SXSW 2012: Why Austin’s Film Fest Tops All Others

South by Southwest was created for 'real movie fans,' documentarian Morgan Spurlock tells MTV News.
By Kara Warner

Morgan Spurlock speaks at 2011 SXSW
Photo: WireImage

There's something inherently cool about Austin's annual South by Southwest film festival. For starters, it has a fun acronym and a decidedly casual vibe, but what sets SXSW apart from the other big film fests is that it caters to actual film fans. And there's something for everyone, from a few mainstream studio-made crowd-pleasers to the genre-tastic Midnighters series to eclectic documentaries and shorts.

"What I love about the film festival is it's real movie fans," documentarian Morgan Spurlock, a frequent attendee of SXSW (and the man behind "Super Size Me"), recently told MTV News. "It's not filled with people from Los Angeles, not people from business side of things, it's real local people who love movies. You get a real gauge how an audience will respond to your film at SXSW, which I really like."

"Big Easy Express" director Emmett Malloy revealed that the festival's unique and fan-friendly vibe is a big part of the reason they wanted to premiere the film in Austin, along with the fact that they are being treated as equals with all the other big films instead of being pushed to the side in a "music doc" category.

"When we were looking at places to premiere, there were a lot of film festivals brought up, but SXSW felt perfect," Malloy said. "If we went to another fest, music docs are treated more as a niche." "Big Easy" features folk-music-friendly bands Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show as they traveled from Oakland, California, to New Orleans on an eight-day railroad tour/ musical adventure in the summer of 2011. "At SXSW, it was a place where the layers of our film work perfectly for it and the bands were excited to come. It stacked the deck because we knew they would be excited to have us as well."

Spurlock will be on hand for the screening of his "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" and as part of the panel "Changing the Channel: The New Golden Age of TV," where he will discuss the upcoming second season of his Hulu series "A Day in the Life."

Spurlock explained SXSW is the perfect launching pad for his show's second season, which features an actual day in the life of people like MMA fighter Jason "Mayhem" Miller, Joel McHale and Questlove, due to the fest's marriage of interactive and entertainment elements, coupled with the fact that online commerce continues to be a hot topic of conversation these days.

"SXSW is one of those places where great things come to fruition. It's special," Spurlock said. "The biggest thing: I want people to know the lay of the land. I want people to know what goes into production of the show, and I want people to know what opportunities exist in this online world, to know there are places to go to produce original content."

"I'm just excited for anyone to see the film right now," Malloy said of what he's looking forward to most while in Austin. "It's about a fun trip, and I wanted people to experience it in a genuine fashion," he continued, adding that the spirit of "Big Easy" is similar to that of SXSW itself. "It's simple. Great music and great energy."

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