South by Southwest, abbreviated as SXSW, is an annual conglomeration of parallel film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that take place in Austin, Texas, United States. Screen Wexford was fortunate enough to attend the virtual event from the comfort of our remote office in Wexford. We missed the in-person interactions (whole doesn’t love sitting in a dark room at 9am at a film festival….or 9pm at the festival hub) but we were certainly not disappointed by the line up and array of talent in attendance. Over the course of the five day festival, we attended talks, watched films, shared some amazingly immersive XR experiences and discovered new ways to connect in this unique digital space. From this, lots of exciting ideas have emerged which we will integrate into our programme for the year ahead.

If you’re interested, you can check out our SXSW Diary below:

Driving Action Advocacy Through Online Community
Online communities are nothing new (case in point: Reddit turned 15 last year); but as the world adapted to 2020, these digital spaces have proven their worth in a whole new way. Reddit has witnessed this first hand, as more people joined its many thousands of communities for connection, distraction and belonging in a time of unprecedented disconnection. While IRL experiences continue to evolve in unexpected ways, the communities on Reddit remain a constant source of conversation and companionship — as well as a valuable lens from which to examine human psychology, consumer behavior, and general sentiment. Join Reddit’s Chief Operating Officer Jen Wong as she takes the virtual stage with CNN’s Kerry Flynn for a conversation about why online communities were made for this moment, their role in the evolving digital ecosystem, and the inherent value they bring to brands looking to build authentic connection, brand advocacy, and drive action.

Amy Webb Launches 2021 Emerging Tech Trend Report
In this provocative session, futurist Amy Webb, professor at NYU Stern School of Business and founder of the Future Today Institute, provided a data-driven analysis for the emerging tech trends that need to be on your radar in 2021––scenarios for the future of business, governing and society.

Laurieann Gibson on Tapping Into Your Creative Vision
Empower the dreamer in you: the artist, the writer, the athlete, the entrepreneur, the mover and shaker. World-renowned creative visionary, choreographer and author Laurieann Gibson shared the principles that have shaped and guided her artistic work developing some of the world’s biggest pop stars. In conversation with creative director, celebrity stylist and costume designer June Ambrose, Gibson spoke about the inspirational jewels she’s garnered over her 20-year career in entertainment in order to ignite your creative passions, encourage you to create a unique roadmap to success, and to “dance your dance.”#DanceYourDance

Why Do We Fear Innovation?
From the printing press to vaccines to artificial intelligence, the introduction of almost any transformative technology has been met with wonder as well as fear and rejection. Many of history’s greatest inventors were considered heretics–the archetype of the mad scientist exists for a reason. Why does the new still scare us? What does it take to build acceptance for transformative ideas? How does the unprecedented scientific progress to deliver COVID vaccines influence this? What role does disinformation play in shaping our fears? How can we ensure innovators consider ethical issues, so outcomes can lead to the betterment of people and the planet? What can innovators learn from artists and creators of fiction?

Climate Change Meet Up
We are living with the reality of climate change every day. How can we begin to adapt beyond acknowledgement and complacency? This meet up looked at the reality of the climate crisis and the solutions that have the opportunity to save our planet.

Can VR Create Real Change?
“VR for Good”, “the Empathy Machine”, “Story living”… VR has gotten quite a reputation for creating impact. But does the hype really add up? We are at a pivotal moment in history, with socio-political division at an all-time high and less than a decade left to prevent climate crisis. Could creating virtual realities actually help move us towards a better tomorrow? Join top VR for Good creators and curators as they dig into the impacts of this medium, putting real change and direct action front and center. We will tackle three difficult questions that get to the heart of this issue.

A Survival Guide to Alternative Film Distribution
Digital distribution continues to evolve with over 100 digital and streaming platforms offering movies and television series, catering to audiences eager to escape lockdown madness. At a time when theatre availability is uncertain and digital models are key, distributors and filmmakers are working out different ways to effectively release films of all genres and budgets. This panel will explore the platforms now available, how the business models work, and what types of films work in these distribution structures. Emerging trends will be discussed including AVOD, film libraries, education/public library streaming, and MOD (manufacture on demand DVD). On the more traditional side, the speakers explored how distributors are monetizing their content and adapting to new processes.

Brian Eno Stewart Brand on Film, Music, and Creativity
Musician Brian Eno in discussion with Stewart Brand, the subject of a new documentary on Stewart called We Are As Gods. The film profiles Stewart Brand: legendary pioneer of the counterculture, cyberspace, futurism, and modern environmentalism. Today, he urges people to use our god-like powers to fight extinction by reviving lost species, but his former allies in the environmental movement vow to stand in his way. Brian Eno created the beautiful and indelible original music for We Are As Gods. The two are friends and co-founders of the Long Now Foundation, an organization dedicated to shifting humanity’s perspective to long-term thinking. Brian and Stewart chat with filmmakers about the film, collaborating on the musical score, and limiting creative possibilities in the digital age.

The Future is Accessible: Accessibility in XR
XR is redefining what we consider reality – creating the potential for entirely new mediums and means of expression. This paradigm-shifting technology allows users to experience entire worlds and alter their perceptions of reality. For XR technology to reach its full potential, it needs to be accessible. As we develop VR, AR, and other spatial computing experiences, we have the opportunity to create technologies that are accessible from the start. As workplace and educational paradigms become increasingly digital-forward, ensuring users of all abilities can avail themselves of XR technology is more important than ever. Hear from industry experts, academics, and creators on the current state of accessibility in XR and what we can do to ensure the future of XR is for everyone.#FutureIsAccessible

Entrepreneurship Equals Empowerment
Leveling the playing field for entrepreneurship is the single most important thing we can do to build a better economy. We must empower our next generation with the tools they need to create economic independence by bringing together businesses, governments, nonprofits and community orgs to invest in small business and remove barriers for disenfranchised groups. The challenges faced in 2020 highlighted many opportunities to do better, but also gave us hope, as the world rose to support Black entrepreneurs. We must continue to remove obstacles, encourage more aspiring Black entrepreneurs – and other traditionally marginalized communities – to start and scale businesses, and provide them with the technology, educational programs and opportunity to access capital that they need to succeed.

All-in-all an incredible festival. We connected with some amazing talent that we hope to bring to Wexford in some capacity in the coming months.

Hope to see you there next year!

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