SXSW Announces New Batch of Featured Speakers

Game of Thrones showrunners join tech, health innovators, and more

Today, SXSW unveiled some more of their Featured Speakers for the Fest. Notable among the names are Game of Thrones co-creators and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

Here Be Dragons: Game of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss (l) and David Benioff will be speaking at SXSW 2017. (Courtesy of HBO)

The duo will most likely be taking a break from post-production on the much-anticipated season 7 of the HBO show, set to air this summer (my guess? July). Benioff and Weiss will no doubt be discussing the ins and outs of constructing one of the most popular TV series of the last decade, although an exploration on what happens when your source material runs out might come up. Also announced is CNN commentator, author, and friend of Prince, Van Jones, whose nonprofit organization the Dream Corps has launched initiatives promoting educating low-income children in computer coding and criminal justice reform, among other issues.

Should you need assistance in dealing with the clutter in your life, look no further than bestselling author, organizing consultant, and prolific speaker Marie Kondo, whose philosophy of only keeping the things that “spark joy” in your life should help you with that spring cleaning. Into AI? Hiroshi Ishiguro, a pioneer in robotic engineering (who has made an android resembling himself) and Ryuichiro Higashinaka, who works in the computer science field of natural language processing (AI communicating with humans) will be here to tell us what the future holds regarding our impending robot oppressors (as if the human ones weren’t enough to deal with). On the healthier side, the CEO of increasingly popular indoor cycling studio SoulCycle (there’s one in the Domain, natch), Melanie Whelan, will perhaps speak on the linguistic evolution of how the use of a stationary bicycle came to be known as “spinning.”

Political lightning rod Van Jones (Courtesy of CNN)

The complete film festival lineup will be announced Tuesday, Jan. 31, with the exception of Midnighter features, which will be revealed with the Short Film and VR Program on Tuesday, Feb. 7. A smattering of films, including the Opening Night Film (Terrence Malick’s Austin-set film Song to Song) have already dropped, and previously announced keynotes and featured speakers include Lee Daniels, Gareth Edwards, Kathryn Hahn, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Jill Soloway, and more. SXSW 2017 runs March 10-19. For more info, and to purchase badges, go to

The featured speakers announced today are listed below.

Steve Case and Beth Comstock (Startup Village): Steve Case is America's best-known and most accomplished entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of AOL and CEO of Revolution. Beth Comstock is vice chair at GE. In this capacity, she leads GE’s efforts to accelerate new growth.

Tom Cwik, Maggie Malone, Steve May, and Vick Schutz (Entertainment Influencers): Tom Cwik leads space technology development at JPL, initiating and maintaining the laboratory's long-term tech strategy. Maggie Malone is the head of creative affairs at Walt Disney Animation Studios, where she has worked on such films as Zootopia and Frozen. Steve May is the chief technology officer at Pixar, overseeing the development of visual effects tools and processes for the entire studio. Vick Schutz is the computer graphics supervisor at ILM, where he completed work on films such as Avatar, War of the Worlds, and more.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (Entertainment Influencers): David Benioff works as an author and screenwriter. D.B. Weiss is a writer and the author of Lucky Wander Boy. Both Benioff and Weiss are co-creators and executive producers of the Emmy Award-winning Game of Thrones for HBO.

Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro and Dr. Ryuichiro Higashinaka (Intelligent Future): Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro is director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, part of the Department of Systems Innovation in the Graduate School of Engineering Science at Osaka University, Japan. Dr. Ryuichiro Higashinaka is a senior research scientist at the Audio, Speech, and Language Media Laboratory, a part of the NTT Media Intelligence Laboratories.

Van Jones (Government): Van Jones is an author, CNN political commentator, and host of The Messy Truth with Van Jones on CNN. Jones worked as the green jobs advisor to President Barack Obama, and has founded and led four nonprofit organizations engaged in social and environmental justice.

Let Marie Kondo organize your world. (Photo courtesy of Martin Schoeller)

Marie "KonMari" Kondo (Design): Marie “KonMari” Kondo is a Japanese organizing consultant, author, and visionary entrepreneur. Kondo has captured the findings from her lifelong journey of organization as the bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.

Ray Kurzweil and Amy Kurzweil (Tech Industry): Ray Kurzweil is one of the world’s leading inventors, thinkers, and futurists. He is co-founder and chancellor of Singularity University and a director of engineering at Google. Amy Kurzweil is a cartoonist and writer whose comics have appeared in The New Yorker and The Huffington Post. She teaches writing and comics at Parsons The New School for Design and at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Wagner Moura and Alice Braga with John Hopewell (Entertainment Influencers): Golden Globe nominated actor Wagner Moura (Narcos, Netflix) and actress Alice Braga (Queen of the South, USA Network), two Brazilian artists, discuss diversity in Hollywood alongside Variety reporter John Hopewell, as both star in cutting-edge, primetime drama series in the United States with Latin American protagonists.

Casey Neistat (Journalism): Casey Neistat is a YouTube creator with over 1.3 billion views, a filmmaker, and a technology entrepreneur. In November 2016, he became part of CNN Worldwide, where he is currently building an entirely new stand-alone media and technology company that combines CNN's global resources with a fresh approach to the news.

Gen. Paul J. Selva (Government): General Selva serves as the 10th vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this capacity, he is the nation’s second highest-ranking military officer. Selva was recently featured on the 60 Minutes segment “The Coming Swarm,” which addressed autonomous drones.

SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan (Courtesy of SoulCycle)

Melanie Whelan and Tyler Haney with Julia Boorstin (Health): Melanie Whelan is the CEO of SoulCycle, the country's premier indoor cycling brand. Tyler Haney is the founder and CEO of active lifestyle brand Outdoor Voices. Julia Boorstin is the senior media and entertainment correspondent for CNBC.

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