Andrew Posts: 379 Enthusiast
edited March 2013 in General
Well, the 5th-largest and just all-around-way-overhyped music, film, and interactive festival South by Southwest (SXSW) has begun here in Austin. Anyone in the community happen to be around and in for it this weekend or week?
It's only been going on for a day thus far, but if you check out the Atomic Productions Facebook Page you'll see it's already been quite an eventful time for us.
So yeah, anyone else here? We'll be around all week.


  • SimonKJones
    SimonKJones Posts: 4,448 Enthusiast
    Would love to come along to that one year. We might look into it from a company POV for next year. Would definitely be interested in hearing what you thought of it in general, JGL-meetings aside. :P Worth going to, or a waste of time? (fun aside)
  • Andrew
    Andrew Posts: 379 Enthusiast
    edited March 2013
    It's a great place to party and network, but overall I would actually say- no, it isn't worth the effort or money. At least, not what most people pay and wait for.
    The 'official' SXSW badges are extremely costly ($1,500) to really get any value out of the film or music events, and even then it's largely surface pop stuff- like the headlining movies this year, Burt Wonderstone and Spring Breakers, are just wide-release films that come out next week anyway- that sort of thing.
    And then there's the lines and the primary events. In any music or film-related thing, even after forking over so much money, you're still likely to wait in line all day for just a slice of a chance to get into stuff, or wait 4 hours for a free t-shirt or burrito. That stuff is awful and I tried doing it for a year. No dice, not worth it.
    This being said, the real value in SXSW these days is in two other things:
    The 'Interactive' segment of the festival, which Sam and Niko presented at this year and is a new addition to the whole thing, which isn't totally saturated in overhyped pop-culture trash, and is actually very insightful to tech and web companies and networking. I went to this specifically last year and got lots out of it, and I've heard things like the desktop 3D-printer and other stuff was really cool to hear about this year. It's a great amalgamation of TED-style talks, creatives, ad guys, tech guys, software developers, and marketing people coming together for the first few days of the festival- and the badge to enter, solely for this part, is both considerably cheaper and far more worth the value.
    The second thing, which should definitely be noted as similar to Sundance in that it's only possible if you know the lay of the land or 'how to play things correctly' in your surroundings, as I have been lucky enough to do after years of memorably-outspoken schmoozing with people- is to go to all the non-SXSW sanctioned events- which are mostly masqueraded as third-party parties, but are actually great screening and live music opportunities- and the places where you connect with the most worthwhile people and, yes, happen to see and be able to talk to the most stars.
    An example: While there were screenings for several films the other day, presented by SXSW and requiring one of those costly badges and long waiting lines to 'maybe' get in- lots of brands were throwing events of their own unofficially in all the surrounding buildings. Fullscreen had a comedian play at a club. Yahoo had a party with a dubstep DJ at a restaurant down the block, Samsung had Band of Horses and The Roots play, Fandango yesterday had greenscreens and costumes setup for celebs and regular people alike to play dressup and get their photos taken. Fun stuff, all sponsored by these brands and heavily promoted within the venues as the 'Brand X Show' or 'Brand X Experience'. And all the food and drinks are free, branded of course with plates and cups that say a brand. But who cares, right? It's free.
    These aren't things you can wait in line for, or get in with an official SXSW badge to- they usually, like Sundance, require either being 'on a list' or looking of some importance. Or wearing a third-party badge that makes you look like someone of some importance. If you're wearing a laminated badge with 'The Hollywood Reporter' branded on it with your name, or any other well-presented, branded or self-branded badge that gives some credence as to why you're supposed to be there- no deception needed- you're generally able to get in. And these things happen everywhere, all the time.
    The sponsored parties, in my opinion, are the value of the festival. I was able to meet and talk to, at length, VPs of production companies, distributors, talk about the nature and future of TV in the internet market, network heavily, get lots of great local contacts with RED-owners and soundstage renters I'd never met before, meet and hang out with several celebrities, enjoy good food, drinks, and live music from great bands- and just have an all-around fun, satisfying time without spending a thousand dollars and waiting in a line of cranky hipsters in downtown Austin for half-a-day.
    Those are most worthwhile things to try and get into- and thus far, 2 for 2, I've had no problems walking up confidently, being friendly with the higher-ups and property owners, and explaining my company (also wearing a 'Press' badge for 'Atomic Productions'), presenting myself professionally, and keeping my cool around celebrities (not getting 'starstruck', as soooooo many others around me have). It works, and it's paid off.
    So that's my opinion- it's a waaaaaaay overhyped festival, way overpriced, and way underwhelming for the offerings of the 'official' festival things. But as a third-party, unofficial week of big brands and stars- it's a powderkeg. It distracts and trims the fat of crazy masses of crowds to the official stuff, and leaves room for meaningful experience and conversation with the other crowd of people at these events.
    Today I'm going to see a sneak peek of Oblivion and listen to M83 in concert. As yet another example- this isn't something that comes with one of the official, $1,500 passes. This is just a free thing I happen to know about, and know where to go.
  • SimonKJones
    SimonKJones Posts: 4,448 Enthusiast
    Interesting stuff indeed. Thanks for the report. Definitely intriguing to hear that the fringe stuff is actually more rewarding than the 'official' stuff.
  • ernesttx
    ernesttx Posts: 32
    Hey Andrew, I'm attending; but of course I live here. I was out and about on saturday and sunday. hung out mostly on convention center and around rainy street with all the new pubs and stuff.
    And Andrew is correct. There are more interesting things happening in the back alleys than the main event or shows. You get a much better feel for SXSW by walking down the streets, venues, bumping into people, hanging out, networking, sharing a glass of Austin's own brew (love hops and grains Mosaic), etc.
    This time is a great time to be in Austin. I'll be checking out the animated short films, of course. Maybe Andrew if you are out and about this Friday for a meet up.
  • Andrew
    Andrew Posts: 379 Enthusiast
    I'll be out with the crew every afternoon, evening, and night til probably 2-3am. I follow pretty much wherever I hear something big or cool or that interests me is going on, and stay there until it dies down or ends.
    Yesterday, for instance, there was an Oblivion-sponsored event, which housed a 'content creator' exhibition for Canon Cinema people and a pop-up shop put on by Beats to demo their speaker the 'Pill' (which I actually already own, and is phenomenally-loud-for-its-size, actually very high-quality bluetooth speaker). The event had the bubble jet from the movie, M83 music playing, free food and stuff on the outside.
    Both things within the Oblivion event, Canon and Beat, however, had huge snaking-around-corners lines to get in- and even getting in- both required being 'on the list' unless you could talk your way past someone.
    Needless to say, I took the latter option. I'm telling you. All it takes is being transparent about who you are and what you do- no deception or anything- and presenting yourself in a professional and sure self-important manner. Within a minute I was playing with a C300 at Canon, and later weaseled my way into a free t-shirt, free drinks, and food at the Beats event.
    I even took a wrong turn and ended up in the VIP area, where it looked as though they were preparing for a special guest. I flashed my Atomic Press badge, gave the coordinate shooing me out my card- and funny enough the guy stopped and said 'whoa whoa- you're the Creative Director of this company? Why haven't you talked to our PR guy yet?'. Some banter goes by, and now I've got a VIP band to go meet with Beats higher-ups about music video incorporation of the Pill. And all it took was a minor amount of finesse and charisma, and a heavy dosage of 'I'm supposed to be here' confidence.
    I'm just saying. SXSW can be pretty awful (because it is) overall. Or it can be pretty awesome, if you treat and utilize it correctly. Thus far I'm 3 for 3 on awesome days. Everything's free, all the people have been pleasant, no lines have been waited in, and I've been able to actually enjoy the things going on- not just lament at them until I get close enough to instagram or tweet it and show how cool I am. (As all the hipsters do).
    Ernest- just follow our page and see where we're at occasionally, and we'll probably run into eachother at some point, man! We're around all the time- remember we live downtown, essentially!
  • Andrew
    Andrew Posts: 379 Enthusiast
    edited March 2013
    For anyone interested- I cut together a video of some of our experiences this past week at the festival, which can be viewed below. Additionally, anyone can check out the Atomic Facebook Page to see any of the numerous photos and updates we threw up there during the events.
    Really great time, check it out if you have a moment.