Industry enthusiasts converge at SxSW Film Festival

AUSTIN: At the South by Southwest (SXSW) film and digital media festival this week, tech enthusiasts converged on panels for blogging and podcasting, while film distributors, acquisition agents, publicity directors, and talent mingled at parties and screenings throughout Austin.

AUSTIN: At the South by Southwest (SXSW) film and digital media festival this week, tech enthusiasts converged on panels for blogging and podcasting, while film distributors, acquisition agents, publicity directors, and talent mingled at parties and screenings throughout Austin.

The festival received 2,800 submissions and will display 120 films. With fierce competition – most movies faced four to five other films during their screening times –  filmmakers and their promotional teams sought to lock up attendance confirmations from the media outlets.

Jarod Neece, production manager for the SXSW Festivals & Conference, was among the industry gaggle at the IFC afterparty Saturday night where attendees discussed their screening schedules. At the party, directors from smaller films acted as their own publicity agents, distributing flyers and soliciting tentative confirmation of attendance by the journalists and industry members.

"The film festival attendance has increased steadily in the four years I have been here," Neece said afterwards. "This year is the biggest year ever in our 13 year history."

Early on Saturday, an Al Franken documentary dueled with "Darkon," a documentary about adults who enact fantasy role-playing battles during weekends in suburban Baltimore.

"Darkon" producers promoted the film with street teams, and with cast members dueling in the streets, their shrieks rattling a placid crowd of onlookers.

David Magdael, of David Magdael & Associates, which represented documentaries "Jam" and "Air Guitar Nation" said that street teams were an important component of the festival.

"You have to make sure the film stands out and reaches the audience," Magdael said. "You need your street team all over the place."

Students of John Pierson, an influential professor at the University of Texas who champions independent film, supported "Jam," a film about roller derby, by assisting the film's street team.  The film also got a boost from a local roller derby team, the Lone Star Roller Girls.

Before arriving, Magdael made sure the films were seeded to the Austin Chronicle and influential film blogs. At the "Jam" debut, organizers made sure to find all of the press and provide them with both hard copy and multimedia press kits.

Magdael said the other important element was ensuring that the filmmakers attended panels and the after-screening Q&A to whet attendees' interest.

The filmmakers "need to make sure that the audience walks out of there with the best movie experience," Magdael said.

"V is for Vendetta," which debuted a trailer during the 2006 Super Bowl, is the highest profile movie at the festival.

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