Unofficial Guide to SXSW Film:
2015 Expert Picks

SXSW Film has a lot to celebrate, from a year’s worth of new laudable movies and shorts to improvements in the program itself.

This year, the rebuilt Alamo South Lamar returns as one the festival’s nine venues across town. The program has also increased its Convergence opportunities, meaning film events will be accessible to more than one badge type: for example, festival-goers with Interactive badges will be able to attend screenings designated at SXsports, and those with Music badges can attend all 24 Beats Per Second events.

“There’s so much for every interest and taste in the conference and festival,” says Janet Pierson, SXSW Film Festival Director. “Really great speakers, panels and workshops, as well as fantastic film premieres. I guess I’m most looking forward to the wonderful alchemy that occurs when the SXSW filmmakers and presenters get to connect with the great SXSW and Austin audience.”

During the nine days of SXSW Film, 145 features will be shown. The lineup includes 60 films from first-time filmmakers and consists of 100 world premieres, 13 North American premieres and 11 US premieres. These films were selected from a record 2,385 feature-length film submissions composed of 1,614 U.S. and 771 international feature-length films.

As with anything related to SXSW, it can be an over-stimulating experience for those who don’t know what to look for in the myriad events, parties and screenings. Pierson suggests taking cues from these five filmmakers, animators and artists on what to attend during this year’s film fest.


Film: Animated Shorts

Sunday, March 15, 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Tuesday March 17, 4:30 – 6pm
Topfer Theatre at ZACH 1510 Toomey Rd

Saturday, March 21, 7:15 – 8:45p.m.
Alamo Lamar C 1120 S Lamar Blvd

I really want to see the animation block. I know that’s one-sided because we have a film in it. It’s always entertaining. Last year, Yearbook by Bernardo Britto was in the block and it’s so incredible. I always feel really inspired by all the selections around the world. That’s always number one.

Awards: SXSW Film Awards

Tuesday, March 17; 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m
Paramount Theatre 713 Congress Avenue

I’m always interested in seeing what SXSW selects from thousands of movies; what are their top 10? I think they expanded their bracket.

Keynote: Mark Duplass

Sunday, March 15 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Austin Convention Center, Vimeo Theater
500 E Cesar Chavez St

Mark Duplass is speaking! I’m really excited to hear him talk this year.


Panel: Film Finance and Distribution in 2015

Monday, March 15; 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m
InterContinental Stephen F. Austin
Capital Ballroom B, 701 Congress Avenue

I am an independent filmmaker, so I will be exploring all the panels on film financing and new filmmaking technologies.

Mentor Sessions

For people that are early in their career, or switching gears, I highly recommend the mentor sessions, because one has access to some truly amazing and generous talent.

Mentor sessions vary and cover the gamut from screenwriting to funding to publicity and marketing.

Screenwriting: Yen Tan

Sunday, March 15; 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Austin Convention Center Room 11AB

Funding: Lois Vossen (Independent Lens)

Saturday, March 14; 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Austin Convention Center Room 11AB

Publicity + Marketing II: Rachel Walker

Monday, March 16; 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Austin Convention Center Room 11AB

Meet Ups: SXSW Film Happy Hours

Nightly, March 13-17; 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Paramount Theater 713 Congress Avenue

See as many films as you possibly can. Meet as many people as you possibly can.


Panel: Finding Big Power in the Small Moments

Sunday, March 15 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
InterContinental Stephen F. Austin – Capital Ballroom B
701 Congress Avenue

Our panel on small films obviously, that’s the first one.

Film: They Will Have to Kill Us First

Monday, March 16; 6:15 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Stateside Theatre 719 Congress Avenue
Tuesday, March 17; 4:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.
Satellite Venue: Marchesa 6226 Middle Fiskville Road
Friday, March 20; 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Vimeo Theater 201 Trinity Street

Go see the film They Will Have to Kill Us First, a new documentary about music being banned in Mali and the aftermath. It’s a beautiful documentary filled with gorgeous music, and it says something profound in these times where people are being called to defend free speech. We are doing a short doc about it on The Guardian to coincide with SXSW. I think this doc will be a massive hit.

Panel: Why the Future of Film Depends on Social Media

Saturday, March 14; 2 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.
Austin Convention Center – Room 15

I would say basically any panel on convergence—so where film and interactive cross over and we talk about the future of film consumption. I’m fascinated by how online has changed and continues to change who has access to watching films. And we are in a new phase now of the power to distribute shifting to media organizations, like those of us at The Guardian, who have one foot in traditional media and one foot in this new global space. Together — people like us and Vice and Netflix, Vimeo and other online players — (we) are an international public service broadcaster. So, look out for anything covering those sorts of topics.


Film: Shorts Program I

Saturday, March 14; 11 a.m. to 12:35 p.m.
Topfer Theatre at ZACH 1510 Toomey Road
Sunday, March 15; 2 p.m. to 3:35 p.m.
Rollins Theatre at The Long Center 701 W Riverside Drive
Saturday, March 21; 7 p,m. to 8:35 p.m.
Stateside Theatre 719 Congress Avenue

I think the film shorts programs in SXSW are always exciting and inspiring. Definitely go see them!

Panel: Sustainable Photography in a Disintermediated Era

Saturday, March 14; 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Hyatt Regency Austin-Texas Ballroom 2-3
208 Barton Springs Road

I’m really interested (always) in career sustainability in the disintermediated age, so this panel intrigued me and I plan to be there.

Diversity in Film: The University’s Role

Saturday, March 14; 12:50 p.m. to 1:05 p.m.
Austin Convention Center – Room 15

The other thing I spend most of my time on is diversity in film and media. So I’m particularly excited to hear how educational institutions are thinking about it as well.


It’s not just the great films that festivalgoers should take advantage of, but the keynotes and the panels too. The whole SXSW experience is intended to inspire. You’re not supposed to sleep. If you’re not jam-packed with inspiration and ideas after floating from films to panels to conversations to keynotes all day, you’re not doing it right.

As a documentary filmmaker, I’m really looking forward to Breaking a Monster, Barge, and The Look of Silence.

Film: Breaking a Monster

Saturday, March 14; 4 p.m. to 5:33 p.m.
Stateside Theatre 719 Congress Avenue

Sunday, March 15; 1:30 p.m. to 3:03 p.m.
Alamo Lamar B 1120 S Lamar Boulevard

Friday, March 20; 6:15 p.m. to 7:48 p.m.
Stateside Theatre 719 Congress Avenue

Breaking a Monster chronicles the breakout year of the band Unlocking the Truth, following 12 and 13-year-old members Alec Atkins, Malcolm Brickhouse and Jarad Dawkins as they first encounter stardom and the music industry, transcending childhood to become the rock stars they always dreamed of being.

Film: Barge

Saturday, March 14; 3 p.m. to 4:11 p.m.
Alamo Lamar C 1120 S Lamar Boulevard

Sunday, March 15; 6:30 p.m. to 7:41 p.m.
Satellite Venue: Marchesa 6226 Middle Fiskville Road

Tuesday, March 17; 12 p.m. to 1:11 p.m.
Satellite Venue: Alamo Slaughter 5701 W Slaughter Lane

Friday, March 20; 1:30 p.m. to 2:41 p.m.
Stateside Theatre 719 Congress Avenue

The Look of Silence

Friday: March 13; 8:45 p.m. to 10:27 p.m.
Alamo Lamar B 1120 S Lamar Boulevard

Sunday, March 15; 5 p.m. to 6:42 p.m.
Satellite Venue: Alamo Slaughter 5701 W Slaughter Lane

Wednesday, March 18; 1:30 p.m. to 3:12 p.m.
Rollins Theatre at the Long Center 701 W Riverside Drive

amira3Amira Jensen

Follow Me on Twitter
Amira Jensen is a content marketer and freelance writer who has been watching Austin bloom for nearly 20 years. She got her bachelor’s in journalism at UT and uses lifestyle writing as an excuse to personally introduce herself to the city’s restaurants, events and intriguing people.

Writing: Amira Jensen – @amira_jensen
Photography: Lead Image by Chris Perez – @citygrammag

Click below for the rest of our expert picks…

SXSW Interactive

SXSW Music

SXSW Film: Editor’s Picks


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