During spring break of the 2014 semester, Keith Brown, Lecturer in the Film/Media program, took 10 Film/Media students to the SXSW® Film Conference & Festival in Austin, Texas. Every March, SXSW brings together the creative talents of the film industry to witness, inspire, and share the visions of filmmakers from around the world.
According to Brown, some of the 10-day film festival highlights included:
- Lena Dunham’s Keynote
- Casey Neistat’s Keynote
- Seth Meyer’s Panel
- The Premiere of Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood”
- Q&A with Wes Anderson and the premiere of his new film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Kyle Smith, entering his senior year, says that his experience in Austin was so great, that it’s hard to find the words to describe how much he enjoyed being there. “It was more than just watching movies,” he said. “The entire festival was an experience. I saw so many great films, saw so many great actors and directors, heard many interesting and beneficial stories, and saw celebrities that I had been watching for years.
For Kyle, the experience was heightened for a variety of reasons including the fact that he got to travel to a part of the country he had never been to before. He was able to do things he had never done while also strengthening the friendships he had with his fellow classmates. Not only that, but he was also inspired. “While SXSW consisted of watching movies, it was also a time for self reflection.” Kyle realized his own potential and found himself asking questions such as, “How can I get here?” and “How can I do this?” He said that the festival awoke a fire within that made the group want to go back, work really hard on their own films, and make something that they were going to be proud of. “My SXSW experience was not only very fun and enjoyable, but also incredibly enriching and educational—from the many great movies we saw, to the interactive Q&A sessions following the films with the director and cast. I would recommend the trip to any movie lover or someone with an interest in film and I would love to go again!”
Soon-to-be-senior Nick Neville reflected on the trip to Austin as a learning experience for which he was truly thankful for. “Being surrounded by film directors and actors made me really excited, because I know that I want to do work in the film industry after I graduate.”
During the week, Nick really enjoyed the many premieres that he and the other students were able to attend, his favorite being “Boyhood”. “I loved what Richard Linklater did to make this film; he started shooting in 2002 and continued until the year 2013!” Overall, being surrounded by so many famous directors and actors really opened his eyes to the industry and helped Nick to realize how special film is. On top of it all, he had a great time and made many friendships while in the process of learning about media and the film industry. “I have made so many memories from just one week that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
Christian Renzi will also be a senior in the Film/Media program with a minor in Business. His decision to attend the SXSW festival was due to his love of film and the opportunity to network and meet others in the industry. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of his life, “It truly was inspiring to see so many short films that people, who are just like me, have made and screened at the festival.”
His most memorable moment was also watching Richard Linklater’s film “Boyhood,” where it was inspiring to see a movie focused on the same actors over a 12-year period. He also really enjoyed Robert Duvall’s presentation. Christian’s ultimate goal is to be able to return to the festival every year and eventually, as a filmmaker, screen his own film! “SXSW is an incredibly inspiring experience for any aspiring filmmaker.”
Kyle Sidlik, who will be a senior this fall, attended SXSW because it was a great opportunity to join his friends, learn about the industry, and enjoy a full ten days of films and Q&A sessions. His most memorable moments came from running into many different actors throughout the week. He met Ethan Hawke and Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) and listened to some great Q&A sessions following each film presentation. “The whole trip was very inspirational. It gave me motivation to keep writing and making films!”
The SXSW® Film Conference & Festival was clearly a learning experience for each of the students who attended. Not only did the opportunity give them hands on experience in learning and interacting with some of the industries top creative professionals, but it also inspired them to dream big and reach for the stars.