This year’s South by Southwest celebrates the 30th anniversary of its music festival in Austin, Texas. Split into three main events, SXSW Interactive runs from March 11 through March 15; SXSW Film also starts on March 11 but ends on March 19. SXSW Music runs from March 15 through March 20, which provides attendees with an absurdly high number of panels, speakers, and artists to see.
I decided to get a head start on things by arriving a few days earlier, which, fortunately for me, coincided with the tail end of a huge storm and nothing but green grass and sunny skies for the next few days. Unfortunately, that also means warm weather, above average humidity, large crowds, and mandatory deodorant and sunscreen.
Shooting Film in a Digital Age
ChooseATL hosted Tom Luse, Executive Producer, and Michael Satrazemis, Director of Photography, from AMC’s The Walking Dead, who discussed the experiences of shooting on location in and around the greater Atlanta area (Georgia) and shooting the television show exclusively on traditional film as opposed to digitally. The two spoke about shooting the pilot episode and how cooperative the city of Atlanta was for allowing them to shut down about 16 blocks and downtown building managers for turning off all their lights for the apocalyptic day and night scenes in an abandoned metropolis.
Even though most of the film and television industry shoots digitally, the original showrunner Frank Darabont pushed to shoot the show in Super 16 because because the film had a crisper look and allowed for a more nimble production since Super 16 cameras are smaller, thus allowing more flexibility. Despite using a lot of film stock (i.e., millions of feet per season), production costs were still comparatively less expensive due to faster shoots and reduced post-production work.
As an aside, no spoilers were mentioned, but one major shakeup was foreshadowed.
Family Values Viewed Through Primetime Animation
20th Century Fox Television hosted a panel of creative minds behind three of its primetime animated television shows: Bob’s Burgers (Jim Dauterive), Family Guy (Steve Callaghan), and The Simpsons (Al Jean, David Silverman). The four discussed the inspirations behind their collective interest in animation (e.g., Hanna-Barbera), and what has contributed to the successes of all three shows (e.g., emphasizing family values no matter how funky, approaching the material like a traditional live action situational comedy, and tackling broad topical issues).
Awareness Reform: Engineering “Perception Shift”
This was a more serious panel about how to use culture to change perception on important political and social issues. Brad Jenkins, Managing Director and Executive Producer of Funny Or Die DC, discussed how Funny or Die helped shift the public perception on the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) after its disastrous start, such as getting President Barack Obama to appear on Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis that was credited with getting more young adults to enroll after watching that online episode. Bill Rausch, Executive Director at Got Your 6, discussed his post-military experience trying to volunteer and serve the public in a different capacity, which ultimately led to his job at Got Your 6 and advocating for veterans.
Next, Jason Rzepka, director of cultural engagement at Everytown for Gun Safety, described the various outreach efforts his organization recently undertook in its mission to end gun violence, including a partnership with the National Basketball Association. And finally, Carri Twigg, Senior Vice President at DKC, went over a couple examples where the concept of identity is now being displayed with more modern accuracy, including a Campbell Soup commercial featuring a gay couple and their son.
Music waits for no one as performances, both official and unofficial, are scheduled throughout the entire SXSW festival all over town.
This all-female dream gaze Austin-based trio was the first performance of my festival experience. Playing at the Spider House Cafe and Ballroom, Moving Panoramas started off by premiering their new music video for “Radar” which they also filmed portions of in the same venue. Lead singer Leslie Sisson apologized for her seemingly loopy demeanor, having spent all day there listening to other bands in the showcase and drinking free Lone Star beer. Along with Rozie Castoe (bass) and Karen Skloss (drums), the trio’s lo-fi shoegaze sound had a decidedly bedroom pop feel that fit perfectly on a calm night outside.
For those wanting a more traditional festival feel, several sponsored events take place during SXSW that consist of various non-film and non-music activities.
Budweiser Beer Garage
Anheuser-Busch sponsored a Beer Garage to highlight all things Budweiser (sorry, no Bud Light). In addition to drinking the beer drink itself (your choice between bottled or draft), the event explored the various innovations that AB InBev has created to make Bud a better experience, including a self-service machine and a brief immersive 4D virtual tour of the iconic St. Louis Brewery using helpful volunteers (for the smell, taste, and touch), an Oculus Rift, and a swivel chair.
The Toyota Prius Arcade at The FADER FORT
In its 14th year at SXSW, The Fader magazine had a big presence in Austin. This year, there are two distinct events, the first being The Toyota Prius Arcade (March 14-15) with a few indie arcade games for attendees to play and a couple new Priuses to see up close. There was also a tattoo parlor (I’m still not sure if it was for permanent ink or not), hair salon, dance hall, and lots of free Red Bull. The second and longer event, The FADER FORT Presented by Converse, takes place March 16-19 and features more music acts.
Sausage Party (Work-In-Progress)
Despite showing up at least 30 minutes early to this special “work-in-progress” screening of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s animated film Sausage Party, I was still not able to get in due to the absurdly high number of people who were already lined up. While walking away in disappointment, I did manage to catch a glimpse of Rogen and Goldberg as they took photos and chatted with fans on the red carpet.