The South by Southwest Conference continues to go full-bore throughout the week, but Tuesday was the last day that film badges got you into the sprawling Austin Convention Center. Starting Wednesday, the music component becomes the focus, and films will take a back seat, even though they’ll continue to be screened through Sunday.
For me, much of Tuesday was taken up by hotel checkout and waiting for airport shuttles, but I did at least manage to pop into the press lounge (again, on the last day that it was available to us film journalists) to try to pick up some scuttlebutt. Two Sundance movies that got somewhat lost in the shuffle in Park City – the documentary Buck, about a real-life horse whisperer, and the oddball narrative Bellflower – seemed to be getting a lot more traction in Texas and were definitely some of the more talked-about films of the week.
Less discussed than the ’80s action-movie homage The FP was the fact that its premiere screening Monday night was torpedoed by one-time Project Runway contestant Sarah Trost, the costume designer for the film – oh, and also the sister of writer-directors Brandon and Jason Trost – who heckled loudly throughout the movie. An abject lesson in not bickering with a sibling before publicly presenting your work? Or an indication that a pre-screening Four Loko drinking contest might not be the best idea in the world? (I don’t know if Sarah was a contestant.) Only time will tell, perhaps, but scuttlebutt has it that several scheduled interviews with the filmmakers the following day were canceled following the outburst-plagued screening; still, some people I spoke with were able to work around the disruption and actually enjoy the movie.
Less warmly received was Silver Bullets, the latest from mumblecore-meister Joe Swanberg, but his movies are all such love-’em-or-hate-’em affairs that his ardent fans will no doubt be eagerly awaiting its arrival while his detractors will give the kind of cringing appraisals I heard from various quarters at SXSW.
As the film portion of SXSW wrapped up, several deals were announced – the kind of buying frenzy that went down at Sundance this year wasn’t exactly in effect, but a few movies will walk away from the event with distributor in place. The comedy doc Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, about the chat-show host’s “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television” tour, got an unusual pick-up, with AT&T handling multi-platform marketing, including a sneak preview screening to U-verse TV subscribers just before the film opens theatrically. Abramorama will put the movie on the big screen while Magnolia Home Entertainment gets the remaining video-on-demand and home-video rights.
The Weinsteins picked up Gridiron, a documentary about an impoverished Tennessee high school football team whose fortunes improve with the arrival of a dedicated new coach, and IFC Midnight acquired the suspenseful Kill List, while Anchor Bay scooped up The Divide – a thriller starring Michael Biehn and Milo Ventimiglia – for a low-seven-figures deal that’s being called the biggest buy at this year’s SXSW and among the largest in the conference’s history.
Also announced Tuesday were the awards (jurors included critics Roger Ebert, Lisa Schwarzbaum, Elvis Mitchell, and Mark Olsen), with documentary Dragonslayer and narrative film Natural Selection dominating the proceedings – a full list of winners, not counting the awards being given out at the end of the week for sub-categories like midnight movies and music-based films, can be found here.
So thanks for reading, and thanks to all the folks at South by Southwest who made this event such fun. If I can leave the organizers with three pieces of advice for a sprawling conference that is, for the most part, exquisitely executed, it would be this: 1) Figure out a system where badge-holders can get hard tickets to certain sought-after programs, so that people don’t have to line up three hours in advance to get in; 2) Maybe try to avoid booking the LGBT Meet-and-Greet and the LGBT Happy Hour at overlapping times in different venues; and 3) We’re more likely to believe that you are indeed the coolest film festival in the world if someone didn’t feel the need to say so from the stage at practically every single screening I attended. If you have to keep calling yourself cool, it seems a little less true every time you do it.
MDC at SXSW 2011:
2011 SXSW Film Festival - Photo Gallery
Dialogue: SXSW Interview with Rainn Wilson and James Gunn
Dialogue: SXSW - Morgan Spurlock Delivers The Greatest Movie
Dialogue: SXSW - Paul Giamatti Grapples with Win Win
Dialogue: SXSW Interview with Apart Star Joey Lauren Adams
Dialogue: SXSW Interview with A Year in Mooring's Josh Lucas
Day Five - Film Ends, Conan Heads to the Big Screen and Anchor Bay Makes the Biggest Buy in Conference History
Day Four - Tuneful Documentaries and Concert Films
Day Three - Simon Pegg in Paul, Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, and Interactive in Everything
Day Two - Josh Lucas' A Year in Mooring, Apart and the Not-So-Super
Day One - Source Code, Insidious, Shiner Bock and Smartphones