My final “real” day of SXSW was Tuesday the 16th. Sure, I’d still be around on Wednesday, but I was flying back to NJ then and wouldn’t be able to attended any film-related anything. So, again, Tuesday was my last “real” day at the film festival.
I started the day off with another jaunt to the IFC Crossroads House to get my breakfast on, and then made my way to the convention center to check out a panel discussion entitled “Making Sure The World Doesn’t Suck: How Independent Content Can Save The Media.” The panel was moderated by the President of IFCTV and the Sundance Channel, Evan Shapiro, and included Harvey Smith (Arkane Studios), Jake Dobkin (the Gothamist), Marc Lieberman (The Onion) and Sean Lennon (Chimera Music).
I never know what to expect from panels. Sometimes they can be interesting, or if not interesting than at least they are entertaining, and if not entertaining and/or interesting, at least contain some moment I can take away with me to think about. This panel was interesting, not-so-much entertaining, and I did take away with me an urge, thanks to both Shapiro and Lennon’s insistence, that I should go buy the book “You Are Not a Gadget,” as I might get more out of that than what I was getting out of the panel at that moment.
After the panel I wandered back to the condo and began editing and re-uploading video interviews I had conducted with the filmmakers of “Citizen Architect,” “Dance with the One,” “Marwencol” and “Pelada.” See, I had forgotten that YouTube doesn’t like clips over 10 minutes long, so the previous night, when I stayed up and waiting for all four, 15+ minutes per interview to upload, I was wasting my time. Uploading the next day took far longer, as my internet connection had weakened and what took 5 minutes the night before was not taking 20 minutes… meaning most of my Tuesday was lost with me at the computer.
Upon finishing the uploads and edits, I re-connected with Don Lewis to walk over to the Convention Center for the evening’s Awards Ceremony. Don was a juror for the Short Film Documentary group, and had to be there to announce the winners. I wanted to be there because… well, I never attend award ceremonies, and figured, “why not.”
On the walk there, I stopped for some BBQ Burritos and, while waiting for my order, received an email with a press release announcing the winners of the awards ceremony I was about to attend, which is a lot like hoping for one present for Christmas the night before and, while in bed about to go to sleep, being handed a detailed list of all the items your family and friends got for you instead. I suddenly didn’t NEED to go to the awards anymore, but I still wanted to go.
Once we got to the Convention Center, though, my WANT began to disappear. The lines for the awards were all over the place insane, and filmmakers were there trying to get in with their friend and families and… I realized I was about to become a seat-taker for an event that I didn’t need to have a seat for. Let some filmmaker, or their family or friend, take my spot instead. As the line grew more and more insane, I stepped out of the Center and walked to a bench across the street, where I sat down and called my wife.
I debated calling it an evening. My body was so tired and rundown after four days of little-to-no-sleep coupled with intense conversations about film and filmmaking, that going back to the condo and passing out wouldn’t be a bad idea. But I knew I could sleep anywhere, so if I’m in town FOR SXSW then I better fucking BE at SXSW. Plus, after the awards was the hitRECord screening event, and I was really curious as to what that was all about.
When hitRECord did their thing at the Sundance Film Festival, I missed it. I heard nothing but good things about this creative collective, and I’ve been intrigued with exactly where it’s going and what it means. My last night at SXSW was going to be my opportunity to have some questions answered, finally. If I could survive the wait.
See, the awards started late ran long. I stood in line with many other hitRECord-curious for what seemed like forever, but it wasn’t all that bad. As the wait went on, the SXSW staff began visiting the line and getting us free soda, Monster Energy shots, food, t-shirts… essentially, they understood our pain and wanted to do something, ANYTHING, they could come up with to help us feel better while we waited. Festival Director Janet Pierson even walked the line personally apologizing for the delay. And lest you think she just walked up to people, said “sorry,” and then moved on, she had genuine conversations up and down the line. Except for the time she was in the awards, she was in line waiting as much as the rest of us.
We finally got in about an hour after the scheduled start time, and I got to my seat. What would we see? Cool shorts? Music videos? It started with hitRECord founder Joseph Gordon-Levitt explaining, via video, that he was going to be unable to attend due to a last minute acting gig, but that he’d be there for hitRECord’s two other SXSW events coming up on Saturday the 20th (“Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the hitRECord.org Spring Spectacular!” and “Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the hitRECord.org Midnight Matinee”). Cool, whatever, as he mentioned in the video, he wanted the work to speak for itself anyway.
And before I go on, I want to express that the work DOES speak for itself. Any doubts on how hitRECord works or any of that pale in comparison to the creative work I saw exhibited during this event. That said, I really wanted to see more work speak for itself, instead of what the event turned out to be, which felt like a recruitment seminar or something more befitting a morning panel on collective creativity. Instead of tons of really cool, creative content, we’d get a bit and then we’d get what felt like hours of insider talk about why hitRECord is good, or how it works and… while I did have those questions, I didn’t have those questions at midnight when I really wanted something, anything, creative to keep my interest. Like, I’m sure the Terms of Service for hitRECord rule, but I didn’t want that technical a conversation at that time of day. And, yes, I will be the first to admit that context IS a big part. Had I not been four days into exhaustion and come from a long delay getting into the event, maybe I wouldn’t be as critical. I admit it wasn’t a perfect storm of awesome for me, but I also wasn’t alone. Many people walked out when it became clear that it was going to be a lot more talking on stage than it was exhibition of content; at least I stuck it out.
I’m happy I did, because eventually Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl, of The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, were brought on-stage and the overall mood of the event changed. And I’m not saying that because of their music, which they played later on and was a wonderful end to my SXSW experience, but because once they were brought into the conversation it became more natural, more entertaining and less earnest-to-boring. I feel bad thinking and saying it, but while I think the core hitRECord staffers know their shit and are definitely an important part of the puzzle, they don’t need to be the ones upfront saying as much, or at least not carrying an entire evening’s entertainment, because until Sean and Charlotte got onstage, it felt like we were watching a couple of friends talk about how cool their jobs were while we just had to sit and hope they brought us in on the conversation at some point.
Anyway, I think hitRECord is already doing great things, and building towards doing even more. Who knows, the events this weekend may be of an entirely different mood and experience, so I don’t want to sour anybody on hitRECord just because I wasn’t feeling it. I hope to learn more about hitRECord on my own, and go from there.
SXSW 2010 may be done for me as an in-personal festival experience, but the the film fest does roll on through this weekend, and coverage of the festival will roll on for the next few weeks, as I’ve seen far more movies than I’ve mentioned I’ve seen, and it is going to take me a while to get them all covered and on the site. Keep checking with the site as the days go on, and we’ll keep the stories coming. And thanks for reading.
Posted on March 18, 2010 in Blogs by Mark Bell
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