Previously: #8. Tribeca
Our take: There is nothing quite like Austin in March and SXSW is most certainly one of the few US festivals to attract such a huge industry component. They come for the parties, for the music, for the first day of warm sunshine (heaven help you if you're screening at the moment). The transition from longtime programmer and SXSW poster boy Matt Dentler to veteran Janet Pierson was very smooth - and this year's slate feature a terrifically eclectic and artistic roster of films. Yes, SXSW matters - both as a brand name that's increasingly recognizable to ordinary Americans as well as a stamp of possible/probable quality within the industry. Make a mark here (particularly if you're playing in competition or can attract the attention of the heavy blogger contingent) and buyers will find a way to see your film...
The downside: ...just don't expect them to see it at the festival. That combination of sunshine, BBQ and parties are calling their names. There's no question that the biggest problem with SXSW (and the reason it's way down here at #9) is the mother festival's insistence that filmmakers get the same treatment as musicians when it comes to hospitality. Which means little to none (competition films get a $500 stipend). Remember this is a for profit enterprise. SXSW remains the only major American film festival to refuse to subsidize filmmaker travel across-the-board.
Important recent premieres: 45365, GARBAGE DREAMS, THE WAY WE GET BY, OBJECTIFIED, WINNEBAGO MAN, SWEETHEARTS OF THE PRISON RODEO, BEETLE QUEEN CONQUERS TOKYO, TRIMPIN: THE SOUND OF INVENTION, BROCK ENRIGHT: GOOD TIMES WILL NEVER BE THE SAME, BEST WORST MOVIE
Selection of US films screened at 2009 Fest: THE HORSE BOY, PASSING STRANGE, WE LIVE IN PUBLIC
Our coverage of SXSW here.
Filmmaker: "great audience, industry, nice mixture of doc & non, good vibe, interesting stuff happening, good media presence. Biggest complaint of course is that they don't pay for anything and that really is a lot to ask - you do find yourself wondering how much of a vanity thing it is attending it - lots of good industry people there but might be just as well served at a slightly smaller festival where you don't have to shell out $1k (plane ticket & hotel). I love it, had a great time, but given how badly paid we are (if paid at all) & how hard we've worked I think the notion of a pay-to-play festival is something that should not be encouraged. That said, I'm sure I'll be there again next time they take a film of mine, because it's still a very satisfying film experience - just with a touch of resentment. They are selling tickets, after all, to our films..... it just feels wrong."
Filmmaker: "The program certainly has the Austin audience in mind, and I do value how many films are presented each year that are dealing with Americana. They always have some excellent documentaries in competition and they do a wonderful job at launching these films. Unfortunately I was a little curious about the music documentary programming this past year (2009). There were a number of excellent small scale music docs floating around that could have really used the boost of SxSW to get out in the world. I can name a few films that really missed out by not being included in the music program (where there is no doubt that they would have succeeded with the audience), when films fresh out of Sundance ate up several slots in the 24 Beats Per Second program"
Filmmaker: "SXSW brought us in out of the ether and gave us a platform to be considered. All we needed was a chance, an opportunity, and SXSW gave that to us. Sold out screenings, amazing venues, great events, fantastic programming, excellent panels and a beautiful run-over from the tech and music festivals that makes Austin the worlds most eclectic place for two full weeks. Outstanding..."
Filmmaker: "I wonder if this
festival would get to the next level if they started paying for filmmakers to
go. Or just offered something."
Filmmaker: "As a New Yorker struggling with the tail end of winter, going to SXSW has the added perk of AMAZING WEATHER to brighten one's mood no matter what. SXSW also has the Alamo theaters, which pretty much kick every other theater's ass. The programming is always solid, and with the addition of shuttle buses to the more distant theaters, my biggest complaint was nixed last year. As a non-competition filmmaker, I was offered nothing in the way of travel and housing money. This is a bit irksome, because it certainly seems like the festival isn't hurting for money. But they're right in knowing that filmmakers will make their way to Austin against all odds. I just wish they could offer some type of minor perk that would make the trek there even more enticing."
Filmmaker: "A total
riot, great vibes. Makes Texas look good. (Was in competition so they) paid our hotel but not flights. Got buyers interested but didn’t sell it for 6 months
after. Nice small competition, good to get noticed and not overwhelmed by
glitzy and numerous offerings."
Filmmaker: "First of all -- FUN -- the most fun you'll have a festival (with the possible exception of CineVegas). Really gaining a reputation as a 1st tier festival for serious film. Our film was acquired there and more and more will be. Only question is whether the fun and quirky side can exist alongside the growing status as 1st tier fest and market."
Filmmaker: "Great audiences. Better for films the are in the SXSW target market - other films tend to get lost."
Filmmaker: "SXSW is important but jesus (they) should get going helping filmmakers get there! Only fest that doesn't help at all as they know people will go and they can make more profit. Exploitative like the music side of the fest. No excuse. Cmon! They make tons of dough!!"
Filmmaker: "The atmosphere is all party, all relaxation, all pleasure. Just a pure joy. Some festivals are like this, and their program reflects it. We had a great time here, and the program was so in tune with the atmosphere that surrounds that city. It's one big par-tay. GO!"
Filmmaker: "always delivers a full house an a great crowd, but isn't a smart place to launch a film."
Filmmaker: "a blast. a mini-market. great music. also good to be in Texas."
Filmmaker: "I thought was pretty
overhyped and a bit of a disappointment... best bit was eating mexican and
swimming in Barton Springs which neither had anything to do with the festival "
Industry: "The Pierson Regime is still finding its identity, but there's no question that films that start here have an increasing chance of sticking around for the rest of the year. Does that justify the cost of attendance, given that Austin hotels jack up rates during SXSW week, and the film festival rarely offers help with lodging (even to filmmakers)? It's still one of my top five festivals, but I'm frankly unsure if I'll be able to afford to go this year."
Industry: "It’s always been the B-side to Sundance and sometimes the B-sides are more interesting. They’ve established a certain kind of identity, curatorially, in terms of more pop culture work. The work can be a little bit uneven. I think they show too many films – it’s really a four day festival, but it runs 10-days. The single thing I look for at SXSW is funny documentaries. They always seem to find funny, crowd-pleasing films. They have an interesting thing where these other events are going on. The interactive has grown so much, it now feels like film festival is now playing second-fiddle to the interactive. They do a lot of great conference programming but I think it’s too much. They endeared themselves to a lot of people 5 or 6 years ago, but I think they’re struggling to maintain that. They also don’t offer support for filmmakers, which I think is a real problem. They run the film festival on the same business model as the music festival, which is a for profit model. They are really behind."
Industry: "This is a festival where I always know I can find fresh, quirky films that might not show up at other markets. And of course it is Austin, which makes everything better. They're still slacker-disorganized, though, which drives me crazy."
Industry: "The Audiences: every screening, regardless of time and location, has the potential to be a midnight screening. These are REAL film-loving folk and not, jaded industry seen-it-alls. The City: Austin rocks! The fact that film is one of three cool, related elements to the fest. The organizers are fantastic and the panels, the best and best-attended in the fest world. Docs can be ghettoized at the Convention Center. The level of activity can be overwhelming to a film with no campaign. Distractions. Distractions. Distractions."
Industry: "SXSW was particularly good for how it integrates the interactive festival with the film program: this is increasingly important in my view. The other great thing about the film program is that for me there were some true discoveries, I love the way that skews younger than most fests and there is none of the pomposity you often find."
Industry: "I think its one of those festivals that it means something if you get into SXSW. I don’t think it’s great for international films. I think its great for American films. I also think that its terrible that they don’t give filmmakers more money to come. They don’t bring anybody. I don’t know how they get away with it but everyone loves Austin in March so they do. I look at the programming and the programming isn’t good enough for me to go. There’s always one or two films that are really important, but you can see them later."
Industry: "Awesome, if you like music. Innovative. Immense. Good panels, I like the cross over between music, interactive and film. Good place to launch a music doc. The setting of Austin is completely awesome."
Industry: "films are kind of an afterthought but it's an amazing event and city - the overlap of music, interactive and film is awesome!"
Industry: "good place to play if you want to have fun - but not a good place if you want people to buy your film."
Industry: "Great fun but not a
must do for us. We had a staffer from Austin who went for a few years but we
never found anything we felt was a good fit. We haven’t been in a few years and
won’t plan on going unless we have extra room in our budget for it. "
Industry: "Great fest for docs....getting harder to get industry to pay attention to films coming out of sxsw But there are always real gems."