March 14, 2017
SXSW 2017

Would SXSW Be a Good Fit for Your World Premiere? Here's an Inside Look

Many of us would love to premiere at SXSW, if only to have the credibility of that laurel, but which films are most likely to get programmed, and which ones thrive?

If you're eyeing the SXSW Film Festival as a premiere-hopeful, you should understand which films typically fit with the festival's modus operandi. Between No Film School observations, and film correspondents from the likes of Fandango to Black Girl Nerds on a SXSW sneak peak panel, we've uncovered trends from this year's line-up that might help you decide if this festival is right for your next film. Certainly, great films premiere at SXSW every year that don't necessarily fall into these categories. However, if you DO happen to be making a film described below, SXSW could be a really great option for your premiere.

Idiosyncratic documentaries

While the Sundance documentary lineup is usually reserved for extremely relevant issue-driven films, SXSW has a long standing history of championing documentaries about more quirky topics, ranging from historical movements to eccentric characters. While there are still heavy hitters about police brutality and female veterans, there's more room for films like The Secret Life of Lance Letscher, a psychological portrait of an internationally known, Austin-based collage artist, and Dealt, a documentary about one of the best card trick artists in the world...who happens to be blind.

Artist Lance Letscher working on a metal collage in 'The Secret Life of Lance Letscher', directed by Sandra Adair.Credit: Jason Gamble Harter

First-time filmmakers

Every year, SXSW showcases a lot of debut work from unknown filmmakers, so if you're hoping to be noticed and discovered by industry executives actively seeking out relationships with new talent, this could put you in a good place. "I'm hearing a lot about some films with first-time directors, like Fits & Starts and Mr. Roosevelt. I'm really looking forward to the films because you never know whose career might take off here," said Keely Flaherty of Buzzfeed. It's worked for filmmakers like Barry Jenkins, who premiered his low-budget debut film Medicine for Melancholy at SXSW in 2008!

A still from Laura Terruso's debut feature film, 'Fits and Starts'.Credit: Benjamin Rutkowski

Midnight masterpieces

Films that fit into the Midnight category are usually in the horror, thriller, and late-night suitability genres. The category is hugely popular at SXSW. "I love the moviegoing experience," said Erik Davis of Fandango. "One of my favorites parts of SXSW is seeing the Midnights when an audience is jacked up to see a movie." Take for example, this year's The Honor Farm, a smartly made, psychedelic drug trip set on prom night.

After prom night falls apart, Lucy and the gang find unexpected danger in 'The Honor Farm'.Credit: Director of Photography, Matthias Grunsky

Films that feature sweet beats

SXSW is probably most universally recognized for its music festival, and with all the bands and music fans in town, it's not a surprise that the film program showcases films that pay homage to musicians. There's an entire category meant to serve these films called 24 Beats Per Second.

A still from the Karam Gill documentary about hip hop that emerged out of Los Angeles in the 1990s, 'G-Funk'.

Have you seen other trends in SXSW programming over the years that's true to this year's lineup? Share your thoughts on what kind of films do well at this festival.      

Featured image: 'The Honor Farm'. Credit: Director of Photography, Matthias Grunsky

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