I know this post is long overdue, but it’s actually taken me this long to recover physically and mentally and catch up a bit at work. This year’s SXSW was even bigger than last year, and despite the fears of my friends and I, it was actually somehow a bit more manageable. This was probably due to a few factors. First, I had a panel to prepare for and that allowed me to focus on that to the exclusion of almost everything else on the Saturday. Another sadder reality was that Brooke’s father passed away just a week before I was to fly to Austin. We spent almost the entire next week with her mum in Collingwood, about an hour and a half north of Toronto. That made it pretty impossible to think about or plan my week too carefully. For a few days, it wasn’t even clear I’d be able to make the trip at all. But in a strange way, it made me less anxious about the panel and about figuring out what I wanted to do every hour of every day. I was just happy to be there. And just so you know, Brooke was able to spend some quality time alone with her mum that week and sent me on my way with her blessing. She’s amazing like that.
I didn’t attend a lot of panels, or take a lot of photos or notes, so I thought I’d just give you a list of highlights and lowlights:
- My panel was great. It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet some very sharp people who also happen to be warm and genuine about their faith. I’m really hopeful that I can be involved in something like it again next year.
- Sticking around a few days was a great idea. Although I didn’t buy a Music badge, there were heaps of free day shows. I got to see The Buzzocks(!), The Polyphonic Spree, Apples in Stereo, Peter Bjorn and John, Robyn Hitchcock with Peter Buck and Okkervil River. There was even free food and beer.
- During one of the parties during Interactive, I was chatting with my friends Kevin and Baratunde when we were joined by a personable young guy talking about films. He introduced himself as Joe and said he was acting in a film that was at the Film festival. During our 40 minute conversation, it dawned on me that we were hanging out with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, star of The Lookout. He turned out to be a great guy, smart and interesting but completely unpretentious.
- As a panelist, I got a complimentary Gold badge which allowed me to attend both Interactive and Film events. I took the opportunity to see a few films (Reign Over Me, Exiled, and Eagle Versus Shark) and this was a great break from the intensity of hanging around with smart geeks or rocking out at concerts.
- The panels and keynotes I did attend were almost all interesting and valuable.
- I focussed more on my writing about film and made a number of useful contacts. My decision to launch Toronto Screen Shots was based on attending a great panel called “Blogging About Film.”
- The weather in Austin this year was kind of crappy. It rained for several days, which made getting around fairly miserable.
- Hotels were expensive and filled up really early. Despite sharing with my friends Neil and Kevin, which involved spending five of my eight nights on either an air mattress or a rollaway bed, it still cost me more than US$1,000. I’m going to book my room by July or August next time.
- Almost everyone I know had some travel snafus on the way home. I wasn’t immune. I flew back Saturday from Austin to Detroit without incident, but my flight from Detroit to Toronto was cancelled for “unscheduled maintenance.” Despite the fact that it’s a one hour flight, there were no flights available until Monday or Tuesday, and the airline would only pay for one night’s accomodation. I banded together with a few other Torontonians and we took a taxi across the border to Windsor and jumped on the train. I got home about seven hours late, and it cost me more money, but there was no way I was staying two days in Detroit, especially at my own expense. Boo airlines!
- As always, the week went by far too quickly and I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with people. There were a few people whom I’d wanted to meet for the first time, and didn’t get the chance. Ah well, I’ll be back next year!