There’s a bridge over the lake that famously shelters hundreds of bats, which, at dusk, swarm out in apocalyptic Russian blockbusteresque clouds. It goes on for maybe half an hour, and people gather on the bridge to watch…but we lucked into a room overlooking the lake at the Austin Four Seasons, so we can just stand at our window and watch, bypassing this whole "going outdoors" unpleasantness.
Speaking of the hotel, our most random celebrity moment to date was seeing Kris Kristofferson (here to promote "Disappearances"), looking ludicrously tanned and fit for someone 300 years old, bound out into the driveway (there is no sidewalk leading up to the hotel â€“ as in L.A., nobody walks in Austin, TX), only to bound right back when his companion called out "Kris, your favorite!", at which point he rushed over to enthusiastically be introduced to Ray Romano (here for "95 Miles to Go").
Everyone is remarkably friendly and forthright at this festival, probably because it’s not yet swamped by press. In line for a morning screening of "Live Free or Die" (and SXSW, planning around its parties, doesn’t start its screenings until 11am), we chatted with "Disappearances" director Jay Craven, who was premiering his film that night, and who told us about the difficulties of having to self-distribute every one of his films to date. At a party later, an actor here promoting more than one film told us quite frankly which one he actually cared about. Barely, we kept ourselves from shouting: "HAH! I’m going to tell everyone you said that on MY BLOG!" and running around the party waving our hands over our head and laughing madly. We’ve heard claims that this year’s attendance is up anywhere from 40 to 50% from last year, and while we’re happy for everyone involved, we’d hate to see it become much bigger, because right now it seems perfect â€“ big enough that buyers are here, bringing with them the tantalizing possibility of getting one’s film picked up for theatrical release, but small enough that filmmakers still have time to see each others’ films, and that you don’t get turned away from screenings you didn’t get to at least an hour before start time.
And, we’ve hardly the first to say it, but the Alamo Drafthouse is sheer bliss. A pint of beer, a plate of fried pickles, and an afternoon screening â€“ yes!