TV has been a force at SXSW for years, but never like what’s on display in 2018. Not only are there bigger and better activations than before — including an entire town built to recreate “Westworld” — but the festival is debuting its inaugural Independent Episodics section, highlighting 12 indie TV pilots looking for distribution, pickup, or just the right pair of eyes to see them.
But you don’t have to be in Austin to take advantage of its gangbuster year. Many of the shows premiering at the festival will be hitting your TV screens within days of their debut. Need-to-know information will be spilled at the many panels and post-screening Q&As. Trailers will be released, reports will be filed, and precious tidbits will spread through Twitter.
So below, IndieWire has condensed the lineup to the must-see TV events. Take a scan if you’re planning your trip to Austin, and if not, look it over to get a heads up on what will be breaking in the coming week. As always, keep checking IndieWire for all your SXSW coverage (including the vast array of films), but this is a great place to start.
All “Westworld,” All the Time
“Westworld” isn’t slated to screen anything from Season 2, but HBO’s breakout sci-fi series is still one of the most anticipated series in the SXSW lineup. First up, fans can visit a “Westworld”-themed park built specifically for the festival. The town, covering two acres of custom-built parkland, will feature reproduced versions of iconic locations and elements from the show, including the luxury hotel The Coronado and the Mariposa Saloon.
To fit it all in, HBO had to build the town outside of Austin, so registered guests will take a shuttle from the city to the real-life Sweetwater destination. Guests will be given a black or white hat upon arrival and then turned loose to explore the park. There’s no guidebook or orientation: The world is yours to discover.
Perhaps most importantly, clues for Season 2 will be hidden throughout the park, and guests will have to find them or ask hosts the right questions to get the coveted answers. But for those stumped (or unable to attend), the “Westworld” creators and cast members will be part of a panel discussion on Saturday. Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden, and Thandie Newton will join creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy to give fans an inside look at Season 2, so expect plenty of coverage on this one.
“Westworld” Theme Park
- Friday, March 9 – Sunday, March 11
- Open daily from 2 – 10 p.m.
“Westworld” Featured Session
- Saturday, March 10 at 3:30 p.m.
“Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger”
Marvel’s latest venture into television is headed to Freeform, but first it’s stopping by the SXSW film festival for an early screening at a church. That’s right — a church. The superhero story about two teenagers who don’t know each other but become linked when they discover new superpowers that complement one another. Olivia Holt plays Tandy (a.k.a. “Dagger”) and Aubrey Joseph plays Tyrone (a.k.a. “Cloak”), and both will be on hand for the screening and a Q&A afterward, which will also include Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb, showrunner Joe Pokaski (“Underground,” “Daredevil”), and director Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Beyond the Lights”). The 10-episode first season promises to tackle weighty topics like race, loss, and identity, but it doesn’t hit Freeform until June 7, so there should be plenty of buzz around this early look.
“Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger” Premiere
- Saturday, March 10 at 5 p.m.
No, Robert Redford isn’t making a sequel to Sydney Pollack’s classic spy thriller “Three Days of the Condor.” Audience Network is adapting that 1975 film into a new TV series, complete with big name stars like William Hurt and Brendan Fraser, as well as plenty of modern style. Max Irons (son of Jeremy Irons) takes over for Redford as Joe Turner, a CIA analyst who’s the only survivor of an unexpected attack on his clandestine office space. The only problem? He’s not a field agent (he’s an analyst), so he’s not trained to survive on the run, let alone determine what happened to his colleagues. Beyond these basics, there have been a few updates — Turner’s job is writing computer programs, rather than reading and translating various books and newspapers, looking for secret codes — but the soul is intact. Oh, and this is part of Brendan Fraser’s comeback tour, so pay attention.
- Saturday, March 10 at 6:45 p.m.
SXSW’s Inaugural Independent Episodic Section
Following up the first-ever Independent TV section at Sundance is the first-ever Independent TV section at South by Southwest. Ten of the 12 entries are world premieres, and each of the dozen pilots will be screened in the same day, split into two sections (as opposed to Sundance, which paired two-to-four shows together for screenings spread out over a few days). As more and more film festivals expand into the independent TV space, more creators will have an opportunity to show their work to the right people in Hollywood. With agents, executives, and press descending on Austin, any one of these creative entries could be a TV breakout, much like the indie film darlings of the big screen. Who knows what — or who — is waiting to be discovered?
Independent Episodics Section I
- Sunday, March 11 from 12 – 2 p.m.
Independent Episodics Section II
- Sunday, March 11 from 3 – 5 p.m.
From “How to Get Away With Murder” and “Looking” writer Tanya Saracho comes a new half-hour series about two Mexican-American sisters from Los Angeles. Though they both come from the Eastside of L.A., Lyn (Melissa Barrera) and Emma (Mishel Prada) couldn’t be more distanced from each other. Lyn moved to the Bay Area and lives her life without worries — and at a lot of parties. Emma is the family outcast, but they both return home for their mother’s funeral and, well, things get a little more complicated from there. “Vida” hits Starz in May, so this early look could be a big moment for a young series trying to break through a crowded landscape.
- Sunday, March 11 at 1 p.m.
“Warriors of Liberty City”
Starz is looking to make a statement with its 2018 documentary lineup. First, the premium cable company bought Steve James’ docuseries “America To Me” out of Sundance, and now it’s getting ready to unveil “Warriors of Liberty City,” another docuseries, but this one focuses on a crime-ridden neighborhood in Miami, Florida that’s also an incredibly successful source of football talent; Devonta Freeman (now playing for the Atlanta Falcons), Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers), Duke Johnson (Cleveland Browns), and Teddy Bridgewater (Minnesota Vikings) all came out of the city, and they all started playing in the kids’ leagues. Tracking the Liberty City Warriors’ youth football program, the series expands its view to off-the-field subjects, including poverty and gun violence, in the hope of understanding what these kids go through to triumph — hopefully, beyond just football.
“Warriors of Liberty City” Premiere
- Monday, March 12 at 1:30 p.m.
“This Is Us” Takeover
SXSW couldn’t be timed better for NBC’s family drama. “This Is Us” is set to wrap up its second season with a highly anticipated finale (no Crock Pots) the night of Tuesday, March 13. So before the world finds out what Future Randall is up to, SXSW attendees will get a sneak peek at the finale on Monday afternoon before a panel discussion with creator Dan Fogelman and stars Justin Hartley, Mandy Moore, and Milo Ventimiglia. Here’s hoping Austinites can keep a lid on any spoilers for at least 24 hours.
“This Is Us” Finale Screening and Q&A
- Monday, March 12 at 3 p.m.
- Tuesday, March 13 at 6 p.m.
“The Last O.G.”
It’s been five years since Tracy Morgan was last featured as a series regular on television, in Tina Fey’s “30 Rock.” Now, after surviving a nearly fatal car accident, Morgan is back in another series from an acclaimed creator. Recent Oscar winner Jordan Peele co-created “The Last O.G.” with John Carcieri (“Eastbound and Down”), a TBS comedy about an ex-con named Tray (Morgan) who’s stunned at what the world has become after 15 years behind bars. Brooklyn is gentrified. His ex-girlfriend, Shay (Tiffany Haddish), has married a white guy, and he’s got two twin boys he didn’t know existed. There’s a lot of rich ground to cover with just that premise, and certainly Morgan and Haddish can make plenty of magic on their own. Check it out for yourself on Tuesday, April 3, but look for early reactions out of SXSW on Monday.
“The Last O.G.” Premiere
- Monday, March 12 at 6 p.m.
“Krypton” is founded on a basic question that should help dissuade super-sized expectations: What if Superman never existed? The man responsible for answering that question is Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe), the Man of Steel’s grandfather, who’s forced to choose between saving his home planet or let it be destroyed to make sure Superman becomes all he’s meant to be. Set in the past, long before Clark Kent stumbled and fumbled his way into our hearts, “Krypton” uses time travel to make the weight of that question sink in for Seg. As Syfy tries to get in on the superhero game — and DC looks to expand its TV universe to cable — there’s a lot riding on this pseudo-prequel working out.
- Thursday, March 15 at 6:45 p.m.
Netflix’s official synopsis states that “Rapture” “stares directly into the bright light that hip hop culture shines on the world and doesn’t blink.” That’s quite a promise, but it’s got the right lineup of rappers to pull it off: Nas, Dave East, T.I., Rapsody, Logic, G-Eazy, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, 2 Chainz, and Just Blaze are all featured via behind-the-scenes glimpses at their lives in and out of the studio. There’s plenty of concert footage from various tours spread into the eight-hour series, plus, it’s directed by Sacha Jenkins (“Burn Motherfucker, Burn!”), Emmy-winner Geeta Gandbhir, and “Creed II” helmer Steven Caple Jr. That should be enough reasons to watch, and Netflix subscribers will be able to give it a try starting March 30 (less than two weeks after its SXSW debut).
- Saturday, March 17 at 4 p.m.