South by Southwest wasn't covered to an official capacity this year and with all the recent news regarding Whiskey Media, I hope you can understand why. I attended this year, however, not necessarily for video coverage, but more for the personal experience: to see shows, watch movies, have fun. I got to experience a whole different side of the event. Fewer conferences and big-name movies, and more indie shows and short films.
For a movie lover, the first three or four days of the festival are where you want to be: there are great workshops, Q&A's, conferences, and it's exciting to watch the premieres with the cast and crew, and participate in discussion post-credits. This is what we did last year. This year, however, I got to check out the tail end of the festival which, while is predominately music keynotes and live shows, but still has screenings throughout the city, among other things.
Below are my adventures from this years festival!
San Francisco to Austin
Let's go back a year, to my first SXSW travel experience.
After coverage wrapped of SXSW in 2011, I parted ways with Rorie, lugged my gear over to the Austin Greyhound (to visit a friend in Dallas), bought a ticket, and chatted a bit with a musician who just arrived to meet up with his band to play a show that night. I was from San Francisco and he was from Oakland. To get to Austin, I went to an airport and had a nice plane ride into town. He went to the airport, got pulled off because a search dog found his pot brownies, put on a "no-fly" list for like a week, panicked he was going to miss his show, and took a greyhound that took like 2 days to get there. He was in a weird state when I met him.
Well, apparently he passed the shitty travel bug over to me, as what should've been simple plane ride back to SXSW this year turned into three different plane rides, a taxi, a greyhound, and a public bus. I came pretty close to hitchhiking at one point, it seemed like the best possible option. (It's important to note that my travel mishaps were weather related.)
But I digress. At this point, all that mattered was that finally, after the longest day I've ever had, I made it to Austin for SXSW 2012.
And perhaps was a little too tired for this --
I probably should've just went back to the room and crashed, but instead went out to stand in some lines (there are lots of lines), to get into some late night parties and shows. Really fun time, despite being delusion-level exhausted and saturated in travel stank.
I reserved the next day for film screenings, and started off with --
God Bless America - Drafthouse Screening
This is Goldthwait's satirical, black-comedy about the ridicule/reality television culture told from the perceptive of Frank (Joel Murray), a middle-aged man who, believing America has declined to idiocy past the point of return, opts for suicide. Gun in his mouth, he comes across a reality show about a spoiled, bratty, girl that parallels the behavior of his own daughter, who refuses to speak with him or treat him with any kind of decency. Essentially, he decides to murder this young reality star. And, well, why stop there? Assisted by Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), a girl just as sickened by the celebrated environment, they launch a joint-effort killing spree targeting the people who are playing all different sorts of roles in spreading hate and unkindness.
The two go on this dysfunctional murder trip like a joyous family occasion, relishing every kill, not for the actual act of killing, but for genuine accomplishment and the feeling that they are giving these vain, degenerate creatures everything they deserve.
For the most part this film is funny and light, but delves into some super dark moments, and there are extended rants about society and civilization becoming dis-civilized. The dialogue, in those situations, can be a little ham-fisted at times, but it helps that they're funny as hell and well delivered. Joel Murray does an outstanding job at pulling off a character who can go around killing people in a Idiocracy-like America, while still maintaining the cool of a level-headed man.
Aside from some clunky shifts in middle and end, and maybe being a bit too long for its own good, this film is worth seeing if only for the strong first hour which pulls off everything it aims to do with precision while keeping tight focus and near perfect tonal consistency.
Side note: I stopped by JMuller BBQ in Austin to grab some meat, and caught Anthony Bourdain shooting No Reservations! It was pretty rad! Try the brisket. Here's some footage of me shooting some of his camera guys shooting a band, that I was also shooting (I was really interested the camera setups they had). At one point we were shooting each other!
I made my way back to the Alamo Drafthouse (a different one this time) to catch the late night chunk of weirdness that is the Midnight Shorts. I always enjoy screening of short films, and oh-boy, I never realized there was a program set up for all the strangest and most disturbing ones to come together (I think I may of found a home for my old "necrophiliac with a zombie inducing STD' short film). This screening was a blast.
Some of the calmer films included Machines of the Working Class, a cute little flick about two robots bantering in the prospects of a heist, and also Going To The Store, where a large stop-motion animated dude…goes to the store.
Also, you know when you close your fist and use the space between your thumb and index finger to create a little mouth and talk with it? And sometimes, you can glue eyeballs on the index finger, and maybe tape a little mustache on your hand, and do a little puppet show? Yeah, imagine that but with vaginas. Gl@zin's a kind of musical in that sense.
Figuring out what was going on supplied a very strange "aha!" moment in the first few seconds.
Big Bad Wolf -- which I'm told was an internet thing -- is a music video where a bunch of people had heads on their shoulders, but also heads on where their junk should be. They act accordingly.
A group of Norse warriors encounter a modern era travel tour bus, in Tumult, as what starts out as a brief fish out of water experience, turns into some hilariously great decapitations. And Zombie Chic 3D, while terrible use of the old red & blue 3D glasses, was a pretty wild look at a smug dinner party host's reaction to the zombie apocalypse.
Some of the darker shorts included Other, a grim horror flick about a scientist who aggressively pursues a monstrous solution to a terminal disease, and Man & Gun, where a dude -- super obsessed with guns --gets his hands on a .50 caliber assault rifle and…let's just say...gets intimate with it. This one was actually kind of disturbing.
That should give you a pretty good idea of what kind of flicks play at the Midnight Shorts screening. There have about 3 or 4 different short film screening -- those being of the less shocking genres -- but unfortunately I didn't get to catch them. You can probably find most of them on Youtube, but there's something really fun about watching them in a crowded theater.
See You Next Year Austin!
That's it for for the films, the rest of the time was a few more lines, a lot of live music, some more food: more brisket, breakfast tacos, sometimes the brisket in the breakfast tacos. My return flight home was nice and easy, and as I pass the shitty travel bug onto another weary traveler, to you, I say, I'm sorry.
SXSW is kind of great in that there are so many people attending, but also so many things going on that it never feels truly crowded. You have the entire event to catch multiple screening of films you want to see, and if you're there for the heavy film portion you can catch special screening, and great Q&A's. As far as music goes, well, you can throw a rock in any direction and hit a venue, official or unofficial. It's an easy event to go and have a great time no matter what you do or where you end up.