Neece explains that SXSW started out at as a way for local bars and clubs in Austin to program special music events in a bid to attract people to the area during Spring Break, when thousands of students leave the city for the beach.
“They expected a few hundred people, but the first year they had 700 people and it just grew from there.” Today, the annual event attracts 70,000 badge holders and another 200,000 fans attend various performances occurring on the sidelines of the festival.
The film program at SXSW has grown into a large and reputable festival over the years and got a big boost from the 2002 spelling bee documentary Spellbound, which premiered there.
Addressing the submission of films for SXSW, Neece said there are definite styles the festival seeks out, including documentaries related to pop culture that are character driven. “We always say there’s something about a South by Southwest film, either it’s a story told in a unique way, or a unique film – we’re always trying to connect with films,” he said.
Neece said the festival is truly unique for its convergence of film, interactive and music, which is also being reflected in the media world as a whole. “There’s no other real festival like this where all these different people and all these different industries come together in one place for these nine days, do it’s really kind of a melting pot.”
He also talks about the celebrity keynotes for the upcoming festival.
One of the keynotes is Mark Duplass, who actually used to live in Austin. “He’s the epitome of South by Southwest, multi-hyphenate. He’s an actor, he’s a producer, he’s a director, he’s an entrepreneur, so it made a lot of sense.”
Also announced as SXSW keynotes are Ava DuVernay – director of the civil rights dramaSelma – as well as hip-hop star and feature score composer RZA.
In addition, two of the major film workshops will be put on by Pixar and Skywalker Sound – the music recording division of George Lucas’ Lucas Digital motion picture group.
Watch the full episode for more about SXSW, and to also hear Neece talk about his obsession with tacos and the recent release of his book dedicated to the regional food favorite, Austin Breakfast Tacos.
Jarod Neece has been with the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival and Conference in Austin,TX since 2002. He is the festival’s Producer & Senior Programmer with an emphasis on Narrative Feature and Genre programming. As Producer he oversees the Film Festival & Conference and daily festival operations. In addition, he has been a juror or panelist at a number of festivals and organizations including Fantasia, Sundance, the McKnight Filmmaking Fellowship, and Independent Film Week. He is also the co-founder and editor of the popular Austin food blog, TacoJournalism.com and co-writer of the new book, Austin Breakfast Tacos: The Story of the Most Important Taco of the Day. Jarod graduated from the University of Texas at Austin.