I was trying to think of something to blog about that was not SXSW-related, but I soon realized that was pointless. My three favorite industries (film, music, new media) have their eyes focused on SXSW starting today. The 8 a.m. JetBlue flight from JFK on Thursday morning was seemingly packed with nothing but SXSW attendees, both new and familiar faces. When I worked at SXSW, this was always one of my favorite days. Festival Eve was not just “the calm before the storm” but the most relaxed reunion in the world. People arrive one day early to ease into the upcoming 11 days of chaos.
There are Thursday night gatherings both formal (the Texas Film Hall of Fame) and informal. In 2006, I started an annual tradition of SXSW filmmakers and other guests meeting at some random bar. Something was happening for the first time that year: people arrived on Thursday even though no films or panels started until Friday night. Before 2006, there was never that rush of coming to town over 24 hours before the Opening Night films. That year, we realized a shift was occurring, and decided we should come up with something for these filmmakers to do. Each year that has followed, it feels like more and more folks decide to arrive on Thursday.
Before I left for Austin I asked my former SXSW colleague Jarod Neece, “you guys doing the meet-up on Thursday night?” His answer: “You know it.” When most of us arrive a day early to film festivals, you do it because of stress. One gets to Sundance early to shop for groceries and condo supplies. You get to Cannes early in hopes of curing jetlag. At SXSW, people started to come early because everyone’s just so excited to start having fun. I hope I’m always able to experience that.