There is no doubt that SXSW is one of the most important conferences for innovation and creativity. And while it brings important conversations of new behavior, trends and technology, it is also a great place to spot your favorite celebrity. Whether it is at a film and television premiere or at one of its many talks and panels, there is something about the event that makes everyone a little bit more at ease and accessible. Maybe it’s because Austin requires less formality than Hollywood or New York, or perhaps it is the simple knowledge that SXSW really is one of the best places to network in the creative fields.
Jared Leto said it best during the Q&A after the first screening of the new AppleTV+ series, WeCrashed: “All that I can think is how f***ing great it is that we are in the same room together.” Although it had nothing to do with the question asked by the moderator, the phrase was met with enthusiasm by his fellow actors, creative team and the audience, all responding with loud laughter and applause.
He wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the lack of protocol. At the premiere of The Lost City, Daniel Radcliffe made jokes about his nude scenes not making the cut right in front of his parents, and also got great tips on where to eat barbecue and tacos during his first visit to Austin. And while Sandra Bullock remembered her first SXSW screening of Miss Congeniality warmly, she was asked to choose which scene she would happily repeat, to which she smartly answered, “Between flying on a bus towards an island where we could jump off [referring to Speed], or digging things out of Channing [Tatum]’s ass, I would say that the dig with Chan is one that I would do over and over again.”
As fun as the films were, the biggest moment that the SXSW’s attendees were anticipating was if Nicolas Cage’s biggest fan was going to show up to the screening of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Robert Schnetz had become a bit of a legend during this year’s conference for having placed 500 pamphlets and signs around Austin with his phone number asking the actor to call him. His signs were so present in town that it almost seemed like a smart promotional strategy for the film given that Pedro Pascal played a character in it who was said to be Cage’s biggest fan. As it turned out, in real life, Schnetz was the real deal. And to the audience’s joy, there he was at the red carpet and Q&A, famous sign in hand, celebrating the fact that he indeed got the call.
In rooms not so far from the movie theaters, some Hollywood folks stepped away from the usual glitz and glamour to have serious conversations. Just a couple of blocks away at the Austin Convention Center, Ben McKenzie surprised some fans by giving one of the most well-grounded talks on cryptocurrency. Yes, you read it right. The actor who is best known for playing Ryan Atwood in the early 2000’s hit series The O.C. has a degree in economics and has devoted much of his time lately to research this new financial market phenomenon.
Ethan Hawke, apart from promoting his new directorial project, The Last Movie Stars, a documentary on Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, joined a key conversation on storytelling in the audio format by sharing his experience on recording Fishpriest, a new series on Audible. “It’s just fascinating, the power of the voice… It is the actor’s biggest tool and it is just in full force in the audio format because your imagination just keys into all the nuances,” said Hawke. The panel highlighted how the audio storytelling market has grown immensely during the pandemic and is likely to be even more present in the coming years. After the conversation, some lucky few had the opportunity to talk briefly with the actor before the next panel started.
For all the incredible and sometimes challenging talks that were presented at SXSW, the cast and creatives of Ted Lasso probably suffered the most. Their presentation was hybrid – the cast joined from location in England by videoconference while the creatives were present on the stage. Everything would have gone perfectly if it wasn’t for the fact that just the day before Texas changed the clocks to daylight savings time. The additional one-hour difference created such confusion that the cast almost missed the conversation as they were literally in transit with poor internet service. However, they all met every technical difficulty with grace and a sense of humor resulting in a fun and engaging experience for all that were in the room, in a way that wouldn’t have happened had everything gone perfectly.
These are only some of the experiences that one can have or witness during SXSW. There is such a personable and unique tone to it that it is no wonder that people return year after year.