Saturday , April 13 2024

SXSW 2019 Preview: Film, Music, Culture and Faster, Maybe

As SXSW enters its 33rd year, the event promises to be bigger, more exciting, and include changes to the mechanics to make it easier and faster to get to the events you want to see. SXSW began as a music festival, added film, then just kept growing. If it’s inspiring, important or just plain fun, you’re likely to find it in Austin between March 8-17.

A Cornucopia of Stimulation

The film festival includes 134 feature films, 101 short films and 17 serials. Past SXSW episodic premieres have included Mr Robot and  American Gods.

Casa Stephens, one of thousands of musicians at SXSW, has been compared to Fiona Apple and Carole King (photo by Toni Lee)

This year over 2000 musical performers from around the world will share their talents on multiple stages and venues. The list keeps changing and is updated here.

Besides movies and music, the event explores technology, health, comedy, government, cannabusiness, sports, and gaming. Remember radio? It’s here, too.

The list of celebrities, newsmakers, and creatives in attendance seems to grow every year, making it a great place to do business, learn, party and touch the future. There is also a job fair.

Movie fan? This year you can see Olivia Wilde, Jodie Foster, Leonard Maltin, Elizabeth Banks, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Ethan Hawke

SXSWIf you are a political wonk, you can attend sessions with John Boehner, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, former Governor John Kasich, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Katie Couric will be there to talk about cancer and Dan Rather will lead a discussion on editing your genes. Self-driving cars your thing? Malcolm Gladwell and Jo Ling Kent will be driving that conversation. Blockchain and cryptocurrency will be explored in depth during six sessions. The NASA exhibit is always one of my favorites.

All the above just scratches the surface.


Two changes to make navigating the festival easier and one unknown factor can influence getting around Austin during this year’s SXSW.

Standing in long lines is a given at SXSW and the first line is the one to pick up your badge. The festival starts on Friday and until this year the first day you could pick up your badge at the Austin Convention Center was Thursday. Well, happy hump day, Austin, because now you can pick up your badge beginning at 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Wednesday, March 6. This should help cut down the wait.

The second improvement involves the SXSW Express Pass. This is like a Fast Pass at Disneyland which allows you to skip standing in long lines and get in first.

‘Us’ by director Jordan Peele will be a festival headliner and may give you nightmares

The Express Pass is free to anyone with Platinum, Interactive, Film, and Music Badges. It doesn’t guarantee entry but does get you to the head of a shorter line at conference sessions and parties, music festival showcases, film screenings, and comedy shows.  A limited number of passes are available depending on the event.

In past years you needed to show up early at the Convention Center on the day of the event to get an Express Pass. This year, you will be able to request the pass through the SXSW Go app on your phone the day prior to the event.


What’s the “Maybe” about? For the first time in its history, SXSW will not be taking place during Spring Break. Why is that important? Because the University of Texas at Austin is a few blocks from the SXSW main venues. Its 50,000 plus students will be coming to class every day (maybe). Will this make a big difference? It’s a mystery.

For more info about attending the event, check their website.

See you in Austin.

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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