March 18, 2014
Every March, flocks of hipsters, tech geeks, band groupies, and filmmakers gather in Austin for SXSW (pronounced “South by Southwest”), one of the most exciting, trend-setting events around. The intertwined series of conferences and festivals is organized around film, music, and interactive media, and sets the tone for the year’s creative and technical landscape. Ologie’s video director, Mark Love, took it all in this year. Here’s his recap:
Story is still king.
Jon Favreau (famed actor, director, screenwriter) hit us with a few of my favorite nuggets from the week. While he was clearly there to premiere his film, he took a moment to make a case for story in all of SXSW’s mediums—story above all else. What’s the story in your film? What’s the story of your user? What’s the story of how the previous tool failed? If you don’t have a story, you don’t have an idea. His point was that we humans like to know, hear, and tell stories, so having a narrative will only help you connect with your audience.
For gear, it’s a level playing field.
If it takes moving pictures, we saw it up on the big screen. Whether it was the Arri Alexa, RED Epic, 5D, 7D, GoPro, or iPhone, very little attention was paid to the gear behind the shot. In fact, as technology is blowing the doors off the possibilities, it’s also equalizing budgets and allowing people to create content that’s viewed by everyone, right away. (In fact, Favreau mentioned that he is currently producing the first feature for a filmmaker he discovered on Vimeo.)
Wes Anderson is as cool as you think.
After much line-waiting and hand-wringing, I managed to get in to see director Wes Anderson premiere his latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel. The film was terrific, but the Q-and-A afterward was one of those bucket-list achievements for me. It was most interesting to hear him answer questions about his style and approach. To his fans, his style heavily infuses his work—but in his mind, he’s just telling his story in the clearest way he can. He takes what he learns from each new film and applies it to the next. Full-cut animatics, miniatures, geometric framing, and downshots are just the best way he knows to get you to feel the right thing.
Lights + camera = the new swag.
The trade show is a major component of SXSW. Throughout the conference, it continues to walk the line of making a trade show cool. As I cruised around, I saw that the classic carrots are still popular: stickers, posters, shirts, phone-charging stations, food, and booze (probably in reverse order). But I noticed an even bigger draw: the camera. Attendees couldn’t get enough of the opportunity to have their picture taken. An interesting backdrop, a decent light, and a quick link for download really reeled them in.
“The death of cinema”? Whatever.
To get financing, distribution, and viewership these days, a film has to have a certain mass appeal. And maybe that’s OK. Because as critics and film snobs mourn the “good old days,” filmmakers are salivating over outlets like Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. These streaming sites are the stepchildren of HBO, Showtime, and AMC, with the benefit of releasing an entire season at once. Creators can now target a specific audience, and bring back the kind of seasonal plot arcs and evolving relationships that haven’t been seen on networks for a decade. And with budgets rising and big-name actors more willing to commit, the lines between feature, TV, and streaming are only going to get blurrier.
Control freaks, step aside.
As a video director, I get my hands dirty in every step of the process. Concept, pitch, prep, shoot, post—I want to be a part of it all. But what I heard, over and over again, was this: stop doing that. Instead, I should surround myself with people who do those things well, and focus my attention on something bigger: the piece’s tone. I’ll always have someone managing content: clients, studios, producers. And I can always find someone who knows how to run the camera (sometimes better than me), or make the technology work (usually much better than me). It’s my job to use those talented people and assets to create the right tone, which dictates the emotion a video evokes, which is the whole point of telling a story.
A few of Mark’s Instagram shots from the festival: