FESTIVALS: SXSW Dispatch of Warm Filmmaker-Friendly Fun
by Mark Osborne
(indieWIRE/3.31.2000) -- I was extremely excited to finally attend what I heard was on of the coolest and most filmmaker friendly festivals to ever exist. Austin, Texas has been a desired film fans' destination ever since Richard Linklater's "Slacker," but the South by Southwest Film Festival was giving me plenty of reasons to show up too. (They were screening my feature "Dropping Out," I was asked to be on three panels, and my film "MORE" won best animated short here last year.)
Arriving at the Austin Convention Center, I checked in and things seemed refreshingly mellow and quiet. I picked up my filmmaker badge and was thrilled to discover that here the filmmaker is king. My badge could get me into any film, any panel, and any bingo parlor in town. I was looking forward to seeing as many films as I could cram into six days.
The filmmakers lounge was pretty active as Elvis Mitchell, the freshly appointed New York Times film critic, and Harry Knowles, the Austin-based film guru of "Ain't it Cool News" were talkin' shop. There was a relaxed atmosphere -- and free cheese! I met up with my brother Kent, the writer and star of "Dropping Out," who had driven in from LA, and Dan Brown, director of the local independent feature film "American Detective." Dan would serve as the moderator of our Case Study Panel, and he was going to let us sleep on his couches. The only bummer about SXSW is they can't pay for anyone's flight or lodging, but they help out where they can. Considering this fact, it's pretty amazing they are still able to get an impressive roster of panelists and filmmakers to attend on their own dime.
Though an opening night party kicked off the fest that night, we baled early to see the world premiere of Ron Mann's amazing Documentary "Grass." An expose of the "war on pot" that America has waged on the world for decades, Mann acquired some incredible footage to help explain the history, including a hilarious panel of government funded scientists reluctantly explaining that they found pot use to be harmless. The beautiful Paramount Theater was packed and the crowd loved it. I can't wait to see Nancy Reagan's reaction to this film when it gets released. My reaction? Just say YES