Magazine article Screen International

Janet Pierson on the Identity of SXSW

Magazine article Screen International

Janet Pierson on the Identity of SXSW

Article excerpt

SXSW's head of film talks to Jeremy Kay about the upcoming edition, which starts today [March 13].

The film strand of the Austin jamboree returns on March 13 with the world premiere of BRAND: A Second Coming.

The documentary is one of many anticipated screenings that include Alex Garland's AI chiller Ex Machina, the Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart comedy Get Hard and Colin Hanks' Tower Records doc All Things Must Pass.

On the eve of her seventh year as head of film, Janet Pierson ponders the identity of SXSW, how many films is too many and whether anybody cares about the festival's close ties to studios.

What's new this year and is it irritating that journalists always ask what's new?

There's this pressure that there's supposed to be something new. We have been really pleased with what we have been doing and every year we try to tweak it. Last year Episodes went so well so this year we continued it but we're not debuting something new like that. SXSW Sports went well so we're continuing it.

We're happy to have the Alamo South Lamar back. It was a venue that was offline for two years. The 24 Beats category films tend to have some relationship to the music world and tend to be music docs but not exclusively - those films are accessible by Film Gold or Platinum badges and we have opened it up to Music badges.

Convergence seems to be in SXSW's DNA, given that the festival covers so many elements. What's it about?

We have enhanced our whole Convergence programme throughout the whole event. Convergence has to do with access to more than one badge type. So SXSW Sports lives in both film and interactive sections. It's a mini-event.

You're always going to be here for at least two [sections] because Interactive exists within the film dates. Some people are in and out over a weekend and plenty stay for the duration. So if you want to come to all events you get the Platinum badge.

Outline the film programming cycle

The core team works year-round. We start programming in early August and actually have a panel picker that opens in July, which is a competitive process to be part of the conferences. People submit panel ideas and we finish programming them by September. Features we open in August and it closes in mid-November.

This year there are more movies than ever. Why? …

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