SXSW…from the eyes of a 20-year old

(I’m not sure I ever anticipated the day I’d have a guest post from one of my children! But, here it is. My oldest son, who is pursuing a career in film, accompanied me to the South by Southwest conference. Here are his impressions…)

Trying to break into the film industry from the ground level is a daunting task for a 20-year old. It’s not enough to have a reasonable level of knowledge, skill, and talent – as with many things, it boils down to “who you know.”

That’s why attending the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference was so valuable.

Most people I meet on the street have little aspiration to create films. Yet, for a few days, I was surrounded by like-minded people who have the word “Film” on their badge and who are willing to talk shop in lobbies, hallways, and anywhere else. At first, as a young man attending my first professional conference, it was a little intimidating, but my mind was immediately put at ease by some great interaction right off while waiting in the registration line (thanks, Clark Richards)!

More often than not people just talked freely until they gave their life story or had another session to attend. Business cards, names, stories, and connections were exchanged in over the course of five minutes. I wasn’t made to feel like an outsider, but rather, I felt like a member of a wind-ranging fraternity of passionate and creative people.

The conference itself was very informative. Panelists would drop names of helpful books and sites, explain in detail how they became successful, and even stay after to talk personally to anyone who wanted to find out more. I will admit there were also big name thrills when I was able to meet and even talk to people such as Robert Rodriguez, Jeffrey Tambor, Henry Selick, Spike Lee, and Rose McGowan.

The films themselves were very professional and enjoyable. I attended nearly all the short films and was impressed by the quality of most of them. I also attended two large independent film premieres. The first was a comedy entitled “The 2 Bobs” and was directed by Tim McCanlines (Tim McCanlines has directed several family oriented films including “Secondhand Lions”). The actors came out onstage with Tim after the screening for an informative Q&A session. Then, on the Tuesday night was the premiere of “The Hurt Locker”. All I knew before going into the film was that it was directed Kathryn Bigelow (“Point Break”). What I saw was a fantastically shot war film about a group of soldiers in Iraq whose sole job is to disarm bombs. It was positively one of the most intense and harrowing war movies I have ever seen.

My father was attending the SXSW Interactive track and I had the privilege of meeting a number of his blogger friends, who were very kind and supportive. All in all SXSW was an invaluable experience for me, and for any young filmmaker that has extra cash and a week to invest next year, I’d certainly recommend attending SXSW 2010!

(You can find out more about Nate and his professional interests at his site, NathanWoodruff.com (includes sample films). And, if you know of opportunities that may be open to a young “apprentice” with some real talent, we’re all ears!)

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