The above video is 3 minutes long.
Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.
THAT SUGAR FILM is touring Australia in March. Click Here for details.
This week we welcome Australian writer and director of the movie ‘That Sugar Film’. A movie we feel that should be seen by every family here in Australia!
THAT SUGAR FILM is one mans journey to discover the bitter truth about sugar. Damon Gameau embarks on a unique experiment to document the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body, consuming only foods that are commonly perceived as ‘healthy’.
Through this entertaining and informative journey, Damon highlights some of the issues that plague the sugar industry, and reveals where sugar lurks on supermarket shelves. THAT SUGAR FILM will change the way you think about ‘healthy’ food forever.
Full Interview with Damon Gameau THAT SUGAR FILM
- Why an ex pizza-eating smoker made a movie about sugar
- The staggering effects of eating 40g of sugar a day for 60 days
- The everyday foods containing hidden sugars that shocked Damon the most
- Damons thoughts on exercising for weight loss after his experiment (I bet it’s not what you think!)
- Why every school in Australia needs to see ‘That Sugar Film’
- What Damon eats in a day
- And much much more…
Get More of Damon Gameau & That Sugar Film Here:
Guy Lawrence: Hey, this is Guy Lawrence from 180 Nutrition, and welcome to another episode of the Health Sessions. Our fantastic guest today is Aussie actor/film director Damon Gameau.
Now, he is the man behind the new movie that’s just about to be released called That Sugar Film. And, yes, need we say any more with a title like that. But I have had the privilege of seeing it and it’s fantastic and we certainly recommend that you go and check it out. And especially get your family and friends involved as well.
It was a privilege having Damon on the show today. He’s a lot of fun, and, yeah, he’s a very honest guy, too, and just tells it like it is. So it was awesome. And I have no doubt you’ll enjoy this episode.
If you are listening to this through iTunes, as always, just a little simple review: click five stars, subscribe, anything. It just helps us get the word out there; we know you’re enjoying it, too. And it’s always much appreciated. And, of course, come on back to our website, which is 180Nutrition.com.au. These are shot in video as well, if you want to sit there and see our pretty faces as we talk.
Anyway, let’s go over to Damon. Enjoy the show. This is a good one. Cheers.
Hi, this is Guy Lawrence. I’m joined with Stuart Cooke, as always. Hi, Stewie.
Stuart Cooke: Hi, mate.
Guy Lawrence: And our awesome guest today is Damon Gameau. Damon, welcome to the show. And I hope I pronounced your surname correctly. My Welsh is…
Damon Gameau: You got it right. And the fact that I’m an awesome guest is even better. So thank you.
Guy Lawrence: Well, mate, I’m gonna actually keep adding the kindness, because myself and Stu went to the screening last week of your movie. And I have to say, like, we’ve been in this industry a long time. We see a lot of obviously documentaries, things coming up. Your movie was amazing. Like, you nailed it. The message, everything, I thought was fantastic.
Damon Gameau: Thank you.
I genuinely mean that. I think everybody in Australia needs to see this film. It was just awesome.
Damon Gameau: Thank you, Guy. That’s a lovely accolade. Yeah, not many people have seen it, obviously. There’s only; they’re starting to do the sort of media screenings now. So, it’s lovely to get feedback because I’m very proud of it and very excited by the potential of what it can do and how far it can reach. And so far the people who have seen it have been very supportive. So, it bodes for exciting times ahead.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Good on you.
Stuart Cooke: It does indeed.
Guy Lawrence: And the way we always start the show, mate, is just, I guess, to get our guests to tell us a little bit about themselves and their journey and, you know, what happened. Why even get to this movie in the first place?
Damon Gameau: Well, I do, actually, my girlfriend and I, Zoe, I still often say to her: “How did I end up making a film and writing a book about sugar? Like, how did that happen? Because really I had no interest in nutrition at all three years ago. It was a topic I didn’t really take much care of myself and the way I fed myself and I was can of Coke a day man. And I loved my chocolates and my sweet tooth.
So, it is very odd that I have been down this incredible rabbit hole for the last three years and looking at everything to do with sugar and reading every book and every scientific study and feel like I’ve met most of the people that know what they’re talking about around the world now.
So, it’s been very rewarding. It’s been an amazing journey. But I guess it started when I did meet my girlfriend seven years ago and I was that typical male that was probably not quite on the tracks. I was a little bit loose. And, as often happens with a man, you meet a woman just at the right time and she steers you in the right direction and I spent the first few weeks of our relationship pretending to love, kind of, cucumber and kale smoothies and organic chia seeds on avocado, whole-grain bread, and all these kind of things.
And I guess I just started cutting out refined sugar from my diet and noticed an immediate effect. People would comment on my healthy, glowing skin and my radiant eyes and I’d lost a bit of weight and I guess the major surprise was I noticed my moods had started to even out. I felt more consistent and calm and I just had more clarity throughout the day.
So, I probably cut almost all of it out for about three years and didn’t really think much of it. And then I won a short film competition called Tropfest and I was; I’m an actor, I’ve been an actor for 10 years, and I was in India doing a film called Save Your Legs about a group of cricketers. And the company, Madman, said to me, “Look, do you have any desire to make a feature film?”
And I said, well, at the moment, at the time, I was thinking about an idea of taking quite a healthy male, which was me at the time, and what would happen if I lay down quite sedentary for about a month and read trashy magazines and you fed me hospital food for a month. I wanted to see what would actually happen to the body, if you would actually get better or if you would get worse.
And I guess that’s kind of, it went from there, and I sort of mentioned that there was something about this sugar story. It was starting to appear in the press and the camps were very divided. Some groups were saying it was toxic and poison and other camps were saying it was great for energy.
So I thought, “There’s a lot of confusion around this. I think it warrants some kind of further investigation.” And got together with two of my best friends and we sort of brainstormed some ideas.
And right from the get-go I sort of thought, well, however we do this, we’ve got to make it fun and playful and accessible. And I read a terrific quote from Oscar Wilde and he said, “If you want to tell people the truth, you’ve got to make them laugh or they’ll kill you.”
And I thought that was a really great motto for any film that I wanted to make, and especially in this area of nutrition and fun if you do want to get a message across it can’t be sort of dry and scientific.
So, that was sort of something that stuck with us right from the beginning and, look, it’s just one of those beautiful stories you feel like it needed to be told and it’s just flowed. Every week someone comes along and offers help and it just unfolds and the story, and suddenly you’ve got Hugh Jackman, Stephen Fry and all these other people, and Jamie Oliver and now it’s gonna release across the U.S. and UK.
And it’s just sort of just unfolded in a beautiful way quite organically over the last three years and I feel very proud to be a part of it and just thrilled about what it might achieve.
Stuart Cooke: It’s the universe, mate. It was meant to be.
Damon Gameau: Well, I firmly believe that stuff and sometimes you get on a current or like a stream and it just flows and you go with it and you just enjoy the ride.
Stuart Cooke: So, for our listeners out there who may not be aware of the movie and may have just seen the poster that, you know, That Sugar Film, just a very brief synopsis of the film, I guess.
Damon Gameau: Yeah, well, I guess because I was aware that there were so many arguments around this issue and it was quite confusing for the public, I thought the only way I can actually find out is to have an experience myself.
So in the vein of Super Size Me I decided that I would eat what most Australians are eating every day, which was 40 teaspoons of sugar. But the catch would be, I think we all inherently know that if we have too many Cokes and Mars bars we’re gonna get sick. But I was starting to be aware that there is so much sugar hidden in other foods, and quite often food that are perceived to be healthy or marketed in a very healthy way. They’ve got a bee on the cover or a sunset or Mother Nature or some kind of wording like that. And they’re often laced with sugar.
And so I thought: I wonder what would happen if I ate my 40 teaspoons a day, but only ate those foods? So, the experiment is that I don’t have any junk food, no lollies or chocolate or ice cream or soft drink, even. That all the sugar I have is in low-fat yogurts, muesli bars, sports drinks, vitamin waters, all these kind of foods.
And, I guess, yeah. I just set out from there. I assembled a team of experts, scientists and doctors that were kind of monitoring my results, very much like Super Size Me. And, in fact, I actually had a few emails with Morgan Spurlock early on because I kind of considered him as this sort of grand master human lab rat. And I thought that he could maybe sort of monitor my results and I could have a Skype call in every now and again and go, “Hey, Morgan, I’m doing it tough. Any tips?”
But he was too busy doing the One Direction documentary. So, I sort of went it alone. And, yeah, look, obviously, people who have seen the film, you know I really didn’t know what to expect. We were very low budget in the first three weeks because there was a chance there might not be any results.
But within 12 days I had put on three kilos. And then after 18 days I had developed fatty liver disease. And that was sort of the big turning point, I guess. I remember being in the clinic and ringing the producers and them said, “How’d you go, mate?” I said, “Well, I’ve got fatty liver disease.” And they said, “Yes! That’s so good.” They were loving it.
Guy Lawrence: This is a two-fold question. Were you nervous before you just started the 60-day experiment? And then what shocked you the most during the 60-day experiment?
Damon Gameau: I don’t think I was very nervous to start with, because I really had no idea what to expect. I mean, I thought it might be a complete fizz out, really. I guess I didn’t understand the nutrition.
And other people said to me, “You’re crazy. There’s gonna be effects.” But because I didn’t understand all this stuff well enough, I just thought, well, it’s healthy. Juice is fine. What’s wrong with a Powerade? You know.
So, I guess it was only as we went on that I started to realize things were getting a bit serious. And I really felt, obviously, my moods were just a complete train wreck. Then towards the end some of the doctors were saying, look, you’re very close to cirrhosis of the liver, which is the hardening of the liver when it’s tricky to turn around from there.
And I guess that’s when it dawned on me, plus my girlfriend was pregnant at the time; we were very close to having a baby. So, that was the moment where I went, “OK. All the fun and games are over now. It’s time to stop and, as you see in the film, the beautiful thing that happened that none of us expected is that the minute I cut out all those sugars again and refined carbohydrates, I lost 90 percent of the weight, my fatty liver disease completely turned around, my heart disease, all my lipid risk factors, insulin sensitivity, completely reversed, just from changing my diet.
And, look, I think that’s a beautiful takeaway message from the film is that it is possible to turn things around and turn around very quickly by eating the right foods.
Stuart Cooke: It’s unreal, isn’t it? We’re almost beautifully equipped to be healthy and enjoy a perfect health, given the right raw materials.
Damon Gameau: Well, it’s our natural disposition, our natural state, like anything in nature, it’s supposed to abundant, and it’s only when we block that flow that we get troubles. And nutrition is no different.
Stuart Cooke: Absolutely right. Any particular foods that shocked you with their hidden sugar content?
Damon Gameau: Look, I think, probably early on drinks was the big one. I just, you know, I think we all understand that a can of Coke’s got probably eight teaspoons of sugar in it. But when you start seeing Lipton ice teas and flavoured milks and, you know, vitamin waters; all these things that are just full of sugar, that was a big shock for me.
And we know now from the science that it’s particularly detrimental because of the way that it just floods the liver so quickly that it turns to fat a lot faster than other foods that might metabolize a bit slower.
So, drinks are really the thing we need to get ahold of very quickly because they are causing a lot of problems.
But then there’s things like sauces, you know. There’s a great stat we put out recently where one tablespoon of barbecue sauce has two teaspoons of sugar in it. You know? And that’s just like…
And there’s a fat-free mayonnaise that’s got just, nearly the same amount of sugar or perhaps more than a can of Coke. So, I think people need to start reading labels. And, again, that’s something we want to address in the film, that there’s a lot of ambiguity around food labeling and certainly a lack of accountability and integrity in terms of what these companies are able to put on their products.
And, as we know, people believe those slogans. They believe what they read. And we’ve got to change that.
Guy Lawrence: Don’t second-guess it. What amazed me about when you were doing the experiment was the fact that I think you were racking up so much sugar just by breakfast time. And I see so many people eating their meals constantly.
Because I don’t eat; honestly, I’ve been eating this way for eight, nine years and it doesn’t even occur to me to look at the labels and count sugar because I just avoid those foods.
Damon Gameau: That’s right.
Guy Lawrence: But when you’re hitting over 20 grams of sugar by breakfast time, that’s insane.
Damon Gameau: Well, that’s right. And I guess that’s the first meal I had, and straightaway I knew that there was something going on because I’d had a bowl of Just Rights and some low-fat peach-flavored yogurt and a glass of apple juice and that was 20 teaspoons.
And that is marketed as a very healthy cereal. And most people think they’re doing the right thing and give that to their kids every day and that’s where we need to change the paradigm, because that’s unfair to those people who think they’re doing the right thing. And especially when you look at the effects on sugar on cognition and we look at the area of hyperglycemia and what happens and how the brain releases all these chemicals to deal with that sugar crash.
And you’ve got to think about school kids and what’s happening to them when they’re trying to learn in class at 9:15 after a breakfast like that. And if they’re struggling to concentrate and be focused, then we’ve got to have a look at what their diet is and start adding more fats and proteins in there so that they can have a more stable metabolism.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. I think the one thing, as well, I saw about the movie was product placement. I thought it was the first movie that I actually think it’s justified in such a great way, because you don’t hold back at all. And it’s good to see and it highlights, actually, what’s going on, because it makes it very real.
Damon Gameau: Yeah, we’ll see. Because it hasn’t been released yet.
Guy Lawrence: That was gonna be the next question.
Damon Gameau: Yeah, look, that was something that I was very adamant that I wanted to happen, and I think what protects us is that I’m not making anything up. Anything I show, I’m showing them the exact amount of teaspoons that are in that product. And we’re not fabricating anything. It’s just that those figures are often very tough for people to read. And what we’re doing is showing the easy way to read them.
So, hopefully, that will protect us in a way. We’re not sort of, I guess, making anything up. It’s just people need to be aware of how to read labels. Because at the moment, people don’t know.
Guy Lawrence: Have you had any criticism yet, on that side, or is it anything starting to lurk or?
Damon Gameau: Yeah, there’s been; I met a man, a lovely man, Kelly Brownell, in America and he studied this area and he’s looked at tobacco and food and the correlations between the tactics that the sugar companies use and the food industries use. And, look, some of them are quite subversive. It’s almost that there’s, you know, a couple of people that like to really tweak quite aggressive personal things, to me, or they’ll just start trolling or kind of, they’ll go onto our Facebook page and start just presenting counterarguments.
And this is what they’ve done for years. If they can create a sense of ambiguity in the public arena, then that’s all they need to do, because people start questioning it. And they’re masters of that. And as you see in the film, we meet someone who actually works for Coke and I would argue that that’s part of his role is to sort of put this message out there that, ah, it’s all: “Don’t worry about this fructose stuff. Sugar’s fine. Everyone’s just overreacting.”
But I think there’s enough science coming out now. In fact, pouring out. And there’s even a terrific new website that’s just started out of the University of California called Sugar Science, and I’ve looked at and reviewed 8,000 studies that link sugar to various metabolic diseases.
So, you know, that’s a terrific reference for me to have now. And some of those people have run that arena in the film. And I think so what that means is, people have said to me if the science is in, they’re gonna go to the man, so you’re probably going to get a couple of snide personal attacks. But I kind of knew that right from the get-go, and I knew what I was in for.
But, look, I’m pretty confident there’s such a groundswell of people that understand this now and there’s a real community that’s really pushing for some kind of food revolution, as you guys would know. So, I feel pretty protected by what’s going on. So, it will come and it will just; water off a duck’s back.
Stuart Cooke: Bring it on, we say.
Damon Gameau: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: We’re ready. We’re ready.
So, with everything that you know right now about diet, and million dollar question, what are your thoughts on exercise for weight loss now?
Damon Gameau: Well, look. I can only speak from my personal experience. And I’ve always been a lazy exerciser, so I don’t do cardio. I just don’t like it. And when I stopped the experiment, I was, again, I put on 8 and a half kilos, I got the fatty liver disease, 10 centimetres of visceral fat around my waist. And I thought, well, I didn’t really give much thought about how I was gonna lose it. And I sat down straightaway and started editing the film. I was writing the book as well. So, I was in front of a laptop for the best part of two months.
And just by eating those healthy foods again, going back to my old diet, I lost, like I said, 90 percent of the weight and turned everything around.
And I was doing very minimal exercise. I mean, I was still being active. I was going for walks with my girlfriend down the road and sometimes I would do a little bit of sort of light weights and things like that. But from my perspective, I think this sort of, I guess it’s almost a myth that’s embedded in culture now that says you’ve got to; you put on the calories, you’ve got to burn off the equivalent amount. I think that’s a lot of rubbish, from my experience that nutrition plays the far more important role in weight loss.
And that’s not to begrudge exercise. There are terrific benefits and endorphin releases and all sorts of other factors, but as a weight loss tool I think we need to rethink that. And you guys have seen in the film that I didn’t eat any more calories than I did before the experience. And that’s another huge topic I think people should get out of the film which is the way people perceive calories and some of the science now that says, hey, maybe the calories from sugar actually behave very differently from other calories and it isn’t as it seems.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely. And Stewie over there, I’ll just give you a little bit of insight, he is the calorie-eating champion. And you can see his abs, mate. He’ll crank it up. And it just goes to show that…
Stuart Cooke: That’s it. I mean, it’s such an open book on that. There are so many other variables. We’ve got genetics and of course a calorie is not a calorie. You know, 500 calories of broccoli versus 500 calories of bread and jam are gonna behave so radically different.
Damon Gameau: That’s right. I hope we get to a point, too, that we realize that, as you guys know, we are all different and there is no guide all of us can follow. There are so many factors, hormonally or genetically, whatever it is that are going on, that, you know, I certainly don’t want people to go, “Hey, this is the truth! This sugar message.” I know there are millions of people out there that won’t have the same effects from this diet that I did. But my hunch is that there are probably more that will, and they’ll benefit from the movie.
But I’m certainly not being dogmatic about it and saying everyone else has to cut out sugar like I did. Some people can have it, and lucky them. I mean, I’m one of those people when I smoked, it was a pack a day. I couldn’t just dabble in one or two cigarettes. And I’m the same with sugar. I can’t have a couple of pieces of chocolate. That packet is gone by morning.
And, you know, that’s just me and I accept that. But I just think if, given we are around 30 to 50 teaspoons a day, we can get it around to the World Health Organization which says six, we’re going to see a dramatic overhaul in our health system; the finance that it’s costing us and on people’s wellbeing and happiness.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, definitely. Have you gone and influenced your friends, like from making this movie in the way they eat and look at things?
Damon Gameau: In a kind of annoying way, I guess, sometimes I’ll meet a friend and they’ll have, like, a juice on the table and they’ll literally hide it under the table. I’m not that guy! I can’t help that. I think I’ve just gone and done that and I’ll have to live with it.
But, yeah, a lot of my friends who thought this was all a bit weird when we started, I mean, when we started this three years ago, there were hardly any articles about sugar. It was not in the mainstream at all. And I was actually thinking that we’d probably break the story, which is so naïve now.
But, yeah, I think people have sort of gone, “Wow, OK. So, you know, you got onto this at the right time. It really has exploded.” And people are being more aware. They are reading their labels and, I guess, what’s great, some of my friends are being very particular about what they feed their kids. And that’s the most important area for me, and that’s why I’ve aimed the film at kids and families is that if we can cut off that generation at the pass before they ingrain any of these eating habits and get this taste of the sweet and preference for the sweet, then we’ve kind of got a better chance of helping them in the future.
Stuart Cooke: Perfect. And a perfect place to start. So, I’ve got kids. Most of my friends have got kids as well. Where would a family start on this journey? I mean, would it be cold turkey? Because I can imagine a lots of screaming kids crying when they’re not getting the foods they love.
Damon Gameau: No. That’s a disaster; the cold-turkey method. I mean, unless you understand it, and I was lucky that I’d been through that process before, when I gave it up a few years ago. So I knew what to expect.
I think we’ve got to be very careful about this, especially when you are in this space, there is a very; culture is very black and white and, you know, there isn’t that sort of gray area. And this is something, because of sugar’s emotional ties, we know that it releases the same endorphins that love releases, and there are very strong reward circuits that are activated with sugar, is that it has become a reward and a comfort for a lot of people. And they will turn to it in a difficult time.
So, if you just suddenly rip that away, there is gonna be some form of trauma, obviously, varied from person to person. So, I think we have to be very understanding of that, be very kind to ourselves, and sort of come off that very slowly.
And it’s obviously foods that are really great in that regard. There are sweet potato for someone just starting off, or there’s certain fruits, like the berries that I use, they’ve still got a sweetness to them but they help you slowly come off instead of just making that sudden jolt.
So, in the book I sort of talk about that a lot and eventually you can get to a point where maybe you’re having no sugar, that’s fine, but I think you’ve just got to make sure that you treat yourself very, very gently because it can be tough.
Stuart Cooke: Absolutely.
Guy Lawrence: Me not be not a parent yet, the part in the movie where you ate your last meal, and it was a kid’s lunchbox, my jaw hit; it just dropped. I couldn’t believe it. Because I’m not in that world at all yet.
And it just seems remarkably scary, actually, what’s going on. And even from a struggling parent’s point of view, it’s like: Where to start? Even I was starting to think, jeez, how would you do that? Because every kid’s got the same lunchbox. They’d be trading at work, like, you know, sugar’s insidious. It’s in everything.
Damon Gameau: You know, that’s part of the reason we’ve got a school screening program, we’ve got like a School Action Kit, so we’ve developed a study guide for grade 5 to 11 and they get a copy of the book, the film, the study guide, they get posters for the classroom, we’ve done a free app that helps them scan sugars and understand.
And I think we’re trying to get all the principals on board so that we can really start to approach them and say, hey, let’s look at your canteen. Because we know that kids now are getting nearly 40 percent of their daily energy intake from the tuck shop.
So, at the moment, there’s a real sort of ambiguity about the kind of products that are in there. And, you know, that should almost be at the top of the list in terms of importance, of getting those vending machines out there, which sell Coke and all sorts of other things.
And it’s hard, because the schools make a lot of profit off those machines. So, what are we gonna replace them with? And I think that’s gonna take a collective effort, and already people are approaching us or we’re people who are really keen to help with this. And I think slowly but surely it will look very different in about 10 years, because there’s just such a tidal wave of understanding around this issue now that we’re moving really quickly and I’m very confident that we’ll see change faster than we think.
Stuart Cooke: I think so. It’s gonna be very tricky to ignore, for one.
Damon Gameau: Yeah, that’s right.
Stuart Cooke: Very tricky.
I hear the phrase a lot that kids simply burn off sugar. And a lot of parents say, “Oh, they’re OK. They burn it up. They are constantly moving.” What do you say to that phrase?
Damon Gameau: Well, look. I’ve spoken to some scientists about this as well. I mean, as you’ve said, the guy in the film, Larry, who has the 12 cans of Mountain Dew a day and it’s destroyed his teeth, he does; some teenagers are able to deal with the metabolism of fructose differently to other people. That said, they might be thin on the outside, but we don’t know what’s actually going on inside in terms of what’s happening with their liver or the visceral fat.
But also I think it really is affecting; hormonally, you’re setting up patterns of behavior that might affect insulin or might affect other areas of the body that we might start programming at a young age and you might not start seeing the effects until we’re in our 20s or 30s or 40s.
But if this kind of pattern of eating is established, then there are detrimental consequences down the track, and especially when you think of the palate and how the palate does adjust.
And that was the other surprise of the film for me which was when I came off the sugar again, that first week of eating Zoe’s food again was quite tricky. It tasted so bland and sort of uninteresting, because sugar almost had a numbing effect on my palate. I only wanted sweet things.
But after two weeks, I started to notice the subtle nuance of flavors, like a carrot became sweet and a banana was almost too sweet, and you can really start to understand those flavors and those nuances, and, look, that’s what we’ve got to get into our kids. They’ve got to understand that these foods are delicious when they can actually really taste them properly.
And that’s gonna take an effort, but I think that’s more impetus to not get them down the path of sugar eating when they’re younger, because then they won’t eat that kind of junk when they get older.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. The other topic that I just wanted to raise with you was the aboriginal community, as well. I had had no idea that that had happened or had gone on at all. You know, it wasn’t even on my radar. Like, where did you first come across that? It was such a beautiful topic to put into the movie.
Damon Gameau: It’s the big one for me. It’s very close to my heart. I did a film; my first-ever film was in 2002 and it was with a guy name Rolf de Heer and it was called The Tracker. It was an Australian film. And I went and spent a lot of time with David Gulpilil, who is the beautiful aboriginal actor, and he invited me to come up to his homeland in Ramingining for a couple of weeks.
And I up there back in 2002 and just didn’t think much of it but just couldn’t get over the amount of Coca-Cola that was being consumed, and the soft drinks in stores there. And so when the opportunity to do this film came up I thought, well, I wonder what’s happening there? I wonder if anything has changed? And I found this quote on a Coca-Cola website that said that the Northern Territory in Australia was their highest-selling region per capita in the world.
And that is an astonishing figure, and it’s in direct relation to the amount of Coca-Cola that’s sort in stores through the territory to the aboriginal people, and going up there and meeting the people who work there in the stores and they just say, “Look, we can’t stock the fridges fast enough. We put in it, it goes, we put it in again.”
And, you know, that’s an issue we need to address very, very quickly. And what’s good about the film is that I found a community where the elders had got together, they didn’t rely on any kind of white man to tell them what to do, and they decided that sugar was having this effect, and so they voted to remove full-strength Coca-Cola from their town. And instantly they had vast improvements in their sugar consumption.
But then they lost their government funding, so the nutritionist got pulled out, so the education stopped with Coke and didn’t make its way to Sprite and juices and all the other sugar drinks which they think are fine.
So, we’ve actually started a foundation which I’m really delighted about that I’m putting money from the film and the book back into it, but we’re also raising money philanthropically to give them money to keep that education going, and we’ve been able to send nutritionists and dietitians out there to start training some of the local people that want to learn about this stuff. And then they’ll work in the stores and they’ll help people make smarter shopping choices and do posters on the shelves so you can see maybe Weet-Bix instead of Coco Pops for now, and, again, start to do that gradual awareness around sugar, because if ever there’s a hunter-gatherer race, it’s the aboriginals and they just can’t with the high-sugar diet.
And I think the government, in their wisdom, with all this low-fat movement, have removed all the fat, they’ve cut all the fat off their meat, they’ve done all that sort of thing, and it’s just madness because they’ve been eating those foods for centuries and had no problems at all.
So, look, there’s a lot of work do there and it’s a great, great tragedy. But I’m very excited about what the film might be able to do, and raise awareness around that issue and get schoolkids involved and start making a different.
Guy Lawrence: And is the foundation linked on your website, as well? Because we can put some links on this.
Damon Gameau: That would be great, mate. Yeah, it’s at startup. So we’re doing this sort of proper launch a bit later in the year, but there is a link to it now if people want to help out.
Guy Lawrence: Yep. Fantastic. Stu?
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, so, you touched on the launch as well, of your media screenings, and you’re going out to schools. So, how could we get every person in Australia to watch this movie?
Damon Gameau: Well, look, what’s been great is we decided, because Australian films have been having a rough trot lately, towards the end of last year we decided that instead of just doing a blanket release everywhere, because that hadn’t been working in Australia, that we would do this series of Q and A’s around the country. So I would go and do 26 different towns around Australia. And within a week of releasing that, we’ve had a large majority have sold out. The response has been fantastic.
And a lot of cinemas have put on an extra two or three screenings already, so that’s without people seeing the film; it’s just from the trailer. So, I’m excited about once people see the film and then start spreading that word of mouth and telling their friends that, you know, the cinemas will run for a long time, so if people want the opportunity, they can go and see it.
When that cinema run ends, we’ve also got a; I mean, we’re just getting a ton of requests from people that want to do private screenings or fund-raiser screenings, so we’ll send the film off to your local town and you can put on a fund-raiser or gather a group of people. The same goes for schools.
And then my goal is to get it into every school in Australia by the end of the year. And so far we’ve had an incredible amount of schools that have signed up that are really interested in it. And I think, again, as the film’s actually out there, you guys have seen it, you know that it will generate its own discussion and people will want to; they’ll be talking about it.
So, that’s my hope. Then we do the same in the UK and the U.S. And, again, I think because the film will be out and about this year, that hopefully it will kind of generate a discussion and more people and it will kind of have a snowball effect. And then it will release on television at the middle of the year. We’ve sold it to one of the networks and then DVD, of course, and iTunes.
And so there’s a real chance that we can spread it out as far and wide as we can and I’m also gonna be pushing it and doing anything I can, going to screenings and doing all the Q and A’s, because, like I said, I’m very passionate about it. I’m very proud of it. And I want as many people as I can to see it as well.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Fantastic. Good on you, man. That’s just awesome.
Stuart Cooke: I’m just thinking about the audience at the time, with their Choc-tops and their Coca-Cola. At what point do they put down…
Damon Gameau: I did actually think; early on I thought it would be great to actually have a hidden camera that had night vision. And then just watch their faces like suddenly put it down about 10 minutes later. You’d see this cup disappear. Ah!
Guy Lawrence: We’ve got a few questions we ask everyone on the podcast every week, and one of them is: Can you tell us what you ate today or yesterday?
Damon Gameau: What I ate today? That’s a good question. What did I eat today? Well, just before you guys I made this kind of muddle in the fry pan. It had halloumi. It had chicken. It had mushrooms. And it had broccoli. It was like a weird kind of mangled stir fry.
For breakfast I had a smoothie and I had a bit of coconut water with the flesh in it. I had cucumber. I had some spinach. And a little bit of coconut yogurt. And that’s pretty much all I’ve eaten today. And I had a handful of almonds.
Stuart Cooke: Wow.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.
Stuart Cooke: Real food.
Guy Lawrence: It’s not hard to do either, is it?
Stuart Cooke: That’s right.
Damon Gameau: Delicious. Absolutely delicious.
Stuart Cooke: Food that our grandparents would recognize.
Damon Gameau: I know. That’s right. That great quote about; that says “Organic: what your grandparents used to call food.”
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, I saw that.
Another question as well that we don’t ask everybody on the show: I notice you’ve got a really cool pair of orange Y-fronts that made their appearance throughout the show. Where can we grab hold of those?
Damon Gameau: They started yellow and they ended up as orange.
Stuart Cooke: Oh. Oh! Then maybe we’ll stop here.
Damon Gameau: Yeah. No, look, when people see the film we just, we tried to sort of do a little thing where I jump in my undies every day and we’d put it together at the end and hopefully see some kind of change.
But, yeah, the best story is I think we were in a town in the Bible Belt of America, because we did 11 states in 17 days, and I dropped my pants to do that scene, and this woman just ran out of this shop and just gave me the biggest serve about indecency of my nudity, of my public nudity, and I should be ashamed of myself and I’m a sinner in the eyes of the Lord. And we got chased out of town. Absolutely chased out of town.
So, there were lots of good stories like that.
Guy Lawrence: Is that gonna be on the extended version?
Damon Gameau: I think so. Director’s Cut.
Guy Lawrence: Awesome. And, yeah, the other question we always ask, mate, is: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? And that can be related to anything.
Damon Gameau: Follow your heart. Like, your heart knows best. Your intuition knows best. The ego tries to get in the way and control things, but we all deep down actually know, and if you trust that, you’ll end up in the right place.
Guy Lawrence: Perfect.
Stuart Cooke: Crikey, you’re right. We actually do, don’t we? There is that kind of ingrained awareness, like, you know, “my gut feeling is probably right.”
Damon Gameau: Yeah, it’s your own GPS, you know. And we override it sometimes and think we know better, but sometimes you’ve got to listen to it.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. Done. OK.
Guy Lawrence: And so what does the future hold for Damon Gameau? Like, what’s next? You know.
Damon Gameau: A lot of sugar this year, I reckon. There’s going to be a lot of talking about sugar. But that’s OK. But, yeah, I’ve got a 15-month-old daughter who I’m pretty besotted with and I haven’t spent nearly as much time as I’d like to, so there’s gonna be a bit of that balancing going on; that act.
And then we’re obviously going to travel with the film for the rest of this year. And then I’ve got a couple of ideas that I’d like to start. Like, doing another film. But I just need to give myself, my brain, and my family a break for awhile and just; I have a tendency to kind of keep going and it’s often detrimental to my own health. So, I’m just gonna take it easy.
And also just enjoy; you know, I’m very proud of… I mean, this film’s taken three years to make and I’m very proud of it, so I actually want to make sure that I enjoy releasing it instead of rushing on to the next thing, which I have a habit of doing. I really want to soak up and see everything that comes of it this year.
So, that’s my focus for now and then I’ll deal with the next projects later on.
Stuart Cooke: Perfect.
Guy Lawrence: Fair enough. And website: What’s the best place to go to, mate? Obviously, they can just check the movie, That Sugar Film.
Damon Gameau: Yeah, that’s the film website and that’s got all the dates and the screenings around Australia. It’s also got lots of pages that give information about our school programs and the book and the app and everything like that. Plus, there’s a ton of recipes on there that Zoe actually me to help me come off the sugar again. There’s a free e-book that you can download there. And we’ve got a Facebook page, thatsugarfilm is the Twitter, there’s the Instagram. All that kind of usual. I think there’s even a Pinterest page. I’ve never seen it, but apparently.
So, I don’t think there’s a Tinder profile but I’ll see if I can get to that.
Stuart Cooke: Give it time. There will be.
Guy Lawrence: It’s grow. It’ll grow.
Damon Gameau: Date Willy Wonka on Tinder. That’s… Willy Wanker.
Guy Lawrence: Chocolate factory. Well, look, that was awesome. I mean, thanks for coming on the show. That was, yeah, everyone’s gonna get a lot out of it, I have no doubt. And we’ll push this message as far and wide as we can as well and get behind it because what you’ve done…
Damon Gameau: Well, thank you very much for your support. And it does require a team effort, I reckon. And what you guys are doing and what lots of other people are doing all add together and I think we can actually change the food paradigm, which is very exciting.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, Absolutely. Good on you, Damon. Thanks very much.
Damon Gameau: Thank you.
Stuart Cooke: Thank you, buddy.
Guy Lawrence: Cheers.