Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Diary of a Noob: SXSW Edition

For the full article, head to Film.com

It began with getting lost six times in 10 minutes and ended with my wallet getting stolen on Rainey Street (I blame this, and everything else that goes wrong in the world, on the Music festival) but in between I experienced the most fun film festival I’ve ever attended, a week in the magical land of destination BBQ, breakfast tacos, legendary milkshakes, great movies and even better people. As this was my first time not only to SXSW and Austin, but also to an out of state festival, I was three times a noob, and t to document the first 90 of my 168 hours in attendance, if only so others might learn from my mistakes. Drunk bonding with filmmakers, strange “only at SXSW” sightings and the 18 movies I caught, it’s all here.
5:00 P.M. After settling into the Hyatt Regency, where I will be rooming with Erin McCarthy of Mental Floss and Eugene Novikov of Film Blather, I decide to begin my journey into downtown. The Regency is over the bridge, which is about a 15-minute walk to the convention center, or if you can get a cab, a three-minute drive. I am armed with multiple electronics and a detailed binder. I feel prepared for whatever comes my way!
5:31 P.M. It quickly becomes apparent that I am not at all prepared for whatever comes my way. Or even the things that are vaguely near my way. Outside of the labyrinthine Convention Center I make not one, not two, not three, not even four or five, but six wrong turns before figuring out where I’m supposed to go. Neither my phone nor iPad seems to understand the geography of Austin (seriously, you’d need one of those tracker orbs from “Prometheus” to find your way around the Convention Center) and this binder is way too heavy. I think I’m doing it wrong.
6:04 P.M. I stumble into the Target Lounge to catch my breath, where I find Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze about to perform. This would probably be more exciting if it weren’t the first time that I’m learning of either Glenn Tilbrook or Squeeze..
6:05 P.M. Just as I leave the Target party, Tilbrook starts singing “Tempted” and I realize I totally know who Squeeze is! Victory! Also, I’m drunk. Was I even drinking!? Austin is very sneaky …
6:15 P.M. In line for my first movie, the documentary about Improv Everywhere, “We Cause Scenes”, at the Vimeo Theater, which is located on the first floor of the Austin Convention Center. I’m about 10th in line.
6:17 P.M. The line behind me is suddenly enormous. Noted.
8:50 P.M. I am thrilled with my first choice of movie. “We Cause Scenes” is a joyous detailing of Improv Everywhere’s history that touches on the impact of technology, the nature of art and the definition of success.  During the Q&A, the director invites the entire audience to come drink with him. I have a feeling I’m going to like this festival.
9:10 P.M. I notice that the throne from “Game of Thrones” is stationed beside the Vimeo Theater, and unlike at Comic-Con or Wondercon, no one seems to care. I make a mental note to make sure I come back and pose in it before the week is up. Like all of my mental notes, it will soon be completely obliterated by alcohol.
9:15 P.M. I run off to meet up with one of my SXSW partners in crime, Coco Quinn, and run into the entirety of the “Much Ado About Nothing” crew fresh off their Arty Bus. Joss Whedon and his cast are perfectly happy to chat with me like we go way back, because they are the nicest.
9:35 P.M. A random guy on the street offers me pot brownies. I reluctantly decline.
9:50 P.M. We arrive to the premiere party of “A Teacher”, held at an actual public school in East Austin. There’s a ton of food, free drinks, and ruler giveaways that say “Hot For Teacher” on them.
10:50 P.M. Head out of the party, figuring I can easily catch a cab and make it over to the Topfer theater for “V/H/S/2″ by 11pm. I am sorely mistaken.
11:23 P.M. A nice girl agrees to pedicab me over there for a discount. I’m not sure if she realizes how far away the Topfer theater is. I start to worry this pedicab ride will kill her.
11:48 P.M. Pedicab girl lives! (for now). She drops me at the theater, a performance space rocking a temporary screen for the duration of the fest. I grab a queue card, and eventually Erin and I are settled in for “V/H/S/2.”
1:25 A.M. The audience bursts into applause after Gareth Evan’s “V/H/S/2″ sequence. Holy crap.
1:50 A.M. During the Q&A, the filmmakers and Scott Weinberg start having a fun back and forth. I decide to introduce myself to Twitter friend Weinberg after the Q&A but then chicken out for no discernible reason. This will prove to be a SXSW trend. Next year, Weinberg. Next year.
2:15 A.M. Due to lack of a car and a 90-minute wait for a cab, Erin and I decide to walk back to Hyatt. On the long walk, which involves  going under a terrifying bridge, I comment to Erin that it’s like we’re starring in our own “V/H/S” right now! Erin does not like this.
2:26 A.M. A pedicab driver appears out of nowhere and insists that I high five him. I oblige. He murders neither Erin nor myself. This is good.
2:45 A.M. We make it back safe and sound, our faces eaten by zero drugged up mutants, and meet our roommate Eugene. At 2:45 in the morning. What up, SXSW!
Saturday after the jump!

9:00 A.M. My plan to wake up and go to the Samsung Brunch fails miserably as I couldn’t fall asleep till 6 in the morning, haunted by the disturbing imagery of last night’s Midnighter. I proceed to hit my alarm every ten minutes for the next two hours.
12:13 P.M. I finally head back downtown and share a free Chevy with a bunch of kids from Interactive. Turns out the Hyatt is filled with mostly Interactive folks, as their programming is all across the street at the Long Center. The girl in the car specializes in front loading software or something. The guys are super impressed and they all throw about a bunch of technical terms I couldn’t even begin to decipher. I suddenly feel like I’m LARPing “The Social Network.” They ask what I’m there for and when I say Film, they stare at me blankly and continue talking tech. No yeah cool, I’ll just see myself out.
12:53 P.M. I see Erin at “Much Ado About Nothing” and she tells me about how she just saw a Gorilla break dancing outside. Naturally.
3:37 P.M. After “Much Ado About Nothing”, both the darkest and most accessible adaptation of the play I’ve ever seen, there is a 45-minute panel with almost the entire cast,which you can read about here. One moment that didn’t make the cut? When a high school teacher thanked Whedon for making this movie.
4:13 P.M. Have a meeting with a future co-worker. Accidentally get drunk. That keeps happening.
6:00 P.M. Erin and I begin our party hopping for the evening. First up: Awsomeist Journalist Party, wherein we take our first photo booth pics of SXSW together.
6:15 P.M. We meet the CEO of Indie Go Go. We think he is kidding. He is not kidding. He promises us branded sweatbands if we come to their party Sunday. Spoiler Alert: As tempting as branded sweatbands are, we do not attend said party.
7:32 P.M. On the corner of Congress and Fifth, the center of it all, we encounter a werewolf playing the fiddle.
7:45 P.M. We walk into the WBTV Chuck Lorre cocktail party to discover Amanda Palmer performing, husband Neil Gaiman watching off to the side. She closes with a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Everything is awesome. We drink.
8:00 P.M. Filmmaker/Actor Todd Berger (“It’s a Disaster”) enters the party. We all hop into the ball pit and then Todd and Erin randomly star in some guy’s sketch video. All in a day’s work.
8:55 P.M. I am the 169th person to get into line for “Before Midnight” at the Paramount, and I eat my first meal of the day – an energy bar.
9:15 P.M. I make my first line friends! The producer of “Burma” and three Austin locals. The nice producer man invites me to their premiere party Sunday night. Nothing says “party!” like Burma.
10:10 P.M. The Paramount is enormous and I start to doubt I will be able to see the screen from my seats perched high atop the 1000+ seater.
10:30 P.M. The movie starts 45 minutes behind schedule. But I care not. It’s “Before Midnight”, people. I’ve waited nine years for this, I can handle an extra few minutes.
12:15 A.M. Oh my god “Before Midnight”. I can’t stop crying. I notice the notes I took throughout are exclusively quotes from the film. And exclusively smudged with tears. Helpful! 
12:20 A.M. The sky opens up and tries to drown us all.
12:50 A.M. My high emotions from “Before Midnight” coupled with the raging thunderstorm and knowledge that I have to be up early help me decide to head back to the hotel, rather than drink. I can’t find a cab, so I walk. 40 minutes. In a thunderstorm.
2:00 A.M. It becomes 3am. Good one, daylight savings. I begin to accept the inevitable reality that there is no such thing as a decent night of sleep at SXSW.