Hear Ye, Hear Ye!
Every morning during Sundance, a vast ritual occurs. By the time the tardy sun finally comes over the mountains, there are teams of people armed with heavy duty stapler guns and stacks of posters fanning out through Park City's streets to display their films' images on the surprisingly few designated billboards for public advertising. Because of the limited space, and a hefty fine for posting bills anywhere else, the competition is intense, and it requires a vigilant campaign to keep your poster in the public eye. With several hundred films vying for attention, the hope is that if the right person walks by at the right time and notices your film, even subconsciously, they might remember to see it and good things might happen. In the war for exposure, the flyering teams are the infantry, trying to form a beachhead on every festival-goers' short-term memory.
I'm out early, and I see at least a dozen crews on the move on my stretch of Main. Two kids approach the billboard near me and start systematically checkering it with posters for a Slamdance feature called Homo Erectus.
"How long will one layer stay up?" I ask.
"Half an our tops," they say. "Sometimes just a few minutes." The kids are Shane McAvoy and Bernard Crosland. Shane is a friend of the director. Bernard is his back up. They're from Temple City, and their travel here is occupied by this sole mission. They've been at it since Friday. Recently, they've found themselves locked in a tête-à-tête with another movie, called Rocket Science.
"As soon as we're done," Shane says, "they come along and cover us up."
Bernard starts lifting the edges of the posters, peeling back the layers. It must be fifty sheets thick, and as we sift through the archaeology of promotion, there is a visible pattern in the top deposit. "Our poster is white," he says, "and theirs is blue." You can see the edges alternating blue and white all the way to yesterday.
Rocket Science, a "quirky coming of age story" about a debate captain who stutters, is in competition at Sundance, and has a team of eight people flyering. "They can come along and cover us up in a flash," Shane says. Bernard adds that they're putting up posters for other movies, too.
"So they're third-party mercenaries?"
"And as hired guns they don't even care about the movies on their posters."
"We're out here fighting The Man."