Booths, BBQ and Bats: a SXSW recap

Will Prescott — Friday, April 3rd, 2009

This is a week or so overdue, considering SXSW was a while ago, but I do feel obligated to report on what was a successful festival for SAGIndie and the Screen Actors Guild.

First and foremost, our main responsibility while attending Austin’s renowned Film, Interactive and Music fest is to get the word out about SAG’s low budget contracts. To do this, we traditionally participate as an exhibitor at SXSW’s convention portion of the fest.

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In coordination with SAG’s iActor casting service, we co-hosted a booth that had to be one of the most popular in the convention hall. While other exhibitors boasted flashy displays and expensive giveaways, we went with a more simplistic approach by luring passersby with a game of skill. We brought handmade, magnetic toys called “Throwies”, developed by the Graffiti Research Lab. They’re basically a small LED light that’s connected to a magnet and a small battery. On one of the booth walls, we hung a large piece of sheet metal that participants would toss the Throwies at for a chance to win a spiffy SAGIndie hat or an iActor t-shirt.

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Feedback from this simple (union made) game was phenomenal and even garnered a little press in the LA Weekly. Even if people couldn’t win a fancy prize, they still walked away with a complimentary LED light and over the course of the week, we would spot these bright contraptions all over the place – at bars, on street signs, taxi cabs, etc.

As is tradition, the team always hits up some excellent Austin restaurants. My favorite goes to Iron Works, a BBQ joint with exceptional brisket and sausage links.

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When our time at the convention center was over, I tried to get out to see some local attractions — mainly, the huge colony of urban bats that live under the Congress Bridge. Unfortunately, mid-March is still a bit early for them to be back from the warmer south so I didn’t get to see the millions and millions of bats that come billowing out at dusk. I did get to see a few, but I’m considering this a major Bat Fail.

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The best film I saw at the fest was one I missed at Sundance, SIN NOMBRE. A truly remarkable accomplishment for first-time director Cary Fukunaga. The film is now in limited release and is a must see for independent film lovers.

We also hit up a ton of parties and networking events — the best of all had to be ours, which was co-hosted by the WGA and held on the upstairs patio of Lenai.

This was a great trip on so many levels. I’m really looking forward to what we put together for next year.

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