Why You Should Try SXSWi

Why You Should Try SXSWi (photo)

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There are many motivations to make the nerd pilgrimage to Austin, which, as it was related to me by a local cab driver, was first an idea the city came up with to replenish the lack of foot traffic when UT students leave the city for spring break. As the natives escape, the town is momentarily invaded by a mix of geeks, both of the film and tech persuasion. They — we — are often described as obsessives but, more accurately, are people who have a serious passion for what they do.

In particular, it takes a certain type to come to South By Southwest Interactive, and every year that type becomes less a type and simply the direction that’s driving so many aspects of our daily lives. Politics, race, age, communication, retail, industrial — the list goes on and on. You’d be hard pressed to find a industry that hasn’t been radically influenced by the effect the technologies dissected and analyzed here.

But it’s hardly academic. It can be, but a majority of goes on at SXSWi is networking. Sure, a good deal of it is superfluous, but there’s also a high concentration of decision makers in a very small area who are bound to encounter opportunities they may not find anywhere else.

It’s no coincidence that Austin is the city that launched some of the most game-changing applications in the past several years, Twitter being the biggest and Foursquare being the most recent. How game changing? Look around your news media diet and count up the number of instances you hear someone’s Twitter being mentioned. If you’re hearing about something that happened anywhere in the world, I am willing to bet someone posted it to Twitter before anywhere else, period.

Foursquare, like Twitter, had an incubation period at their first SXSW. It was adopted eary by a cliquey, influential set of people and a year later had begun to reach substantial audiences. Twitter is thought to be around six million users today, and Foursquare around 60,000. But there hasn’t really been a singular app to come out of this year’s SXSWi that’s ended up on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

The applications that help keep everyone organized about where they need to go seem to be the most useful, Plancast being a particularly popular one that launched an iPhone app just before the conference. A app called Hot Potato was used by many to discuss panels as they were in progress in sort of a closed room Twitter. However, Twitter is still the king when it came to providing instant feedback on anything that was happening at any moment at the conference.

So if the networking, the technology, the free drinks and food, the parties, the gadgets, the next new thing, and an opportunity to take your startup to the next level appeals to you, how do you get to SXSWi 2011? Well, first I would suggest trying to get yourself on a panel. Find a topic that you’re opinionated in and approach the panel moderator. That’s exactly what I did, and it pays for your entry into the conference with Gold level access, getting you into both the movie and interactive portion of the festival.

It also gets you discounts on your hotel, which you should book very early. The panel experience allows you to reach a larger audience and market yourself in a way that can open up other opportunities with folks in the audience or those who may watch it later online. If you’re a writer, it can open up additional freelance gigs or invites to speak at other conferences. Anyone who works in that kind of business knows you need to find as many of those jobs as possible to stay afloat — a big part of that is marketing yourself, and this is one of the best ways to do just that.

The panel I spoke on yesterday was attended by David Carr of the New York Times, who happens to be one of the writers I admire most. He tweeted about our panel and told us afterwards how much he enjoyed it. It was a real honor and incredibly satisfying to be able to get that kind of feedback from someone who I think is at the top of his game and understands what I am trying to accomplish better than anyone else.

If you’ve never been to SXSWi and you’ve been following along vicariously through those who are here, now is the perfect time to start hatching plans to get here in 2011, when it will be even bigger and better. I’ve given you a few tips on how to make that easier, it’s up to you now to make it happen. I promise — you will not be disappointed.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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