The SXSW Conference and Festivals that happens each year in Austin has three components: film, music, and interactive. Essentially it is three distinct festivals combined into one massive event that happens each March. This year I was able to get a press pass to do coverage for the podcast. Even with a few days of prep, it was still a challenge to stay on top of everything happening at SXSW 2017, but I gave it the ol’ college try.
This podcast episode includes most of the film-related interviews I was able to get at the festival or shortly after it concluded. The interviews are a little shorter than usual so as to allow for a sampling of perspectives.
Part II will include music and interactive-related interviews and my concluding thoughts about the festival experience. It’s not a definite account by any means, just my subjective take on what stuck out for me. I will also share some of the ups and downs I faced as honestly as I can, which I hope will provide some perspective on the festival experience that goes beyond what straight reporting can convey.
The guests in this episode include
- Mike Ott, director of California Dreams – starts at 4:23. He was once featured on Indiewire’s series “Futures: 15 to Watch,” which profiles up-and-coming voices in the indie film scene. His work has received accolades from the American Film Institute, the Gotham Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards, and film festivals across the country. California Dreams follows a series of unusual characters struggling to make ends meet as they pursue their dreams of becoming actors.
- Marina Zenovich, director of Water & Power: A California Heist – starts at 18:18. She won an Emmy for her film Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, one of two documentaries she made about the filmmaker. On Water & Power, she worked with Alex Gibney to document California’s water crisis and used Polanski’s Chinatown as a framing device to explore the real-life intrigue happening behind the scenes.
- Sebastian Junger, producer of Hell on Earth: The Rise of Syria, the Fall of ISIS – starts at 23:38. He is the New York Times best-selling author of The Perfect Storm, War, and Tribe. He also co-directed the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo. In his latest documentary he explores the destabilizing conditions that gave rise to ISIS and the unrest in Syria.
Sebastian Junger autographs some of his books at the National Geographic Further Base Camp, SXSW 2017.
- Miao Wang, director of Maineland – starts at 35:00. She has produced short films in partnership with companies like Budweiser, GE, and Microsoft. Her first feature, Beijing Taxi, premiered at SXSW in 2010. Maineland is a cross-continental exploration of the Chinese students who apply to and attend a boarding school in rural Maine. The film won the Special Jury Recognition for Excellence In Observational Cinema at SXSW 2017.
- Leonard Maltin, film historian and critic – starts at 48:26. He has appeared as a film reviewer on Entertainment Tonight and currently teaches a class at USC and hosts the Maltin on Movies podcast with his daughter. At SXSW he moderated the Q & A for the film Lucky and interviewed Frank Oz. The third edition of his book Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide: From the Silent Era Through 1965 was recently released and presented by Turner Classic Movies.
Some of the topics we discuss include
- What distinguishes a true artist from a mere dreamer
- Why winning an award or becoming famous doesn’t always make things better
- The importance of ensuring that everyone has reliable access to water
- How to use dramatic elements to make documentaries more compelling
- How to collaborate with others to capture footage in dangerous regions
- Destabilizing factors that can lead to violent extremism
- How to work with large companies to produce short films
- What is involved in shooting a cross-continental project
- Notable highlights from this year’s SXSW
- How Leonard Maltin responds to seeing a movie he doesn’t like when the filmmakers are in attendance
Special thanks to Sam Claitor from Fable House for helping me put together my podcast coverage of SXSW 2017. I would also like to thank Kara MacLean of K2 Publicity and Sara Tehrani of MPRM Communications for helping me get some of the interviews in this episode.
Listen to the Episode
Sponsor for this Episode
I shot this video during SXSW. In it Jon Miller from Hive Lighting demonstrates the features of the Wasp 100-C, a new light that Hive Lighting introduced at the festival.
Films & Books Discussed
- American Movie
- Beijing Taxi
- California Dreams
- The Founder
- Hell on Earth: The Rise of Syria, the Fall of ISIS
- Park Row
- Rear Window
- Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired
- Steel Helmet
- Strangers on a Train
- Water & Power: A California Heist
- Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide: From the Silent Era Through 1965
Podcast Episodes Mentioned