The gray gushes into black. The whole place is lit, the walls covered with page flats for the issue that are very gradually being filled up. Ads and copy added to each page. The body of the Chronicle being stuck to the skeleton. There is calm and chaos, everything is moving slow and everything is feeling fast. We've entered that special time here at the SXSW/Chronicle compound. As I write this we are just one day away from the unofficial kickoff of SXSW '99, the Paramount screening of Chris Roberts' Wing Commander. Friday, SXSW Week (10 days long) officially kicks off with the opening night of SXSW Film, with films showing on five screens (two at the Dobie, the Paramount, the Alamo Drafthouse, and the Convention Center).
SXSW Film Festival features nine nights at those five screens. There are some extraordinary narrative films but, as always at SXSW Film, documentaries get just as serious attention.
The Film Festival this year honors Jack Hill with a special retrospective (with actor Sid Haig in attendance and Quentin Tarantino introducing some of the screenings). Hill's two-decade career is notable for the exploitation films he made in the Seventies including The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage, Coffy, and Switchblade Sisters. Hill is the perfect honoree for SXSW Film. This conference is not about breaking into the Hollywood industry or understanding what next year's filmic product is going to be. It is about making the movie you want to make on your own terms. Working in exploitation films, among the most commercial areas, Hill turned out some terrific films. Of special note is the Jack Hill double bill on the roof of GSD&M's Idea City new parking garage. As with other topics discussed in this column, check ads and articles in the rest of this issue for more complete information on SXSW.
SXSW Film Festival will also be presenting a four-film retrospective of the works of controversial documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield in conjunction with the Austin Film Society. These are the retrospectives, there are dozens of interesting films being screened, go search them out.
On Saturday the SXSW Film Conference begins: panels, workshops, meetings, talks, parties, and movies. In its sixth year, SXSW Film has become a place where independent filmmakers gather to talk, exchange ideas, and watch each other's films.
I go out for a walk. Both SXSW Headquarters and the Chronicle are buzzing, but the field is dark and quiet. I walk around in circles. Wanting the quiet but wanting to be in motion.
SXSW Interactive also kicks off on Saturday. Over the last few years SXSW Interactive has become one of the gathering places for Austinites involved in new media as well as for folks from all over the country. But one of its purposes is as a gathering place for locals. The panels, workshops, and meetings are invaluable but just as much of the important talk here is in the hallways, at meals, or at the trade show. There is a special $15 executive one-day pass that is good just for admission to the Interactive trade show.
Over the years, quietly SXSW Interactive has become one of the most important components of SXSW. Combining interests in all media, SXSW Interactive points toward the future.
The Austin Music Awards, next Wednesday evening, March 17, officially kick off the SXSW Music and Media Conference. At this point things will really accelerate.
The Music Awards honor not just Austin musicians but you, the Austin music audience. It is about your tastes and your choices. Those honored aren't picked by record executives, club owners, and critics.
SXSW and The Austin Chronicle present the Austin Music Awards, co-sponsored by our friends at KGSR-FM 107.1, beginning promptly at 7:55pm on Wednesday, March 17 at the Austin Music Hall. The lineup presents an outrageous cross section of current Austin talent 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 Jud Newcomb). Special presenters include Shawn Colvin and Kinky Friedman, Carlyn Majer and Michael Greene (NARAS), Roger Sovine and Mark Mason (BMI), Clifford Antone and 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 for all practical purposes begins tomorrow. Film, games, music, the future, and a lot of out-of-town guests will all be tumbled dry together over the next few weeks. SXSW is going to be a great one, from the most exclusive expensive benefits to the free-for-everyone outdoor shows, we invite you to partake. We'll be bringing you more news soon.