Miranda Maynard has been bothering pockets of Los Angeles about the movie “Sorry to Bother You” with handwritten posters and printed flyers.
“God, it’s so good,” she told The Times on Tuesday. “It’s just so completely different from anything else. How is this not winning all of the awards? Are you kidding? What are we doing?!!”
Written and directed by Boots Riley, the sci-fi satire stars Lakeith Stanfield as a newly hired telemarketer who learns that, by speaking in a “white voice,” he can quickly climb the corporate ladder — though at a price.
The topical title made quite an impression when it debuted at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and sold to Annapurna in a competitive seven-figure deal.
And though it has since collected nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards, Gotham Awards and the Directors Guild of America Awards, it deserves to be on the Oscar ballot, says Maynard.
So she took it upon herself to spearhead a grass-roots awards campaign for “Sorry to Bother You.” For the third year now, Maynard has covered some street corners around Los Angeles — this time, Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Silver Lake — with handwritten posters and printed flyers.
Armie Hammer, one of the film’s costars, spotted one in Beverly Hills and told Riley.
“It made me really proud that ‘Sorry to Bother You’ had touched someone enough that they spent the time to make handmade posters and go around posting them up — that itself felt like winning an award,” Riley told The Times in an email on Tuesday.
“Someone sees your art as theirs, as being so important that they want to people to experience it, that they feel it says something that they themselves want to say,” he continued. “Like that song you sang along to in your high school years, blasting it loud in the bathroom, singing into the mirror, feeling like you wrote the song. I strived to do that with my film.”
Though Riley and Maynard have never met, he has been moved by her efforts.
“I am honored to have made something that you felt was worth your energy to promote,” he said he’d like to tell her. “It is a sweet act of love and art, a signal that maybe I’m on the right path. Thank you for giving me that signal in the midst of all the other confusing signals that Hollywood throws around.”
The Times spoke with Maynard — a 33-year-old digital arts instructor at a day center for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and also an artist herself — about annually canvassing Los Angeles, getting invested in awards season and pacifying her political angst with, of all things, posters.
So why do you love “Sorry to Bother You”?
I saw it last year at the Arclight Hollywood. It’s just so good and funny and incredibly original, and I really like the critique of capitalism. And it was such a complete world. Especially when you go see something in a theater, you leave your house and you’re in these super comfy chairs, and the movie has to make a whole world just within this screen, and he did! Talk about a big swing. It’s a lot of choices, but had they not worked, what a wacky movie it would’ve been.
Why did you start putting up these posters every year?
I first did it in 2017 for “Moonlight.” I had recently moved to L.A. from North Carolina and was working as a hostess in a restaurant in Los Feliz. There were all these industry people coming in from all the other movies and talking about all the other movies too. Someone explained to me that they were just campaigning, that I guess it’s worthwhile to be out and seen by [movie] academy members. In a way, it reminded me of when I was in high school and people were trying to get on the homecoming court.
That was also such a [terrible] time, too, politically — not that things have gotten better, but worse, really. But when the election happened, I wanted to do something that could actually be meaningful and have an impact. [Awards season] felt like a microcosm situation where the stakes are comparatively not as high as national politics, and I felt like I could do something because of my proximity to these people.
That access was wasted on me. Everyone I worked with was an actor or a director, trying to talk to people about their projects. Whereas I just so badly wanted to interrupt them and say, “Actually, I think you should vote for ‘Moonlight’!” I had to keep my mouth shut since I was at work, so I put it on posters around the restaurant.
How did you feel when “Moonlight” won best picture at the Oscars?
That was the year of the mix-up, so when they announced the other movie [“La La Land”], I cried and turned off the TV, like a grumpy, petulant child. It’s kind of crazy that it got to that point; I get that Hollywood people, I guess, see the Oscars as their thing, but I feel like so many other people feel really invested in it. I was so sad, I really wanted “Moonlight” to win. Then one of my friends texted me, “Are you freaking out?!” Finally, I realized that I missed it!
Last year, you made posters noting how “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is “pretty racist.” Why?
Yeah, that movie was so disappointing. I still can’t wrap my head around how. It takes so much work to make a movie, so how is there never a person who says, “Hey, this is a big problem,” or how does that person not get listened to? I was so bummed about that one.
When you go see a bad movie, it’s like you’ve been tricked. And as a, you know, “normal” person, movies are expensive. I’m an art teacher, so I can’t afford to see that many movies, and I have other things in my life, too! I don’t want to spend my time and money on a bad movie. I went to film school for a bit and had a pretty rough time — a lot of #MeToo kind of stuff — so when I left, I told myself, I’m not watching any boring movies ever again. I’ve put in my time.
Did you ever run into any problems while putting up these posters?
Previously, people would sometimes come up to me and say, “Who said you could do this?” This year — and maybe it’s because I had my dog with me — no one confronted me at all. I’m a white woman, and I’m sure it’s much easier for me to walk around Beverly Hills with a staple gun and tape and put these things up. I can imagine that if a woman of color was doing this project, the prospect of walking around L.A. and putting up posters for this radical communist black film would probably be a different experience.
Do you plan to continue this ritual next year?
Each year, I haven’t thought of it as a thing that I would do again. There are definitely moments when you’re a 33-year-old woman putting up handmade posters on the street, and you think, “Am I totally crazy?” But seeing comments about it on social media has been cool because it seems like, this year, the posters have stayed up a little bit longer.
It’s been fun. I’ll probably do it again next year. I also read the other day that Boots Riley has a lot of projects in the works, so as long as he keeps working, that’s great.