Director's Statement
The Festival Experience
Production Journal

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SXSW Official Selection

© Joe Swanberg 2004-2005
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SXSW Film Festival - Austin, TX (SXSW Tips For Filmmakers)
Kris, Ivan Albertson, and I drove from Chicago to Austin in my station wagon, stopping in Memphis to spend the night and eat a meal that Kris' dad cooked us.
The Texas rest stops all looked like this one.
The vending machines were all behind bars, so you had to reach your hand through to get your candy. I guess they were worried people might put the vending machines in the back of a pick-up truck or something. The bars did not stop you from shaking the machines to try and get extra candy.
The first night in Austin we ate at a restaurant called GUEROS with a friend and fellow filmmaker, Dan Brown, who was largely responsible with getting us into SXSW. Here we are in front of the very cool Vulcan Video Store, where we put up a poster and dropped off a stack of postcards.
We spent the first weekend at the Embassy Suites, which you can see on the right hand side of this picture. Kevin and I are crossing the bridge where the famous Austin bats live. At dusk during the summer you can see thousands of them flying out of the bridge every night to get food.
Here's a bat statue that was near the bridge.
Before our movie, we watched a great film called Four Eyed Monsters, directed by Arin Crumley and Susan Buice, who are seen here doing a Q&A after the screening. (photo by Jim "Flash" Barrilleaux)
On Saturday, March 12, we had our World Premiere at the Dobie Theatre. This is the line of people who came to see our movie. We were shocked. The theatre was packed!
We posed for a picture before the World Premiere. Though we look happy and excited, we were really freaking out. (photo by Jim "Flash" Barrilleaux)
We took our seats and got ready to watch our film with an audience for the first time. (photo by Jim "Flash" Barrilleaux)
Bryan Poyser, director of the great film, Dear Pillow, introduced our film and told the story of us contacting him after we saw DP and sending him a copy of KOTM. He put off watching it for a while, because he thought it might be really bad, and didn't want to have to break it to us that he hated it. Eventually he did watch the film, and he really loved it. Since he was pre-screening films for SXSW, he talked to Matt Dentler, the festival director and said, "Matt, there's this great film that you really ought to check out. It's called Kissing On The Mouth." And Matt replided, "Bryan, we already invited that film a week ago." The rest is history... (photo by Jim "Flash" Barrilleaux)
After the screening we did our first Q&A. The questions were great, and the response to the film was really positive. For some reason I look like I'm picking a fight with someone in the audience. (photo by Jim "Flash" Barrilleaux)
Because the film was so collaborative, we took turns answering questions, depending on who seemed to have a better response. (photo by Jim "Flash" Barrilleaux)
I have no idea what question prompted Kevin to make this face, but it's hilarious. He must have been talking about filmming a sex scene with me holding a camera 2 feet away. (photo by Jim "Flash" Barrilleaux)
The next day, we were thrilled to receive our first negative review. Tipped off by John Pierson, we went looking for a copy of the paper. The headline says, "Our Critic's Word On 'Mouth' Isn't Good." The review was in the Austin-American Statesman, which was located right across the street from our hotel, so we took this picture to celebrate. The scathing review was by a critic named Chris Garcia, who Kris later made friends with at a party, and they spent 20 minutes discussing the film.
That weekend we spent some time hanging out at our hotel with our new friends from Four Eyed Monsters. Kris is seen here relaxing with Joe Griffin, who helped make 4EM, and also has a small part in the film. We wanted to use the hotel's swimming pool and hot tub, but we got back too late and it had already closed for the night. We never did get to swim, but we did sneak back multiple times during the week for free breakfast, since they never checked if you were actually staying at the hotel or not.
The closing night party for the Film Festival was a dance crazy good time.
When Kris hears Beyonce, or Missy Elliott, she can't help but dance.
Here she is with the *HOT* Karl Jacob, who starred in the SXSW film The Roost.
We took a break from dancing to have a big hug with our new friend, Jegar Erickson, who hosts The Austin Movie Show, along with the lovely Leila Hernandez. They had us on the show the day before our premiere to help us promote the film.
Everyone wanted to go to a rodeo while we were in Texas, but it was too expensive, so Kate, Kevin, Kris, and Joe Griffin all went to this carnival instead.
Since Kate and Kevin were on a date, and I was at a movie, Kris and Joe decided to pretend they were on an awkward blind date together. Here they are, nervously enjoying each other's company on this ride.

SXSW Tips For Filmmakers (Travel) (When To Arrive) (Lodging) (Eating) (Distributors) (Press)

If you are lucky enough to have a film in the SXSW Film Festival, you are definitely going to want to attend. Not only is the town of Austin incredible, but the Festival experience can't be beat. This is true for short filmmakers as much as it is for feature filmmakers, as the perks are the same for both. Here are some things that we learned from our experience that might help you make the most of this Festival.

Travel - SXSW does not pay for any travel or lodging expenses, so you want to be smart about the way you get there, and where you stay. You will find out you are in the Festival with plenty of time to get a cheap flight through Southwest or one of the online booking places. If you decide you're traveling this way, and your schedule and budget are flexible, go ahead and book your trip for as long as possible. Internet tickets aren't very flexible, and charge you a lot of money to change them. I say this, because as soon as you're in Austin, you're going to want to stay as long as you can, and you will kick yourself if you book a return flight for any sooner than you absolutely have to leave.

If you decide to drive, like we did, you should know that free parking was pretty difficult to find in downtown Austin. There were garages, and the average cost was about $5, but a car quickly becomes a pain. Some hotels have free parking, and if you're within 15 blocks of downtown, it's best to leave the car at the hotel and just walk everywhere. If you're at the Dobie, you can drive to your screenings because there's a free garage with validation.

When To Arrive - The earlier the better, but probably no more than a day before the Festival officially starts. If you beat everyone to town, you have more opportunities to put your posters and postcards in prime locations, and you can also start arranging some on the spot publicity for your screenings by calling local radio stations and newspapers and seeing if they have time to do interviews. It seems like a lot of morning shows are looking for filmmakers to talk to, so be prepared to wake up early every day if you want to take advantage of this. Some of the shows will let you call in, that way you don't have to be at the studio at 6 or 7AM. Get the press list from the Festival and don't be afraid to call people.

Lodging - We split our time between a hotel for the first weekend, and a friend's house for the rest of the week. We decided to pay for the hotel during the first weekend, because we wanted to be close to the action. It allowed us to get into town earlier each day, and stay out later, without bothering our hosts. I got a suite, and we crammed between 6 and 8 people in, depending on the night, which lowered the cost per-person. If you don't have a friend in Austin that will put you up, another great option is to post something on Craig's List saying that you are a filmmaker and you are looking for a place to stay. There are a lot of nice people in Austin who are looking to help out filmmakers and musicians, and might offer you an extra bed in their home for a fraction of the cost of a hotel. You might even find that someone has already posted something on Craig's List advertising that they have an extra bed during the Festival.

Eating - Free food is abundant during the Festival, and if you play your cards right, you might not have to pay for food or drinks the entire week. We didn't know soon enough, and ate at restaurants the first few days, until we discovered that if we got food from the Filmmaker Lounge in the morning, and were able to hold off until about 8 or 9PM, we didn't have to spend any money. It's probably not the healthiest way to live, but there are bagels in the morning (get there early, everything is usually gone by 11AM) and there is finger food and sometimes more at night (once again, get there right as parties are starting). On some days there are even afternoon parties. Once we had this method down, we were good to go, and just dealt with rumbling tummies during the afternoon when we skipped lunch.

You will get a packet when you check in that will have all the times and locations of the official parties. These parties will almost always have good food and free drinks. Then there are other unofficial parties that may have more food and drinks, if you know where they are. Keep your ears open and ask around.

It's important to note that when the film portion of the Festival ends and the music portion starts, the filmmaker lounge closes, and there are no more official film parties with free food. You'll either have to pony up and buy food at this point, or you can do what we did, and sneak into the Embassy Suites, where they have free breakfast for people staying in the hotel. They check for your room card if you try and get eggs or pancakes from the line, but if you are OK eating muffins and bagels and fruit from the cold bar, you can usually get in, sit down for breakfast, and take some snacks for the road without anyone giving you a hard time. Since we actually stayed at the Embassy Suites for 5 nights, which cost over $1,000, we felt OK taking some extra breakfast while we were in town. Breakfast is only served until 9AM, so you have to get up early. You should be able to find music parties to attend in the evenings, where you can score free food.

Distributors - It seemed like most of the distributors attend the nightly parties, especially if they are representing the film that the party is being thrown for. If you want to talk to these people, it's a good idea to know what they look like. Browse through IndieWIRE's "On The Scene" section looking for iPop entries. You'll find a lot of the indie distributors in these pictures.

It's important to note that almost all the distributors leave town after the awards are announced, so if you really want someone to see your film, don't invite them to your final screening, because they will probably be gone. Everyone is very laid back and approachable at the Festival, so talk to them on the first or second night and let them know when your film is screening. If they are interested, they will try and make it, or perhaps they will ask that you send them a screener if they can't make it to one of your screenings.

Press - There are plenty of opportunities to get press at SXSW, especially with so many blogs and online publications. Don't be afraid to send out screeners and get in touch with people before the Festival. Talk to other filmmakers and ask them what they did that day, and see if they know of radio shows or public access TV shows that are looking for guests.

It's not a bad idea to spend a few afternoons hanging around the Filmmaker Lounge, which is conveniently located very near the Press Lounge. Stay visible, and spend some time walking between the two places, seeing who you can bump into. Sometimes press will be conducting interviews with other filmmakers in the Press Lounge, and you can piggyback and do an interview after they are finished. We got some good coverage just from being in the right place at the right time, but the right place was almost always somewhere near the Press Lounge.

The Filmmaker's Lounge has a few computers with internet access, so you can keep up with email and try and arrange coverage from there, but keep in mind that there are a lot of filmmakers all trying to use only 2 computers, so don't think you can sit on there all day. Use it to your advantage, but try to be considerate.

If you are concerned about getting press coverage, you shouldn't plan on seeing very many films during the first half of the Festival while the Filmmakers Lounge and Press Lounge are operating. Spend that time to arrange interviews and talk to other filmmakers. During the second half of the Festival, when the music takes over, you will have plenty of time to catch up and see lots of movies, but during the first weekend especially, you should hustle to get attention while you still can.

Always have plenty of postcards with you at all times, because you never know when you might come across a good place to set some down. Also, make sure to have some DVDs of your film with you, because you might run into a critic who doesn't have time to attend one of your screenings, but still wants to see your film. It's good to have some copies, just in case you need them.