SXSW: Festival Showcases Vibrant Austin Scene

by | March 21, 2006 | Comments

South by Southwest is a festival that’s growing in popularity, and one of the key reasons is the city in which it’s held. Austin is one of the fastest growing communities in the country, and as an incubator for creativity, it has a lot going for it: many quirky movie theaters and live music venues, the University of Texas, and a booming tech industry.

For Austin resident and film buff Brian Miller, his city might be heaven.

"What’s not to like?" he said. "There’s a real passion for film and music. The weather’s nice. It’s kinda like the gem of Texas."

Austinites make the claim that their city is the live music capital of the world, but it’s also a point of pride that it’s a place where both established and up-and-coming filmmakers can make their mark.

University of Texas grad Korey Coleman directed "2 a.m.," a story of a group of guys and their adventures after the bars close at 2 a.m. The movie was shot in Austin, and Coleman said that in addition to a wealth of local talent, there were many businesses that allowed the crew to shoot the film on their premises.

"If you’re proactive, there are a lot of people that can help you out," he said. "The people are great here."

Austin resident Andrew Fraser worked as a production manager for two movies shot in the city, "Everything or Nothing" and "For Love & Stacie."

"A lot of producers come here to shoot, and there’s a lot of homegrown talent," he said. "[Austin] is very conducive to creative people in general."

University of Texas film student Brian Morgan came to school from Spokane, WA; he likes Austin so much he’s decided to stay after he graduates.

"It’s probably one of the best independent scenes in the country," he said. "If you’re trying to start off as a filmmaker, this is one of the better places to be. They have plenty of resources to help you get started."

It doesn’t hurt that some big-name directors, like Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater, and Mike Judge, not only started their careers in Austin, but continue to make films in the area.

"The most successful (Austin) filmmakers are intensely loyal," Miller said. "The people who do well here tend not to go off to LA. They stay here."

And for the younger filmmakers, the festival offers a great opportunity to draw attention to their small films.

"I’m really grateful for whatever attention we can get," Coleman said. "It’s still hard for me to believe we got in with all the competition."

"It’s a very comfortable environment," Fraser said. "Everybody seems really accessible at South by Southwest. It’s very much a filmmakers’ festival."

The festival has been able to maintain its sense of community even with its growth, but that may change if the word gets out, Miller said.

"There are a lot of locals that go every year, so it doesn’t feel like an industry-driven thing," he said. "The only problem is, as it gets more popular, it’s going to get harder to get in to all the screenings."

Still, as a place for a festival, it doesn’t get much better than Austin, Coleman said.

"It’s a big festival, but the town is so laid back," he said. "It’s a big party."

— Article by Tim Ryan; Photos by Geoffrey Pay

Check out South by Southwest features by Rotten Tomatoes:

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