Keep Calm and Party On
Everything you need to know to navigate SXSW Film
9:00AM, Mon. Mar. 4
Confused about the queues? Overwhelmed by the party options? Hankering for the nearest migas? Unsure about when your boots are made for walking, and when it's time to hail a cab? You've got questions, and we've got every answer you need to navigate SXSW Film.
WHAT TO SEE
Hot damn! There are so many movies playing at SXSW Film. Where do I begin?
It’s cool – we’ve got you covered. You’re going to want to start with our SXSW Film preview, on stands Thursday, featuring interviews with boldface names like Joss Whedon, Neil Labute, and Kathleen Hanna, homegrown talent like Yen Tan and Bryan Poyser, and scrappy up-and-comers you’re gonna be all “I knew 'em before they sold out” about. (Gaw, don’t be one of those blowhards.)
Thursday? That's so far away.
We’re excited, too. That’s why we’re sneaking some of it onto the Web early. Keep your eye on austinchronicle.com/sxsw/film – all our SXSW Film coverage will pop up there magic-like.
Long-form journalism is so passé. I prefer nugget-sized.
You know you’re the reason print media is dying, right? Just kidding! We like short and sweet, too! That’s why you’re going to want to follow our Screens blog (austinchronicle.com/blogs/screens) and Twitter feeds (@ACScreens, @ChronSXSW). In addition to our ongoing online coverage and our weekly print issues, we’re also producing three daily issues during the second half of the fest, where you can find capsule film reviews and screening info, more filmmaker interviews, and photos of famous people looking pretty. And be sure to check our Photo Galleries page, where we'll round up all the red carpet action.
I hunger for the personal touch.
Don't we all? If you're rockin' a badge, stop by the SXSW Film Conference's A Beginner's Guide to SXSW Film panel on Friday, March 8 at 2pm: Chronicle Managing Editor and film critic Kimberley Jones will be dishing insider dirt alongside other seasoned locals Agnes Varnum, events director at the Texas Tribune, Slackerwood editor Jette Kernion, Pit Stop writer/director Yen Tan, and David Modigliani, creative director of Flow Nonfiction.
WHERE TO SEE IT
Dude. Talk of movies is all well and good, but I don’t know Austin or the venues, and my inner GPS only knows how to point me toward the nearest taco stand. Help!
Have you consulted SXSW's Film Venues page?
Yeah, I know how to read a map. Gimme the skinny on the venues.
No problem. Every venue has its own charms, and its ... eccentricities? It’s helpful to understand both before finalizing your schedule.
Paramount Theatre (713 Congress)
The Paramount is a century-old theatre right smack in Downtown Austin, and you really can't beat the feeling of old-school moviehouse glam you'll get at this place. Many – but not all – of the Headiners screenings happen here, and if you’re just in it to star-gawk, your best bet is to lurk around its Congress Avenue environs and the round-the-corner balcony bar at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin. (But be a friendly lurker. This is Austin; we don’t get stupid about celebrities.) This is a big theatre, so if you’re not in possession of one of them flashy badges, you still have a good shot getting in with a single-admission ticket. Word to the wise: Bring a sweater. The Paramount is notoriously chilly. Capacity = 1,200. Best bet for single-ticket buyers.
Stateside at The Paramount (719 Congress)
This historic venue is the Paramount’s li’l sib, but don’t give it a noogie: It’s recently undergone a fancy-pants renovation. The seats are plush, y’all. Capacity = 298.
Vimeo Theater @ ACC (Second & Trinity)
Conveniently located at SXSW ground zero, the Austin Convention Center, this is the second largest Film venue and the perfect place to hopscotch between panels and screenings. Capacity = 645.
Rollins @ The Long Center (701 W. Riverside)
Your Film badge gets you free access to all Interactive panels at the Long Center, so you can get a peek at the other juggernaut of programming and consider buying a Platinum badge next year. As for the venue itself, the Long Center grounds provide a gorgeous view of Downtown Austin and some nice stretches of grass for a quick lie-down. (Note: We did not say “pass out.”) Capacity = 210.
Topfer Theatre at Zach (1510 Toomey)
This just-opened theatrical venue is this year’s sexy newcomer with cushy seats and that coveted new car smell; SXSW is installing a state-of-the-art projection rig for the duration of the Fest. It’s a bit of a hike from Downtown, so do yourself a favor and hop on the shuttle (free for badgeholders). Capacity = 420.
Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz (320 E. Sixth)
Small, but classic, and it couldn't be more centrally located. This year, SXSW is linking the Alamo’s two screens, which means 1 film will be simultaneously projected in both theatres. That also means one theatre will enjoy the post-film Q&A in-person, while the other theatre experiences it via live feed. Ergo: Get there extra early if you want to breathe the same air as the cast & crew. Capacity = 241 seats (combined screens)
Violet Crown Cinema (434 W. Second)
Arguably the most arthouse-sophisticate of the Film venues, and definitely the smallest, but don't be discouraged. They're linking screens here too to double the chances you'll get in. Capacity = Theaters 1 & 2 (combined), 94 seats; Theaters 3 & 4 (combined), 89 seats.
Carver Museum and Cultural Center (1165 Angelina)
This venue is earmarked for free community screenings, like the Texas High School Shorts program, Faces of Austin showcase, and Austin Film Society ShortCase. You’re not going to want to walk from Downtown – too far – but it’s worth the cab ride, because the Carver gets you in spitting distance of the revitalized Eastside, where some of the city’s best new bars and restaurants are located. Wanna know which ones to hit? Take a look at our Eastside Bar Crawl.
SXsatellite: Alamo Slaughter Lane (5701 W. Slaughter Lane)
SXsatellite venues are intended for locals who don't want to go anywhere near the throngs Downtown, but all are welcome. Slaughter Lane is about a 15-minute drive from the Convention Center. This is the latest in the Alamo chain, and perched right next door is 400 Rabbits, an Alamo-owned cocktail lounge. Swank. Capacity = 130.
SXsatellite: Alamo Village (2700 W. Anderson)
The Village got remodeled a little while back, and the strip mall where it’s situated has seen some new restaurants move in. This one's also about a 15-minute drive from the Convention Center. Capacity = 115.
You know, I’m really more of a visual learner.
You're in luck. SXSW made this helpful video.
Whoa. What happened to the Alamo South Lamar?
Bad news, amigos: The Alamo and the HighBall, its next-door bar/bowling alley/all-your-karaoke-dreams-come-true/all-purpose pleasure dome, are closed for renovations until fall. (In fact, the whole complex is undergoing a major overhaul, which you can read more about here.) But if you’re hankering for the signature Alamo experience, you still can get a Royale With Cheese at the three other Alamo SXSW Film venues.
DEMYSTIFYING THE LINES
Can somebody please explain the queue situation?
....Yes? The process gets tweaked every year; we usually just storm the nearest SXSW volunteer and look helpless. Not so this year!
SXXpress (South by Express) Passes allow Film, Gold, and Platinum badgeholders the ability to pick up two tickets per day that bump them to the front of the line at specific screenings. A limited number of tickets are available the day of the screening only and must be used in combination with a badge.
The SXXpress pass doesn’t guarantee you a seat, though, so you should still plan on arriving to the theatre at least 30 minutes before showtime. SXXpress passes are available March 8-16, 9am-4pm, on the upper level of the Austin Convention Center, near the Film panels rooms.
If I have an SXXpress pass, does that make me top dog?
Yes. Just don’t let it go to your head. Here’s how the priority system goes:
First in the door: SXSW badgeholders with SXXpress passes
Second: SXSW badgeholders sans SXXpress passes
Third: SXSW Film Pass holders (we're calling it a pass, but this year, it's a wristband; better for fist bumps!)
Fourth: Single-admission tickets ($10 each), purchased prior to showtime
If you have a Film Pass or a Badge, SXSW recommends you show up at least 45 minutes before screening time. If you’re hoping to buy a single-admission ticket, SXSW recommends you arrive at least an hour in advance.
Hold on. Go back to what you said about Film Passes being wristbands this year.
Sure thing. They work the same as in the past – wristband holders won't have to pay any admission fee and get in right after all badges and before single tickets. They cost $80 (including tax) and are available at Waterloo Records, the Alamo Ritz, Alamo Village, and Alamo Slaughter Lane. If you buy a Film wristband prior to the fest, you'll receive a voucher that you'll then redeem at any cashier at any Film venue during screening hours. The cashier will put the wristband on your person once you flash 'em your voucher.
OK, back to the lines. It still sounds like there’s some guesswork involved. How do I avoid showing up to a sold-out screening?
Check the Venue Status Boards. They’re located at all Downtown Film venues, and they’ll tell you just how full each screening is so far (green light = go; yellow light = hurry, seats are filling up fast; red light = sold-out). You can also access that information at http://vsb.sxsw.com/, or via the SXSW Go app, available for iPhone, iPad, and Android.
Can you run through the line system one more time?
OK. I know where to go and what to do once I’m in line. But how do I get there?
Most of the SXSW Film venues are concentrated in the Downtown area, so you can probably just hoof it. (Not advised if your first trip off the plane was to Allens Boots – you gotta break those bad boys in slowly.) Not a walker? The SXSW Film Festival Shuttle is free for all Platinum, Gold, and Film badgeholders and runs throughout the Fest.
Other options include: pedicabs, taxi cabs, Capital Metro buses and light rail, and Car2Go. (Consider yourself warned: SideCar, which recently acquired beleaguered Austin car-share service Heyride, has received a cease-and-desist letter from the City of Austin's Transportation Department.)
You can find more info about SXSW transpo here.
BEING IN THE MOMENT...
I think my 2pm screening may overlap with that 3:45pm one on the other side of town! What do I do?
You take a breath. And then maybe order another Lone Star. SXSW isn’t about hustling; it’s about taking your time and being open to whatever moment you’re in. Time in a line is time well-spent: That’s how you get to know other festivalgoers and discover your next must-see movie. Stick around for the Q&As – they’re usually a blast – and you might end up hearing about an unpublicized afterparty or some popup shenanigan.
On the subject of parties: So. Many. Parties. How do I prioritize?
The Opening and Closing Night parties are a given. The Chronicle Film Bash – shameless plug, shrug – is also guaranteed good times; it's open to all badgeholders, and it's usually well-stocked with filmmakers. Beyond that? There are so many official and unofficial parties to choose from, you could throw a dart and hit a good one. If you're at all tempted, go ahead and RSVP. Insider tip: The bigger parties come with sponsors, so gravitate towards one you like. (We used to hit American Spirit-sponsored parties like a fiend; that kept us in free cigs for a full month after the fest.) But the real takeaway is this: Just say yes. Be open to wherever the SXSW winds take you; we've had our very best times at the impromptu get-togethers that spring up after a movie everyone's jazzed about. It's all a parade, so step in, son!
...WHILE STILL STAYING ON TOP OF IT ALL
My head is swimming. How do I stay on target?
We recommend our friends at Sched.org; they’ve got all the latest info on official and unofficial showcases, parties, etc. – pretty much everything you need to plan and share your schedule.
If you want a quick skim of everything that's happening locally in food & drink, lifestyle, arts, and more, our partners at Spun have designed a snazzy 3D iPhone app that pulls in the buzziest stories from a wide range of media sources (including, natch, the Austin Chronicle).
Yikes! My phone battery just died. Am I toast?
Nah. Mobile Charging Lockers is setting up shop at Second & Trinity daily from 10am to 3am for you to safely power up your precious devices.
Damn, this tote bag is heavy. Do I seriously have to lug it around all day?
Nope. This year, SXSW debuts SX Lockers, a secure place for you to drop your shit and roam free like the wild (but fashionably accessorized) buffalo you are. That, too, is located at Second & Trinity.
WHERE TO FEED YOUR FACE
It’s 4pm, and I'm running on nothing but Bloody Marys and limp celery stalks.
Select venues – namely the Violet Crown and the Alamo Drafthouse chain – have in-theatre food options. But honestly? Throw a rock, and you'll hit a fine dining establishment, a mom-and-pop place famous for its hangover burger, or trailer park curated by a Top Chef. Wanna know which one is closest to you? Consult The Austin Chronicle’s Guide to Locating and Destroying Food Targets at SXSW Film. It’s got color-coded maps and bite-sized blurbs about the nearest eateries. And if you're on Foursquare, follow the Chronicle and that'll take you lickety-split to our full reviews.
If you're moving farther afield from Downtown, then you should consult the Chronicle's Restaurant Guide for noms in every neighborhood.
If you’re only on the hunt for breakfast tacos (no judgment; we’re powered by tacos, too), then you might check out the nifty SXSW Taco Map put out by those tortilla-loving cats at Taco Journalism.
Our pals at Flow Nonfiction have more spot-on food & drink recos (along with other general hints) from Paul Qui and others in their "Do It Like a Local" guide.
Stay hydrated. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a jacket or sweater – Austin in spring can veer wildly from sunny and 75 (feels so good to be alive) to night freezes and torrential downpours. Pause to eat a real meal (don't forget your leafy greens!). Don't accept drinks from strangers. Pace yourself. Wear sunscreen even when it's overcast. And while we like to think of Austin as an exceptionally friendly place, it's also a big city and, yes, crime exists. Make like your mama taught you and work the buddy system. Don't shortcut through dark alleys. Keep the number of a cab company programmed into your phone. Be smart, and be safe, friends.
Color me SXSExhausted. What if I just need a breather?
Austin has many charms. If you're in possession of a car, consider a Day Trip, but even if you're just on foot, you can still find a respite from the madness. Check out our Visitors Guide for hints on how to get around the city at large and even find a photo op or two.
I am in love with this town. How soon can I come back?
Isn’t it the best? Come back anytime! (To visit. Not to stay. We’re kind of at-capacity, guys.) Austin has transformed into a year-round destination spot for film festivals, including Fantastic Fest, the Austin Film Festival, Cine las Americas, Polari (formerly the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival), the Austin Jewish Film Festival, and the Austin Polish Film Festival. We also have vibrant repertory and microindie programming all year long, thanks to the efforts of the Austin Film Society, the Paramount Theatre, Cinema East, and the Drafthouse franchise, just to name a few. There’s loads more we haven’t even mentioned here, but that's what the Chronicle does all year round, so keep reading and you're bound to find something that's a perfect fit.
Still scratching your head? Give us a holler at firstname.lastname@example.org.