Publicist encourages Sundance to be free of swag

January 26, 2007|By Mark Caro | Mark Caro,Chicago Tribune

For independent film publicist Jeremy Walker, the final straw was seeing a movie star "hijack" one of his staffers for an entire afternoon at last year's Sundance Film Festival so he could score swag (i.e. freebies) at the various houses set up to lavish brand names upon celebrities.

Walker also didn't appreciate the filmmaker who "freaked out" because he might have missed the opportunity to snag a gift bag supposedly worth $50,000 at a Sundance party.

When stars and filmmakers worry more about goodies than promoting their films, that's a problem for Walker, who runs the New York-based publicity firm Jeremy Walker + Associates. So he pulled a "Jerry Maguire" and wrote up his "Swagifesto," which he sent out last week to the stars and makers of the films he is representing at this year's Sundance festival, which kicked off last week.

Swag, Walker wrote, is "evil."

"We've watched swag, like cocaine, turn nice, smart, humble, creative people into monsters. ... As with cocaine, once tasted, the consumer of swag instantly wants more. When people see other people doing swag, they want to do it, too. And, like cocaine, once it's out in the open, swag permeates the culture, and it's all anyone can talk about. ...

"[A]t the risk of sounding like Nancy Reagan, we may `just say no' to swag, and depending on the circumstances, we may even say no to swag on your behalf," Walker wrote.

Walker said yesterday that his "Swagifesto" has generated "incredibly positive" feedback so far, though some filmmakers said they may try to snag freebies on their own time.

"If you look at it from the perspective of a truly independent filmmaker, free [stuff] can be life-sustaining in some way," Walker said.

Then again, swag houses tend to snub unknown filmmakers anyway.

Mark Caro writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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