On a recent Thursday night, the line is around the block of the Brooklyn Masonic Temple. The crowd is split between twenty-somethings who’ve heard about the party from a friend or a studiomate, and a curious older crowd who’ve heard about it from the Times or Gothamist. For the most part, they don’t mingle.
Tonight is the premiere of the Kickstarter-funded Girl Walk // All Day, a dance movie that follows three performers through 75 minutes of public dancing on the streets of New York set to the Girl Talk album All Day. The project first appeared as an eight-minute web video in January, but the press blitz that followed was the kind of thing PR firms dream about. Nearly every outlet in New York got a piece. In May, one of the dancers took up five pictures in the bottom of Bill Cunningham’s street style page in the Times. Fast Company offered 1,750 words on what business owners could learn from the project. (One lesson: “Screw the permits.”) The lead dancer, Anne Marsen, was cast in a recurring role on CBS’s The Good Wife. And in the background, director Jacob Krupnick was busy shooting and editing, trying to produce an actual movie to justify all the buzz.
Which is how you arrive at 1,200 people curled around the block, shivering politely. Inside the auditorium, a dozen oversized balloons bounce above the crowd. By the time we get inside, it’s too crowded to dance, but there’s a lot of whooping and strange-smelling smoke. Just before the movie starts, Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler comes out to give a speech. “This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you to put away your cell phones and be quiet during the movie.” A cheer rises up, and he laughs. “Make as much noise as you want. And Instagram your asses off.” Then, the movie. Like Girl Talk’s music, it’s a joy bomb—more a mood-altering substance than an actual movie. There’s something in there about New York and public spaces, but mostly it’s about watching people dance, and feeling as if you’ve helped make it all happen.
If that doesn’t sound like anything you’ve seen in a theater, there’s a reason. Girl Walk is illegal art; it will never make it into theaters. The soundtrack, Girl Talk’s 2010 album All Day, contains no less than 372 uncleared samples, an album-length thumb in the eye of intellectual property law. As a result, the film can never legally be sold on DVD or licensed for download. If it’s going to make money, it has to be as an event—touring from party to party like a silent film in the vaudeville days. (The producers have already booked a party at the Gutter two weeks after the premiere.) That leaves the movie in a strange limbo—halfway between traveling road show, fan video and the best-publicized video DJ set of the year. Tellingly, there’s no merch table here, just a photo booth and a generous pile of free “I’m a Backer” pins. If you’re here, you’re a backer.
Signing off, the director tells the crowd, “If you enjoy it, keep sharing it because we want to take it all over the world.” Their main export seems to be enthusiasm.•