Welcome to Texas…
One epic journey later including an unexpected detour via Dallas, we arrived in Austin for what is one of the most exciting and visionary festivals of the year. The festival covers three key areas of creative media across 10 days – Film, interactive and Music each showcasing new talent and developments in each field and discussions relating to the future of each medium. With constant showcases, shows, screenings and panels, it is impossible to see everything, but we’ll give it our darned best…
The first thing that hits you here is the inescapable presence of technology and constant flurry of twittering – the convention centre is littered with people on laptops – blogging, reporting, seeding… and on the receiving end, we’re getting twitters every second – this is serious information overload. It is fascinating to see how twitter has become such a key tool in arranging your time at the festival – setting up meetings, connecting with other people and planning your schedule.
I Love You, Man premiere
We attended the first couple of introductory panels and caught the opening film, the witty and sharp American comedy I Love you, Man by John Hamburg (writer of Zoolander, Meet the Parents) which went down a real treat to a rapturous audience. The film screened in the exquisitely beautiful Paramount Cinema and was probably the first time Ive ever been ordered to “Turn your f**king cellphone off or you’ll be out on your ass”. Then on to a series of festival opening parties, the key one being in the Buffalo Billiards, which is about as American as you can get.
The Paramount Cinema
Saw a couple of the shorts programmes – one of which featured a documentary from our catalogue ‘Peter and Ben‘ by Pinny Grylls which had a great response. After spending time in the Film and Interactive Trade Show – a space for companies to exhibit their latest products and services, we headed over to the Alamo Theatre. This is undoubtedly one of the best cinemas in the US – the owner being a lively character who likes to give his audiences a real experience. Not only can you order food and drinks from the comfort of your cinema seat, if you have a ‘noisy neighbor’ can simply “raise a flag” on your table to have them removed! We were there to watch All Tomorrow’s Parties – a collaborative documentary about the super-cool UK music festival held in Butlin’s resorts. Featuring brilliant footage from the likes of Iggy Pop, Beth Ditto, Nick Cave and Sonic Youth, this very well realised film really captures the essence of the festival – would highly recommend checking out both the film and the festival. The film is produced by Luke Morris, whose shorts you may have seen at one of our events over the past few years – “Heavy Metal Drummer” and “Je T’aime John Wayne“. After the film we caught a live VJ set by UK duo The Eclectic Method before partying on down at 6th Street.
The morning brought more shorts programmes and a great selection of animation. Fabien attended a panel on the future of branded content and how artists and companies are working together to bring messages to the world (Watch it here) Panellists included representatives from Youtube, Britdoc and the Independent Film Channel.
The afternoon we partook in the Shooting People pop quiz and a game of egg throwing before watching Jamie Johnson’s “Sounds Like Teen Spirit” which follows three teen/pre-teen singers and one band from across Europe as they compete in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. We were absolutely blown away by the film and would really highly recommend going to see this – it engages brilliantly with the kids and is thoroughly entertaining. Leaving the screening hungry, we went to a party hosted by Film Florida and ate some free fried fish meanwhile Fabien headed out to catch an exclusive 22 minute preview of Sacha Baron Cohen’s new “Bruno” material. After which we headed over to the Winnebago Man premiere party. Although we haven’t had chance to catch the film yet, there has been a lot of buzz around it at the festival – the feature film originates from an infamous youtube clip of a foul-mouthed, frustrated Winnebago salesman. Watch it here
This was the day when the weather literally did a u-turn and went from wet and cold drizzle to glorious sunshine and the city of Austin really cam into its own. Spent the morning at the last day of the trade show followed by a really interesting panel on The Future of DVD and Digital Distribution. Many comments about the inevitable demise of hard goods and how this will affect our sense of ownership and how we will handle media. Headed down to the Filmmaker BBQ run by the Director’s Guild of America to meet directors with films in the festival. Then on to play Rock Band (badly) at a Marketing Mixer on the 17th Floor of the very Metropolis-esque Frost Bank Tower with stunning views across the city. Then on to a British party, followed by a trip South to the San Jose Motel, a gig at the infamous Emo’s, then on to an open air party hosted by US free publication / online magazine – The Onion. Phew
After catching up with some work at the convention center, saw two more programmes of short films – was particularly impressed by these programmes – Reel Shorts 3 with some entertaining US comedies and Global Shorts with some brilliant documentaries. These included some Three Minute Wonders – one by James Lees whose film The Apology Line we represent who had created a brilliantly colourful short about the contents of people’s pockets on the streets of London – James has an incredible ability to divulge some of the most personal stories from complete and utter strangers! Then headed over to Emo’s for the ATP film party featuring live music from The Drones followed by the Film and interactive closing party on the rooftop at Maggie Mae’s.
Took a much needed day off to cope with the barrage of information and lack of sleep and decided to indulge in some Texan tradition… we hired a car and drove out to the Austin lakes where we stumbled across a beautiful enclave called The Hippy Hollow. After some swimming and lazing about, we hired a speedboat and jet ski from the eerily abandoned Volente beach and had an hour of high speed adrenaline kicks.
What better to do next than to head to a traditional Texan Rodeo… and we were not disappointed! In a stadium full of cowboys and cowgirls, the event began with bucking horses, followed by some lassoing calf action, obstacle races and finally after a laser-show to rival the Superbowl they brought out the bulls – highly entertaining stuff. The event finished with a performance by country and western legend Clay Walker.
To finish the night off, we snuck through the back gate and caught Echo and the Bunnymen at Emo’s who despite sounding a little rough round the edges, proved they still have it.
Fabien saw Joe Swanberg‘s latest indie feature “Alexander the Last” and I watched experimental shorts, one stand-out film being the brilliant “Cattle Call” by Matthew Rankin and Mark Maryniuk (was that influenced last night’s rodeo by any chance…). Followed by screening ‘Rip: A Remix Manifesto‘ by Brett Gaylor which raised some really current and valid questions about the state of copyright in music and rights ownership. The film’s main protagonist is ‘Girl Talk‘ a mash-up artist creating tracks from samples of existing recordings and Gaylor highlights the flaws in rights control through Girl Talk’s experiences. What really gets to Gaylor, though, is that much of today’s music is derived from previous releases. The Rolling Stones have perhaps inadvertently borrowed riffs from old blues legends and have evaded the long arm of the law. Plus, the Stones have been able to sell these tunes to, say, Nike for commercials use and prosper even more. So the line between inspiration and infringement is often blurred. The film is a real edgy and fascinating glimpse into one of the more pressing issues of our Internet Age.
The evening was spent firing around venues to catch as many bands as possible, these included Akron/Family, Bang Bang Eche, Efterklang and Passion Pit.
Queue for Emo's
Began the day with a tour around the infamous Flatstock exhibition and had to seriously restrain myself from buying something from every stall, the quality of the designs were so insanely high. Fabien attended a panel called “Brands, Bands and Fans” on how consumer brands around the world use music as an effective platform for delivering a brand experience. Featured speakers from Xbox and Coca-Cola. After a few final meetings we headed over to the Cedar Courtyard to catch Razorlight performing their new-ish material followed by a blinding set by post punk rockers White Lies.
White Lies @ Cedar Courtyard
Grizzly Bear at Cedar Courtyard
Final dinner at Moonshine we checked out a few more bands including Grizzly Bear and Au Revoir Simone. Highlight of the evening was the set by Gallows, Frank Carter leaping around the venue like a crazed monkey leaving smashed lights and broken bones in his trail. We finished the night off at the Red Bull Party which was somewhat lacking in atmosphere and taking branding perhaps a little too far by insisting on an entry pass in the form of a fake tattoo…
Red Bull tattoo
Stimulating, inspiring and exhausting, roll on sxsw 2010 – we are ready for you!