Music and film tend to converge at festivals throughout the year at events such as the Woodstock Film Festival and even the Sundance Film Festival has become a destination for bands, with daily music sets on Main Street in Park City. Still other fests are also looking to grow a music component these days, but the place where film and music naturally co-exist is SXSW in Austin. Dubbed the live music capital of the world, the South by Southwest Film Festival & Conference launched along with an interactive event in 1994, emerged as an outgrowth of the famed SXSW music event that began seven years earlier. The Music Conference & Festival annually lures bands, many of them independent, from all over the world to Texas. So, as the film festival hits its midpoint movie industry types head home after a long weekend in Austin and the downtown area really comes to life with more than 10,000 visiting artists, executives, journalists and music fans filling the clubs and streets of Austin.
MySpace Founder Tom Anderson Speaks Live
Mostly, attendees of the three SXSW festivals tended to stick with their own kind, but music, film, and interative programming converged a few times in Austin, offering attendees an ideal opportunity to sample the various of the event. Case in point was the midweek event highlighting MySpace's Tom Anderson.
Looking perhaps a bit more mature then his MySpace.com profile pic, the uber popular social networking site's 31 year-old president and co-founder popped into Austin for a live interview at the Austin Convention Center, just as the music fest headed into its first full day. Former Sex Pistols guitarist-cum-radio personality Steve Jones (of radio show "Jonesy's Jukebox") interviewed Anderson in front of a crowded room of mostly SXSW music attendees, though the topic of using MySpace as an essential part of marketing for both bands and filmmakers weighed heavily throughout the hour-long discussion.
"If you're a band (or filmmaker) in Austin, people can get to know you in Los Angeles or New York," said Anderson, touting the reach of his site, which has become virtually essential for both independent artists and big companies in both the film and music industries. "I've met bands [in America] that were small who did well in Japan because they fit a certain style, and that's possible through MySpace." Anderson also pointed out that MySpace has grown to become the most visited site on the web, surpassing other hugely popular mainstays on the Internet. "It's the number one website in the U.S., [getting] more page views then even Yahoo! or Google," said Anderson about the three-year-old site. Continuing later, he added, "The thing that surprised me is that MySpace became 'cool' [and has had a] cultural impact. I wanted to make a place for filmmakers and artists to come and 'do their stuff,' but I didn't expect it to have had the impact that it has..."
Breaking it down more simply, moderator Jones said candidly, "I'm addicted to MySpace, there are some good looking birds on there... also some nutters." [Brian Brooks]
Talking Rock Docs
Panels on finding music for film (and its inevitable legal ramifications), as well as getting familiar with new music software were among this year's offerings at the SXSW Film Conference. "Rock Docs," a discussion on what the festival describes as "the essential ingredients for making a great music documentary" was also an interesting program melding music and movies.
While the discussion varied from the creative to the business side of making rock docs, the panelists, which included Immediate Pictures co-founder Elliot Lavine, VH 1 VP of news and documentaries Brad Abramson, Michael Burns, VP of production at the Documentary Channel, AJ Schnack, director of doc "Kurt Cobain: About a Son," Evan Shapiro, general manager and EVP at IFC, and "Big Rig" director Doug Pray, commented around the profitability of such films, among other topics. Abramson pointed out that films such as "No Direction Home: Bob Dylan" (by Martin Scorsese) still has yet to make a profit, though it should over the long term. Yet, it's not necessarily the theatrical release itself that is the coup d'grace.
"IFC doesn't [necessarily] fund films with the idea of making money back theatrically," explained Shapiro. "There is a long tail... The 'Devil and Daniel Johnston' [by Jeff Feuerzeig] will be seen by a lot of people, just not in theaters." Shapiro pointed out that the film, which premiered at Sundance and then screened at SXSW, only made $300,000 in theaters from its Sony Pictures Classics, but he explained that the title's overall life will continue to draw a home viewing audience producing revenue.
Still, some form of theatrical roll out was viewed by most, but not all, on the panel as the ideal release. "I still think that a theatrical run is a sign of success of your film," said Burns. "It's a wonderful experience and it certainly doesn't hurt the later DVD or Netflix distribution." Shaprio, however, countered that a bad run in theaters can ultimately hurt when it comes time to cash in on television and DVD, saying only half jokingly, "If a film opens in 15 markets and only makes $25,000, I can tell you how much money I'm going to pay for it and I have it all right in my pocket." [Brian Brooks]
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