The next few blog posts will focus on my experience as a Volunteer Photographer for South By Southwest (SXSW) Conferences & Festivals. As some of you may know, SXSW is a 10-day long festival held once a year in Austin, TX wich offers a unique convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies.
This will be my second year volunteering 60 hours in exchange for an all-access Platinum Badge, which will grant me all-access to exclusive events, parties, panels, workshops, and screenings.
I arrived in Austin, TX this morning and received my first assignment this evening. I'll be taking the Metro Rail into downtown tomorrow morning and diving head first into the chaos and excitement that is South By Southwest.
My first 3 assignments for Friday, March 8th, all taking place at the Sheraton Austin:
2pm-6pm - “Health 2.0 Code-a-Thon”
Subjects: Jessica Goldband
3:30pm-4:30pm - “Designing Habits: From Big Data to Small Changes”
Subjects: Jeffrey Holove, Michael V Copeland, Steph Habif, Tim Chang
5pm-6pm - “Female Orgasm: The Regenerative Human Technology”
Subjects: Nicole Daedone
The most interesting of these three looks to be the last -- a panel discussion that examines the importance of the female orgasm and the fundamental need of a human connection in a world of technology and social networks. Some of the questions that I can expect to be answered:
Since my first assignment is not until 2pm, I plan on exploring other events and networking with professionals to meet as many helpful, inspiring, and insightful people as I can. I am currently working on a number of personal projects in the film and interactive fields which can use all the guidance and resources I can get.
One of the things I love most about SXSW is the opportunity to learn and explore new technologies, ideas, and techniques in my craft. It gives me a chance to step outside of my comfort zone and open my mind to new creative possibilities. I will be learning a lot and sharing even more. Stay tuned for future updates!
With only four hours of rest, I started my day at dawn. I parked at the MetroRail Station outside of downtown and caught the 8 o'clock into the media mecca known as SXSW. I checked in with the Photo Crew at the Hilton and started upon my assignments.
My first assignment was to shoot the Adobe Creative Camp in the Ballroom of the Radisson Hotel just north of the Colorado River. I arrived at 9:30am and was happy to see there was a bacon breakfast buffet waiting just for me! The workshop was scheduled to last all day, but I only stayed for the first two presentations. The first was a discussion and tutorial on working in the latest version of Adobe Edge to create motion graphics using HTML 5. Following a brief networking session, the second presentation was focused on the revelation of Adobe Shadow, the latest tool to help optimize desktop-to-mobile web application development. Each presentation ended with a raffling off of the Adobe CS5.5 Master Collection and a one-year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. I did not win.
At noon I enjoyed my lunch break with the other volunteers. It's so nice to converse with strangers who are so passionate about the creative media industries. I met a local SXSW employee who graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston, where my sister went to school. I dropped a few names and sure enough, we had some mutual friends, specifically Tubby Love!
After lunch, I made my way to catch the 2pm keynote conversation with the legendary Ray Kurzweil and TIME Magazine writer Lev Grossman titled "Expanding Our Intelligence Without Limit." Kurzweil lectured on his popular Singularity theory and the Law of Accelerating Returns. This is the idea that, at the rate technology is advancing, we will soon witness the moment when computers reach greater-than-human intelligence, resulting in an explosive super-intelligence. He discussed the mapping of the human genome, his (correct) early 1980's predictions, and the effects that advancing technologies have on the healthcare industry.
After having my mind temporarily blown, I had to debrief by strolling throughout the Interactive Trade Show before my next (and last) assignment. I collected numerous t-shirts and goodies and spent a considerable amount of time at Canon's booth, playing with the new 5DMkIII and C300 cameras. I also got a brief tutorial on Maxon's Cinema 4D animation and modeling. I was approached by countless tech startups promoting their newest products (mostly social apps), but I was quite impressed with TuneUp, an iTunes plugin that will update your music tracks that are missing information like title, artist, or even album artwork.
My last assignment was to shoot the Beer & Robots Reception with Dean Kamen & Maywa Denki. This included the presentation of robots built by 3 teams of high school and middle school students.
At 4:30pm, I made my way to the Samsung Blogger Lounge, where I enjoyed an open bar and a buffet of chicken wings while playing with the latest Samsung gadgets (not concurrently). Afterwards, I headed next door to a panel discussion with Lisa Kudrow titled "Web Originals: Television's New Guinea Pigs." In it, Lisa discussed how her short series "Web Therapy" transitioned successfully from web to television. And yes, she is forever in her character of Phoebe Buffay from "Friends."
I had some time to kill before heading to Paramount Theatre for the world premiere of 21 Jump Street, so I decided to grab a drink at the open bar of the Registrant's Lounge (presented by MOFILM). As I was standing in line, I recognized comedian Doug Benson, star of Super High Me and the host of this year's SXSW Film Awards. I approached him with the question, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how high are you right now?" He took about 30 seconds of deep thought to finally respond with "Ehhh... about an 8 minus." We laughed and chatted for a few minutes before I had one of his girlfriends take a picture of us. He was very down to earth and friendly.
Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill
To end the night, I caught the first showing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum's new action-comedy film 21 Jump Street, about 2 unlikely friends who return to high school as undercover cops. It was funny, but nothing more than I expected. I gave it a 4/5. After the show, I hung around to listen to the actors and directors talk about the filmmaking process. Again, nothing extraordinary.
I caught a cab back to the MetroRail Station where I parked and headed home, hungry and exhausted. I grabbed a burger from Jack In The Box and was not disappointed. We don't have them in Florida. I'm looking forward to an easy day of shooting tomorrow, as my only assignment isn't until 9pm.