On the ground at SXSW
Sarah Sulick and Rebecca Johnson at SXSW
London-based producer Sarah Sulick arrives at SXSW in Austin, Texas, with Rebecca Johnson's Honeytrap. In her first blog from the festival, Sarah reports from the Filmmaker Lunch, where she spots Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater.
When I finally touched down in Austin after 18 hours plus of travelling, I practically wept with relief to see those spacious American skies! I’ve lived in England for nearly 20 years (gulp) but have always loved coming stateside again, especially to participate in the trendiest festival on the planet – SXSW.
Our film Honeytrap has been selected to have its North American premiere in the Visions section. Writer/Director Rebecca Johnson and I hit the ground running the first day at the Filmmaker Lunch at Troublemaker Studios, where Robert Rodriguez shot Sin City and Spy Kids, among many others. We meet festival director Janet Pierson, who claims that she loves our film and it’s one of her favourites in the festival – and that she doesn’t say that to everyone!
We also meet Ondi Timoner, who has just got wind of the news that Russell Brand is not showing up for the world premiere of her documentary Brand: A Second Coming, which she takes with very good grace. Austin indie godfather Richard Linklater makes an appearance and welcomes us all with – “have fun and be a film fan while you’re here.”
Rodriguez encourages filmmakers “to fail, and fail again – because you learn the most from your failures and out of the ashes come your successes.”
The festival’s founder Louis Black says filmmakers are the coolest people on the planet and that he’s incredibly lucky because all he wanted to do his whole life was watch films and that’s just what he’s done. Also at the Texas BBQ lunch of pulled pork, beef brisket, and sausages – not the best for vegetarians, who can only eat potato salad, coleslaw and sliced white bread – are indie film titans John Sayles and Jonathan Demme. So we’re in good company.
Back at the festival and conference hub in the Austin Convention Centre, which is ginormous, we pick up our badges and check out the Honeytrap poster – mini-plug: it’s designed by Zero Degrees West in London – that’s hanging outside the Vimeo Theatre as part of the Poster Competition. We fly-post our smaller posters on various plinths etc. throughout the ACC but there is clearly an aggressive poster war going on – some guy wraps an extra-wide, extra-long poster around an entire post covering 4 others. Who knows how long we will survive up there? Since there is a tech conference and sports conference going on simultaneously, everyone’s got something to sell so it’s dog-eat-dog, but in a friendly way.
Next up it’s our premiere at the Violet Crown Cinema – which is much further than it looks on the map! – and we all arrive a bit sweaty and panicked. Our North American rep Maren Olsen of Traction Media is there and assures us that some key US distributors are in attendance.
Our publicist Will Wood from Multitude Media is prepping Rebecca for interviews lined up the next day. Meanwhile I do a quick print and sound check: the film is being screened simultaneously into their four boutique cinemas. Staff is incredibly sweet so they all get T-shirts. Rebecca is great at the Q&A, giving her erudite take on hip hop culture in London.
Now it’s off to the Opening Night Party at the Speakeasy which has a fantastic terrace overlooking all of downtown. First we have a drink next door at the Geisha Cocktail Bar, which is not remotely Japanese but has a live singer on an acoustic guitar who is brilliant. My colleagues remain unconvinced that Austin is actually the capital of Texas despite the fact that I keep pointing to the Capitol Building up the road. We finally look it up and the bet is settled. Now to bed as our second screening looms at noon the next day – this is the full SXSW experience folks!