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This is the first of three SXSW special issues we'll be publishing. This week there is a strong focus on new media, next week is film, and the week after, of course, the Austin Music Awards along with a load of special SXSW music coverage. All of these issues will include coverage of other areas as well as the usual Chronicle content.

Chris Roberts, on the cover of this issue, graduated from designing games to directing movies (Wing Commander, his directorial debut, opens nationwide on March 12). Publisher Nick Barbaro at one point suggested we run Chris Roberts on the cover of next week's issue, which will concentrate on film, given that he is now a director. In this way, Roberts serves as kind of a poster boy for all of SXSW. This 10-day, three-conference, two-festival event is really about achieving your creative ideas on your own terms. This is whether they are in a traditional form -- movies, games, Web sites, and songs -- or something more trans-genre -- as you pursue your vision. SXSW at its best isn't about the music business, designing a game, or breaking into the film industry; it is about ideas and how to achieve them. We should not only be able to live off of our creativity but be in control of it as well. This is the theory of SXSW.

Roberts' career illustrates this. Appropriately, the Paramount will kick off everything on Thursday when it screens Wing Commander as a special pre-SXSW event. SXSW week officially kicks off with Friday night screenings introducing 10 days of film, new media, and music, of eating, listening, and watching, of talk, thought, and vision.

This issue concentrates on SXSW Interactive. In each of these areas, new media, music, and film -- Austin is unique in that we have an incredible homegrown community but one which has attracted national attention. SXSW Interactive this year also concentrates on making explicit the connections between new media, film, and music.

SXSW was begun 13 years ago at the Chronicle by Roland Swenson, Nick Barbaro, and me, who worked here, and Louis Jay Meyers, who didn't. Meyers left a few years ago to pursue other interests, though he still is a SXSW consultant and runs the SXSW golf tournament among many other things. Roland Swenson is the managing director who oversees SXSW operations. Nick Barbaro and I are Roland's partners. Consider this your conflict-of-interest warning for all SXSW events. Happily, SXSW has grown up to be an event we're all proud of, and my enthusiasm for it and for Austin those 10 days in March is genuine. SXSW is my favorite time of year.

The Austin Music Awards, Wednesday evening, March 17, will kick off the SXSW Music Festival and Conference. The lineup is chock-full, with emcee Paul Ray introducing Austin musical heroes including Meg Hentges, Kinky Friedman, Monte Warden, Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison, Charlie Robison, Davíd Garza, Reckless Kelly with special guest Joe Ely, and the Resentments (with Jon Dee Graham, Stephen Bruton, Mambo John Treanor, and Judd Newcomb). Special presenters include Shawn Colvin & Kinky Friedman, Carlyn Majer & Michael Greene (NARAS), Roger Sovine & Mark Mason (BMI), Clifford Antone & Jimmie Vaughan.

There are so many events, both SXSW and non-SXSW, over the next few weeks. We are in the thick of it. SXSW begins next Friday. It is going to be a great one. We'll be bringing you more news soon.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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