After being at SXSW Film Festival last week, I couldn’t bear to write something about how cool this festival is and how it differs from the rest I’ve been to. It is ironic to notice how movies are not always the best thing about film festivals. Here we go.
Watching a film in a movie theater is a great experience. You have a big screen, good sound, darkness, and you have people around you. There is a sense of purpose in the room, because everyone wants to see the same film you want to see. But seeing a film in a movie theater on a Friday night in Los Angeles is extremely different from seeing a film at a film festival. The community built around film festivals is unique and the audiences are just different – it is a very particular culture.
You have to wait in line. You don’t see everything you want to see. There are just as many bad films as there are good ones, and there’s no transportation after midnight. But of course none of that is what makes a festival worth the trip; it is the people, the faces, the clothes, the conversations, and the bus shuttles. Those are the reasons why film festivals deserve your time. There is something I call “the five minute friend.” After being at Sundance, SXSW and other smaller festivals, the short conversations you get to have with people can be some of the most amazing moments. Nobody is forced to talk to you in line or in the theater once you are sitting down, but it just happens. It is beautiful to see how everyone’s excitement about the films is evident and in need to be expressed. It is not only the interesting conversations that arise; it is the mixture in the personalities, cultures and taste.
Sundance is amazing, but it is awfully cold, so you’re not always in the best mood. The quality of the work is great as well as the diversity of the films chosen, but the atmosphere in the streets is not as appealing as SXSW. I arrived from SXSW last week and it has been one of the best experiences in my career. It is a festival completely devoted to the public. The sense of involvement is extraordinary and the atmosphere is fresh and authentic. Austin is a city full of tiny details that make it appealing and a pleasure to visit. It is full of small bars, theaters, college students, music, lights, and a wave of charisma within locals. People often refer to Austin as being the city where every day they celebrate “Being Weird Day.” Everyone is outspoken, but generous and helpful.
Exchanging thoughts and ideas about film as freely as you can do so in the streets of the SXSW film festival is truly an incomparable experience. You get to know how the industry works, network possibilities are endless, and you get free drinks at most parties. Of course the films are great, the shorts, the documentaries, the narratives, all of them. But it is the community and the many faces you see and talk to that make the festival involvement not only an important experience professionally, but personally. Let’s see how Tribeca treats us in April.
-Guest Post by Enrique Pedraza, The Rolling Can
New York Film Academy graduate Enrique Pedraza is the Main Editor and CEO of The Rolling Can, an online blog dedicated to the exploration of cinema with a deep focus on independent film. The publication writes articles based on fresh, new narratives and engaging stories. The Rolling Can is “the voice of a new generation.” Enrique believes it is important for younger filmmakers to express their knowledge, where honest opinions are valuable.