this is us movie premiere in 2013
Harry Styles signing autographs at the world premiere of "One Direction: This Is Us."Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images

For Milano, the doc was always about the fans.

"I don't remember a lot of the reviews. I do remember the premieres: Standing at Leicester Square with wall-to-wall fans, packed for the premiere," Milano said. "I remember sitting there, thinking, 'I will never experience this again.'"

After the movie, the band's world tours upgraded from arenas to stadiums. They would release three more albums before going on indefinite hiatus in 2015.

"One Direction: This Is Us" was not the first nor the last of its kind. Artists like Shawn Mendes, Bad Bunny, Taylor Swift, and the group Blackpink have all had their own documentaries in recent years.

But a decade later, "One Direction: This Is Us" still stands out for following the band at their entry into global superstardom. It gives fans the chance to relieve those early years, and others a peek into early 2010s boyband culture, the likes of which we may never see again.

Read the original article on Insider