There was a time when I would tell friends I was covering South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX, and I’d get a blank stare. Now I get a glare of envy. SXSW has been evolving and growing by leaps and bounds for a number of years now, to the point of becoming a household name in the world of music, film and interactive.
In 2010, the SXSW Film Festival will host 80 Film conference panels and 130 short films, which will keep people running from one to another starting Friday, March 12 through Saturday, March 20, 2010. And if you weren’t able to make it to Sundance or didn’t have a spot at a Golden Globes table, you’ll have a chance to be in the same room with Quentin Tarantino during one of these panel sessions.
That’s the beauty of the SXSW festival—it’s for everyone. The film fanatic. The seasoned filmmaker or the newbie starting out. The actor/writer/filmmaker.
The panels enable people to learn something in 60 minutes from the likes of Tarantino and Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) at “Directing the Dead: Genre Directors Spill Their Guts,” or from Michel Gondry (filmmaker, The Science of Sleep, Be Kind Rewind, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), as he discusses his latest work, “A Thorn in the Heart,” a personal documentary about his family and undiscovered stories from the past.
For the opening film, “Kick-Ass,” the kind of superhero flick we’ve been waiting for while rolling our eyes through yet another Spiderman romance, SXSW has upheld the tradition of bringing those involved to the table. On Saturday, March 13, “A Conversation with Kick-Ass” takes place with director Matthew Vaughn, actors Aaron Johnson, Cholë Grace Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Nicholas Cage, who also stars in the film, is oddly absent fro the panel line up), and from checking out the trailer for the film, I expect this session to be packed and as lively as last year’s chat with the cast from “I Love You Man.”
You can also find “Kick-Ass” on Facebook at facebook.com/kickass and on Twitter @lionsgatemovies.
Another film that’s getting a lot of fan buzz while setting off a bit of legal controversy is “MacGruber,” based on the beloved MacGyver SNL parody. “A Conversation with MacGruber” takes place on Tuesday, March 16.
In the way that the Music and Interactive panels continued to cross over through the increase of digital distribution and promotion, technology has grown to have an even greater influence on Film.
A few examples include “How to Cast Your Indie or New Media Production using the latest in Online Tools” with William Marshall from SAG, a panel with a focus on social media, “Fans, Friends & Followers: Creating Your Own Cult (of the Non-Apocalyptic Variety)” with Scott Kirsner from CinemaTech, and where the three areas come together, “Music Licensing for Emerging Media: Apps, Widgets, Viral Videos” with Joel Johnson from Gizmodo.
For full panel descriptions and participants, visit www.sxsw.com/film/talks/panels.
Short films has been the point of entry for most filmmakers, and over the years the bar has been risen in both quality and quantity. Last year SXSW received 2,312 short film submissions. In 2010, they’ve narrowed it down to 130 to debut the Short films lineup, exceeding the 119 feature films slated.
Within the Narrative Shorts category, the winner of this year’s Grand Jury Award will be eligible for a 2011 Academy Award nomination for Best Narrative Short. Not a bad deal. In this category, a few that caught my eye – “Bedford Park Boulevard” by Felix Thompson, “A fifteen-year-old Latino boy at a high school in the Bronx makes a mistake that will define the rest of his life”; “Kelp” by Benjamin Dohrmann and Seth Cuddeback, “
A somber comedy about a married man who becomes infatuated with kelp”; “Pancake Breakfast” by Adam Locke-Norton, “A sarcastic guy realizes that his jokes about his girlfriend cheating may in fact be more truthful than he thought”; “Snapshots” by Kate Barker and Andres Rosende, “New York City – Seven Stories – One Day,” and “Coney Island Baby” by André Aimaq, “Betty found a thick wad of cash hidden in a porn DVD stashed in her new oven. And that wasn’t even the strangest thing that happened to her that day.”
On the Documentary Shorts side, there’s “Quadrangle” by Amy Grappell, “An unconventional documentary about two ‘conventional’ couples that swapped partners and lived in a group marriage in the early 70s, hoping to pioneer an alternative to divorce and the way people would live in the future” and “Keep Dancing” by Greg Vander Veer, “The story of two 90-year old dancers who still meet, twice a week, in a private studio in Manhattan to choreograph and rehearse.”
In the category of Animated Shorts, rules end up on the cutting room floor. Stop-motion, computer generated, and everything in between can appear on the big screen, along with strange and unusual story lines. For example, there’s “Bygone Behemoth” by Harry Chaskin, “A washed-up movie monster relives his halcyon days” and “Down To The Bone” by Peter Ahern, “A boy. A babysitter. An explosive sneeze. Google it.”
These aren’t even in the Experimental Shorts category, which includes “Eulogy” by
Ben Claremont, “A whole life’s story is told in just a few seconds. Eulogy is a film about life, death… and pigeons” and “Feeder” by Joseph Ernst, “A short film that will make you feel sick.”
If you’re a midnight-movie goer, hit up a few parties with an open bar until around 11pm, and you’ll be primed and lubricated for “Cocoa Loco” by Shaka King, “A short film about cocoa butter scented lotion, karmic retribution, and the strangers you call family” or “Expiration” by Mark Nickelsburg, “A lonely man courts danger by drinking a glass of milk just seconds before the expiration date.”
Other shorts categories include Texas Shorts, about (wait for it…wait for it) films related to or shot in Texas, SX Global Shorts featuring docs from around the world, and FutureStates, which takes a peek at the future through the lens of our current events.
Cross pollinating film and music, a number of music videos will make their appearance, including P.O.S.’s “Drumroll” by Todd Cobery, Passion Pit’s “To Kingdom Come” by Mixtape Club, Grizzly Bear’s “Forest” by Allison Schulnik, and N.A.S.A.’s “Spacious Thoughts” by Mark Lomond.
To check out the trailers for both the shorts and full-length features, we recommend you download the new iPhone app, SXSW Play, where you can also listen to showcasing bands and learn about all the Interactive panels. All of the content doesn’t seem to be loaded on the app as of today (Wednesday, February 10), so just keep checking back in, as you would on sxsw.com.
With a festival of this magnitude, changes and additions will be occurring almost daily up until we’re all standing in line to pick up our badges, and even as the week progresses. So a few words of advice are: be patient, have fun, and don’t try to do it all.