SXSW Gets Virtual

VR film pioneer Jessica Brillhart announced as 2019 keynote

Jessica Brillhart, founder of Vrai Pictures and SXSW 2019 film keynote

Get ready for the fourth wall to vaporize at SXSW 2019, as the conference has just announced VR cinema pioneer Jessica Brillhart as its latest keynote speaker.

SXSW has already announced Garbage singer Shirley Manson and Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry as Music keynotes, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom for Interactive, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer producer Marti Noxon for Film, then added Consensys founder Joseph Lubin as an Interactive keynote. Now they're joined by Brillhart: Formerly principal filmmaker for VR at Google, and part of the team that developed VR capture ecosystem Google Jump, she is now applying that tech and theory through her independent studio Vrai Pictures.

SXSW Director of Film Janet Pierson described Brillhart as "a shining star in the immersive arts community, [she] is an early explorer trying to define storytelling in the immersive world and she’s spearheaded early innovation in creating stories using VR, AR, and AI.”

Brillhart isn't the only name added to the roster for the multidisciplinary festival (running March 8-17). This morning SXSW also announced another raft of featured speakers in 11 of the 25 tracks open to attendees.

Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

• Clovyr CEO and co-founder Amber Baldet.


Troy Dayton, co-founder of cannabis investment firm the Arcview Group.
• Lawyer and Oregon Cannabis Association founder Amy Margolis, who also established the Initiative, a business accelerator aimed at women in the cannabis industry.
• Heisman winner Ricky Williams joins record-setting NBA player and former The Best Damn Sports Show Period host John Salley; former Arcview communications director and now executive assistant to The Oil Plant founder Mara Gordon, Jess Dugan; and Infused Health CEO Dr. Michele Ross to discuss "Cannabis and Wellness: The Body and Beyond."

Entrepreneurship & Startups

• Black Girls CODE founder and CEO Kimberly Bryant.
Arlan Hamilton, founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, an investment firm intended to decrease gender and race dispartities in tech.
• Actor/comedian Damon Wayans Jr. and investor Kristopher B. Jones, who will discuss their non-managed and emerging talent booking app Special Guest.

Entertainment Influencers

Freaks and Geeks and Vice Principals star Busy Philipps in conversation with Clique Brands chief content officer Hillary Kerr.
• Emmy and Golden Globe winner Elisabeth Moss (who, totally coincidentally, has two films – Alex Ross' Her Smell and Jordan Peele's Us – opening the same month as SXSW).
• Four-time Emmy winner, feature director, and, of course, Muppeteer Frank Oz.

Future Workplace

• GSD&M chairman and co-founder Roy Spence, author of The Amazing Faith of Texas and It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven by Purpose.

Health & MedTech

• Actor and comedian Kevin Hart sits down with David Ko (president and COO, Rally Health Inc.), Sarah Martin (VP, Product and Consumer Innovation at Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina), and Vickie Strickland (director, Health Strategy & Resources, Delta Air Lines) to discuss "A Better Future Through Digital Health."

Intelligent Future

• VR pioneer Jaron Lanier.
• Novelist, futurist, and SXSW constant Bruce Sterling.

Making Film & Episodics

• Discovery Channel EVP Scott Lewers and SVP Fred Graver take a deep dive into how Shark Week has gone from a few TV shows to a genuine cultural phenomenon with "Sharks Everywhere! How We Multiplatform Shark Week."

Media & Journalism

The Daily Show host Trevor Noah and correspondents Ronny Chieng, Michael Kosta, Desi Lydic, Dulcé Sloan, Roy Wood Jr., and Jaboukie Young-White in conversation with CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper about staying on the button, and going beyond the show format with “Between the Scenes" and web content.

Music Industry & Culture

• *NSYNC member turned documentarian Lance Bass (Kidnapped for Christ, Mississippi: I Am).
• Musician and activist Laura Jane Grace, currently working on her Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers while Against Me! is on hiatus.
• SM Entertainment A&R executive Chris Lee.
• SoundCloud chief executive officer Kerry Trainor.

Social & Global Impact

• University of Houston research professor Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection and Dare to Lead. Brown will be the SXSW 2019 Opening Speaker.

SXSW runs March 8-17, 2019. Info and badges at

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