SXSW Brings the Cosmos to Austin

Keynote brings unseen images from the James Webb telescope

The Carina Nebula as captured by the James Webb Space Satellite. The instrument, and its impact on cosmology, will be the subject of a recently-announced keynote at this years SXSW conference (March 10-19) (Photo by NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

South by Southwest is getting ready to expand your view of the cosmos with the announcement of a truly cosmic key note centering on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope at this year's festival (March 10-19).

Having already announced speakers including Palme D'Or-winning French filmmaker Julia Ducournau and former Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards, this morning SXSW added even more speakers and panels, with the biggest addition being this space-centric keynote.

Launched in 2021, the James Webb telescope has revolutionized our understanding of the stars and the history of the universe through infrared astronomy, allowing scientists to look further (and further back) into the cosmos.

Two years ago, the telescope and the team behind it were the subject of SXSW-selected documentary The Hunt for Planet B, and this year that stellar experiment will yet again attract audiences with Unfold The Universe: NASA’s Webb Space Telescope. The panel will include several leading members of the JSWT team, including NASA Goddard Communications Team Lead Laura Betz, astrophysicist and Deputy Project Scientist for Exoplanet Science Dr. Knicole Colón, planetary scientist and Deputy Project Scientist for Planetary Science Dr. Stefanie Milam, and astrophysicist and Deputy Project Scientist for Science Communications Dr. Amber Straughn. Best of all, the Session will feature never-before-seen image from the telescope.

Hugh Forrest, SXSW Chief Programming Officer and Co-President said, “We are honored to host a Keynote Session featuring members of the James Webb Space Telescope team. They join an impressive group of Featured Speakers who have consistently strived for progress and discovery across a diverse range of industries, including healthcare, technology, transportation, food and the arts.”

Of course, the big question is whether there may be any hints about potential programming announcements for the recently renamed SXSW Film and TV Festival in that extended speaker list. Well, Lost creator Damon Lindelof and Young Sheldon co-exective producer Tara Hernandez will be discussing their new Peacock series Mrs Davis, about a nun (The Hunt star Betty Gilpin) battling AIs, so it's not impossible that there may be an episode of the show which debuts in April.

Equally, with author Cheryl Strayed in conversation with showrunner Liz Tigelaar about their upcoming series, Tiny Beautiful Things, that's another contender for some kind of sneak preview. The show stars Katherine Hahn as an advice columnist who shouldn't be giving anyone advice, and will debut on Hulu this Spring.

And, filling out the list of potential double-duty-pullers, Boots Riley had huge success at SXSW 2018 with his acerbic race and class satire Sorry to Bother You: now he's back at SXSW 2023, just becfore his new show, I'm a Virgo, drop on Prime. Not that he's the only musical polymath added to the lineup, as rap legends Killer Mike and RZA will also be warming up the convention center green room.

And Disney fans get a kind of do-over on a panel that never happened. Back in 2020, Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Chairman Bob Chapek was announced as a speaker. However, the conference was canceled due to the pandemic, and Chapek launched his short and very controversial tenure as Disney CEO which ended earlier this year when he was ousted. Now his successor as parks boss, Josh D’Amaro, will be talking to SXSW about the complexities and challenges of imagineering (the technical term for what the designers and engineers do in the company's five parks).

SXSW 2023 runs March 10-19, 2023. Badges and further info are available now at sxsw.com.

Also, make sure to follow all our coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw.

Now here’s a full rundown of today’s newly announced keynote, panel and featured speakers from SXSW.

FEATURED SPEAKERS

• Senior Media Analyst at Variety Intelligence Platform Gavin Bridge in conversation with Media Analyst and Correspondent for Variety Intelligence Platform Heidi Chung and President and Chief Media Analyst of Variety Intelligence Platform Andrew Wallenstein

• Founder and Host of the Voices of VR podcast Kent Bye

• Actors Guillermo Diaz and Katie Lowes, stars of the hit ABC series Scandal, discuss their new Shondaland Audio and iHeartPodcasts rewatch podcast Unpacking the Toolbox. The co-hosts will share behind the scenes stories and fun facts about the series’ most memorable moments.

• Actress, writer, director, producer and founder and Creative Director of CURRAN Tommy Dorfman

• Creator and host of the podcast Crime Junkie and founder and CEO of audiochuck Ashley Flowers in conversation with President of audiochuck Kevin Mills

• Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services Adrienne A. Harris in conversation with President and CEO of PayPal Dan Schulman

• Writer and co-Executive Producer of The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon Tara Hernandez in conversation with Primetime Emmy Award-winning creator, writer, Executive Producer and Showrunner of Lost and Watchmen Damon Lindelof about their careers and collaborating on their upcoming Peacock series, Mrs. Davis.

New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and co-founder and Senior Maverick at Wired Kevin Kelly

• Emmy-nominated director, producer, actress, entrepreneur and activist Eva Longoria

• Grammy-award winning rapper, businessman and activist Killer Mike

• Seven Seven Six Founder and former Executive Chair of Reddit Alexis Ohanian in conversation with Program Director for the 776 Foundation and Fellowship Program Lissie Garvin, activist, eco-entrepreneur and founder of Upenndo! Productions Maya Penn, and co-founder and CTO of Hydrova Inc Rostam Reifschneider

• Activist, filmmaker and musician Boots Riley

• Record producer, director, screenwriter, rapper and composer RZA

• Author of the national bestseller The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life and Executive Director of the Religion & Society Program at the Aspen Institute Simran Jeet Singh

• Best-selling author Cheryl Strayed (Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) talks about the adaptation of her bestselling book Tiny Beautiful Things with Creator, Executive Producer and Showrunner Liz Tigelaar who is adapting the book for a Hulu Original Series, produced by ABC Signature.

• CEO of Kickstarter Everette Taylor

• Founder and CEO of Chobani Hamdi Ulukaya

• COO of Reddit Jen Wong

FEATURED SESSIONS

• Autonomous Driving: More Time to Do What You Love: The future of mobility will be electric, autonomous, entertaining and above all: exciting. There is a paradigm shift happening as the automotive industry transitions gradually to a safe autonomous driving future and a new sense of freedom is coming for both drivers and passengers sooner than you might think. In this session, join founder and CEO of ZYNC Rana June, founder and CEO of Luminar Austin Russell and Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG and CTO Markus Schäfer as they discuss how the software-defined car, autonomous technology and embedded entertainment content aim to give you back your most valuable resource — time — and how this lets you experience your car like never before.

• Creating Happiness: The Art & Science of Disney Parks Storytelling: For nearly 70 years, Disney Parks has created happiness for millions through experiences that bring Disney’s beloved stories to life. Across its theme parks, hotels, cruises and adventures, Disney Parks has curated magical places around the world where a simple moment can become a treasured lifelong memory. The ‘Art & Science’ of storytelling is the secret to how Disney amazes its Guests and delivers memorable experiences. In this session, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro will share how Disney’s storytelling techniques will build on its legacy of creativity and innovation for a world that can always use just a little more happiness.

• Crushing: The Burden of Diabetes on Patients: 1 in 10 Americans live with diabetes, making millions of tiny decisions to keep themselves alive. For the most resourced patients in America, the burden of diabetes still looms large over their heads — so what does that mean for patients without access to the best of the best in tools and treatments? In this session, join Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod, singer, songwriter, actor and member of the Grammy Award-nominated band Jonas Brothers Nick Jonas, Executive Vice President and COO of Dexcom Jake Leach and the Pastor of the Pattison United Methodist Church in Pattison, TX, Rev. Mireya Martínez as they share their perspectives that span the diabetic ecosystem to answer the question: are we doing enough?

• Don’t be a Drag, Just be a Queen: 2022 saw a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced across the country, and we’ve already seen one Texas lawmaker announce that he will introduce a bill to ban youth from attending drag shows next year. The heated political discourse has led to threats against Pride celebrations and drag shows around the world. We know these debates are negatively impacting LGBTQ youth — and that access to affirming spaces and representation is crucial to mental health. In this session, join drag queen, makeup artist, author and trans rights activist Gottmik, drag queen Jaida Essence Hall, attorney, activist, Adjunct Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law and Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project Preston Mitchum and drag queen and model Symone as they discuss drag’s historical roots and cultural significance today, why promoting self-expression is so important, and how we can all help create a more accepting world.

• Have a Good Trip: Psychedelics in Film and TV: Psychedelics are easy to stigmatize and criminalize. Case Study: the last 50 years. Enter GOOD TRIP STUDIOS, the psychedelic company with a mission to destigmatize psychedelics through entertainment and pop culture. Their movie Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics was an official 2020 SXSW selection and launched as the #1 Netflix movie worldwide accumulating tens of millions of views in the first month. The documentary features A-list celebrities and artists discussing their personal psychedelic experiences and helped spark the current psychedelic renaissance. In this session, join comedian, actor and Creator and Host of The Eric Andre Show Eric André, Emmy Award-winning writer, producer and director Donick Cary (Have a Good Trip, The Simpsons), Global Impact Officer at MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) Natalie Ginsberg and Executive Producer and Showrunner of The Eric Andre Show Mike Rosenstein as they discuss how psychedelics are portrayed in media and how they have inspired artists and pop culture. They will also share exclusive clips and stories from other planets!

• How Music, Entrepreneurship & Independence Intersect: How can artists build careers off their music, own their intellectual property, and transcend into new ventures to build a multi-faceted company? Just ask the team behind EVGLE, a company that brings all verticals in-house spanning records, publishing, media, fashion and ventures. In this session, hear from Billboard R&B / Hip-Hop Rookie of the Year and multi-platinum artist, producer and co-founder and CEO of EVGLE Blxst, co-founder and President of EVGLE Victor Burnett, co-founder and COO of EVGLE Karl Fowlkes and R&B/Hip Hop Reporter at Billboard Heran Mamo on how to take the necessary steps to build a successful entertainment company that transcends cultural boundaries.

• Voting is a Civil Rights Issue: American elections and democracy continue to be attacked in a ploy to justify rolling back civil liberties and voting rights when we should be expanding those rights and making it easier for everyone to participate in the democratic process. In this session, join Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, President of the Drum Major Institute Arndrea Waters King,Chairman of the Board of the Drum Major Institute Martin Luther King III, civil rights leader Ralph G. Neas and founder and CEO of Tusk Philanthropies and the Mobile Voting Project Bradley Tusk as they share their insight into how we can expand access to voting for marginalized groups.

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