The SXSW Film Conference had brought everybody together but Austin was clearly the attraction. When Richard Linklater decided to stay here after Slacker revitalized American low-budget independent filmmaking, and Robert Rodriguez shot out of here with the $7,000 El Mariachi, Austin finally evolved into a town with a substantial independent filmmaking community.
It had been heading in that direction for a long time; Austin is or has been home to a large group of expatriate industry writers who work for Hollywood/New York businesses but live here -- Bill Witliff, Bud Shrake, Bill Broyles, Sarah Bird, Gary Cartwright, Emily Haas, Larry Wright, Stephen Harrigan, and the late Warren Skaaren. Austin has a reputation for interesting independent films including the Tobe Hooper-directed/Kim Henkel-written Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Bill Witliff's Red Headed Stranger, and Eagle Pennell's Whole Shooting Match. But it is only in the last half of this decade that there has been an onslaught of independent film production (the Dobie's continued and consistent support of independent film has been crucial to this increase). Producer Linda Obst moving to the area has also, almost singlehandedly, bred an onslaught of writer projects.
So, after a too-long day spent running around, and standing in that bar (the two nights run together in my head, so I may be a bit confused as to the exact guest list), the very talented SXSW Film Executive Producer Nancy Schafer was there both nights, as she is at every party, SXSW managing director Roland Swenson was seen actually leaning back and smoking a cigar while the other SXSW Film driving force, Chronicle publisher Nick Barbaro, was home (which would have been the sensible and less painful thing to do). I felt like the work of so many people was being rewarded. This wasn't simply a name-dropping celebrity list: These are all people who have done extraordinary work.
More importantly, the whole idea of this event, and the effort that regularly goes on in this city, is not simply to do great work but to inspire, encourage, and aid the next generation of American independent filmmakers. These people weren't there just to party, they were there to encourage and teach, which made it not only an exciting time but an inspirational one. There was a generation of younger talents in the room and at the conference who were excited about film and dedicated to independent visions.
Each night at the Speakeasy was also a hell of a party. This is the Austin creed: Do serious, important, and creative work but have fun while you're doing it or it is hardly worthwhile.
Talking about great Austin parties, tomorrow (as I write this, but the day before the event as you read it) is/was the Austin Music Awards. The awards in this issue are being laid out, Margaret Moser's legendary awards show hit squad is going through their practice routines and the line up for the show is fantastic. We'll show and tell you all about it next week. The centerpiece of this show is The Austin Chronicle's Music Awards, voted on by you, the readers. Our special thanks to Karen Rheudasil, Lax Gani, Mark Gates, Jeff Keyton, Amy Baldwin, and especially Kate Messer, Leah Welborn, Leslie Hill, and Madame Moser for their extraordinary work tabulating this year's poll.
Wednesday was also the kick-off night for SXSW Music Conference and Festival, which many of us will be knee-deep in right about now. Hundreds of bands at dozens of clubs, music and people everywhere... Austin is an extraordinary town where wonderful things happen because of the people who live here. In other words, let's go watch some movies (SXSW Film Festival runs 'til Saturday) and go listen to some music. Let's go eat some food, talk to old friends, and meet new ones. (And take it with the usual conflict-of-interest.)
Back here, at The Austin Chronicle, the staff has produced 296 pages of some of the best material we've ever produced in just two weeks. If you see them on the street, looking dragged out and tired, (or in Margaret's limo -- and we don't want to go into a description of how they look there) be sure to tell them what a swell job they do. They deserve to hear it. We do it because we have an audience that deserves and appreciates our work -- you. Which makes it all worthwhile.
Next week another issue and then another one. Don't, by the way, mention this to the staff, it just might be the wrong thing to say....