Here’s the overview of The Media Festival Arts:
The Media Festival Arts in partnership with Arts Council England and the UK Film Council will offer cutting edge content fusing the digital agendas of the arts, film, media and technology. The festival was conceived to provide an environment in which media and arts professionals can meet, share and discuss new opportunities created a rapidly evolving digital media landscape.
The festival content will reflect the relationship between creative innovation, digital revenue streams and adding value to existing core activities. It will demonstrate how digital innovation can lead to mutually beneficial cross industry partnerships and new creative and commercial opportunities.
This festival aims to work towards a new settlement for public access to culture, to build a new public digital cultural space for the UK. The arts and the media industries need to talk and learn about shared possibilities, shared standards, shared technical solutions, and shared visions for what public service media can look like in the digital age.
Attending this three-day event (September 8-10, Roundhouse, London) means that you have the opportunity to network with hundreds of arts, media and technology bosses. The delegate list already has some of the big names in the industry. Also, this is your chance to find out how arts can collaborate with the media and broadcast industries to deliver 360-degree public service content as well as hearing about what available funding and investment opportunities are available for creative research and development.
I really cannot wait. I will be blogging during the conference, but I strongly encourage you to be part of the conversation especially if you are passionate about the arts, film and media. So if you can make it there, why not? Martian Landing readers get a 25% VIP discount. Just quote MARS25 when you register and hopefully see you there.
Having fought off the jet lag, it was time to pack my bags and return home. The Britbash party the night before meant that I didn’t get back to the hotel until 2am and still had to pack. I was quite worried I would miss the alarm and so I didn’t really get to sleep well, but thought that I have all the time to snooze during the flight back.
I did have all the time to sleep – our flight was so delayed we had missed our connecting flight to Birmingham. All in all it took 24 hours for us to get back and was just shattered. But was all the hassle worth it? Yes, indeed. The experiences I had in Austin were both educational and fun. Going to SXSW was a form of continuing professional development. It was great to meet so many people from different parts of the world and backgrounds. And of course, going to a new place is a great cultural experience. I would definitely miss the IHOP breakfasts, tacos, cheesy guacamole and rootbeer.
Most of all, it was nice to have spent some time with the West Midland contingent, because it was good bonding time. The connections made there, I feel, would just strengthen working relationships further.
I’m already looking forward to my next trip there and hopefully next year, I will be joined by the rest of the gang for some good ‘ol Texan fun!
Day 5 has come so quickly and today has been very busy, so what better way to start the day than to head over to IHOP for breakfast. Ruth (@ruthward) and I were joined by Helga (@helgahenry) before venturing off to the Austin Convention Center for my 10am talk – Quality: The Next Online Video Opportunity, which was with Hulu CTO Eric Feng. He talked about Hulu’s approach and how online video has now become a viable market – online video ads has grown 45 per cent in 2009, so there’s a marketplace for premium content.
I then went on to Building Strong Online Communities. Chaired by Ars Technica’s Editor in Chief, Ken Fisher, the panel consisted of:
- Alexis Ohanian, reddit.com
- Drew Curtis, fark.com
- Erin Kotecki Vest, BlogHer Inc
They discussed ways of maintaining a self-sustaining community as well as lessons learned from their own experiences. The main points I have learnt were:
- Communities are a circle and although you have to listen to them, you need to be a benevolent dictator to be able to implement certain rules
- There should be stringent community guidelines so members feel safe to comment without being harrassed in cyberspace
- Let members of the community know about the changes and get their input, so they feel part of the change.
Without much time for lunch, I just grabbed a giant salad box and water and ate at the Adobe Day Stage Cafe. After that, I went straight to Managing Your Expectations: Indie Film Realities. Speakers were:
- Chris Gore, Chair, Nerdlebrity
- Todd Sklaar, Range Life Entertainment
- Ry Russo-Young, Writer/Director
The main thing that I’ve learnt from this is that you need to put money aside for marketing your film. They couldn’t emphasise how important it is to hire a publicist especially if you’re trying to get the press to write your film a review. They’ve also recognised the importance of engaging the audience beyond the film and this is where a good social media strategy could help or having webisodes / outtakes / podcasts could help sustain interest for your film.
After a bit of a break, the next session was Surviving the Festival Circuit. This had an all-male panel, which consisted of filmmakers and festival programmers:
- Bryan Poyser, Chair, Austin Film Society
- Trevor Groth, Sr Programmer, Sundance/Cinevegas
- Christian Gaines, Dir of Festivals, IMDB.com
- Jeff Nichols, Shotgun Stories
- Alex Holdrige, Midnight Kiss Inc
- Joe Swanberg, Alexander the Last
The panel discussed the ups and downs of today’s film festival circuit. The main point is that don’t lose hope if you get rejected or don’t be too cocky if you get into one either. The most important thing is to persevere and believe in your own projects because there is so much rejection in film in general.
Programmers were advising filmmakers to research who’s who and what’s what before they get to festivals and must have a concise press pack with them. It’s important to know what you want to say about you or your film because you are likely to be interviewed, so that is another issue that needs to be addressed before attending the festival.
And then for my last panel of the conference, Rawking SXSW Year Round: Staying Inspired was about how to continue the buzz and make further links with people from the festival. It was such a fun session because they were chucking sweets at people and had a confetti bazooka, which was going off every 10 minutes or so. It was quite a creative way of getting feedback from attendees and it was a great end to the day. The panelists were:
- Kevin Smokler, Chair, BookTour.com
- Silona Bonewald, League of Technical Voters
- Corey Denis, reapandsow
- Kevin Lawver, Music Intelligence Solutions
- Clarence Smith Jr, Do You KNOW Clarence?
So, after this, I met Becky at the infamous meeting place – the Lego Pit and headed off to Iron Cactus for some food and margarita’s and we partied the night away to celebrate our last night in Austin.
Day 4 was a fairly long day, so I will divide it into several different posts and give some highlights for now.
This morning, Ruth, Becky and I felt more adventurous and went to Magnolia’s in South Congress, which was a nice diner. As usual, we had a ginormous breakfast, which we could hardly finish. Took a taxi back to the Austin Convention Center. Session 1 for me was Shift Happens: Moving from Words to Pictures. The panel consisted of:
- Sunni Brown, graphic designer, Brightspot
- Tom Crawford, CEO, Vizthink
- Dave Gray, Chairman, XPLANE
- Lee LeFever, Principal, Common Craft
- Dan Roam, President, Dan Roam International
This session was all about the importance of visualisation when conveying a message. It was helpful because at work (Aquila TV), we are all about visuals. It was a good set of talks from all the panellists and there were a lot of laughs. A great start to the day, so headed off to the next one: How to Protect Your Brand Without Being a Jerk. The panel consisted of:
- Twanna A Hines, Writer/Editor, Blogger
- Oren Bitan, Attorney, HIQI Media
- Elena Paul, Executive Director, VLA
- Danny O’Brien, eff.org
- Eric Steuer, Creative Director, Creative Commons
It was quite useful but the session really applied more to those who are here in the US. What is interesting though is that if you have your work online, there is definitely a fine line between being overprotective that you have a small reach or too laid back about it that your work is getting ripped off. It definitely made me think about refreshing my knowledge of copyright laws in the UK and Europe.
Had a bit of a gap in between before the Curiosity Marketing talk. Ruth and I thought we would go back to South Congress to have lunch. Ended up asking the cab driver where to go and he said that Threadgill’s was good, so upon his recommendation, we headed there for some chicken fried steak. We got outside and it almost looked like one of those scenes in films like The Hills Have Eyes / Wrong Turn. It looked like we were going to be the only people in there but as we got in, it was huge and had lots of families having a bit of a lunchtime treat.
We sat down and decided we’d share a steak. It was nice and it was yummy. We actually thought we were having chicken when the driver said chicken fried steak but it’s actually steak fried like fried chicken. Very unusual but nice. With lunch washed down with a glass of cold rootbeer, we visited a couple of shops and then headed back downtown.
Ruth and I went into this dinky room packed with people. We were there for a good few minutes (enough time to make Ruth’s leg to fall asleep) when I decided to ask the girl beside me the title of the session we are in. It was not the right one and so upon realising that, Ruth subtly tried to wake her sleeping leg up and we squeezed past people (including the speaker) to leave. It turned out that the talk we wanted to get to was full, so we quickly decided to go to another talk. We both agreed we’d go to Social Media Sustainability. It was about your carbon footprint in relation to your social media strategy. Not quite what we thought it was i.e. we understood it as something that was about maintaining the strategy.
At this point, the day was not going according to plan, so we made our way to the Mozilla Party, which had lots of food and drink. I was feeling rather unadventurous and went for water. It was a very hot day, so it was just nice to quench that thirst after walking under the Texan heat.
I’ve really looked forward to The BBC, Six To Start and ARG: Bringing TV to the Web session. It has a few people I know in the panel:
Claire (@minkette), Dan (@danhon) and Adrian (@adrianhon), who are all from Six To Start. The rest of the panellists were Roo Reynolds and Jo Twist, who are both from BBC Vision.
Dan made a good point about how TV online is done now and we just need to move on to the next one. He emphasised that although there is no solid means of monetising online projects, the potential is huge.
Off to the next session, which was a talk SXSW Year Round, which was run by Alex Jones from Refresh Austin. It was useful in a sense that it confirmed that what we are doing is right and also picked up an idea or two that I think are quite fresh. It was all about maintaining that SXSW buzz out of Austin and how to organise group meetings.
I was off to Roy’s to meet the rest of the WM posse and had really good sushi and BBQ wings. Got given a virgin margarita, which was nice but a bit on the sour side. The partying started at a rather packed The Shakespeare pub where most of the Brits congregated, then across to Maggie Mae’s and then the night was finished with a giant slice of pizza.
It’s the end of Day 1 of SXSW.
Got registered fairly quickly and so Becky and I went to IHOP for breakfast. I had pancake and scrambled eggs and Becs went for blueberry pancake. The portions were huge, so we were better off sharing as one meal could feed two people. We both headed back to the Austin Convention Center again and parted ways to do our chosen sessions. Session 1 for me was Getting the Most Out of SXSW Film.
I went because I wanted to get tips from SXSW Film veterans about how to tackle this bit of the festival. As a fresher, I wasn’t exactly sure what the ettiquette is, so I just wanted to make sure I was doing it the right way. The panel consisted of:
Agnes Varnum, Chair, Austin Film Society
Amy Dotson, Producer and Managing Director, IFP
Kevin Kelly, blogger
PJ Raval, Cinematographer
Michael Lerman, programmer for the Woodstock Film Festival
- Make sure you visit The Paramount and The Alamo even if you’re not watching any of the films being premiered
- Try not to go for the big screenings because the queues will just be so long
- Go to the SXSW Block Party
- Anything that is being organised by Voodoo Cowboy is cool
- Visit sxswfree.com for any free stuff you might want
- The mini meetings are great because it gives you the chance to get access to the film industry’s elite
- Check out the first time filmmaker films and ‘Midnight Madness’ horrors
- Take advantage of the free shuttle open to film badge holders
So, with these in mind, I waited for the next session, which was How to Rawk SXSW. This one is more of a general talk about the whole festival. The panelists had a really cool rock and roll intros and they consisted of:
- Glenda Bautista, Chair, Agendacide
- Ernie Hsiung, blogger
- Baratunde Thurston, comedian and web editor of The Onion
- John Styn, hugnation.com
- Zadi Diaz, Smashface
They were doing the session as the swigged on a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. They were even more informal than the first lot and seemed like a really fun bunch. They’ve been going to SXSW for years and their tips were:
- Deepen the conversation – don’t be so blatantly obvious about networking – be subtle and have more meaningful conversations, so you establish a relationship
- Visit the various SXSW sites – my.sxsw.com, sched.org, sxsw.ning.com, pepsicozeitgeist.com and upcoming.yahoo.com/tag/sxswi
- Make sure you try a breakfast burrito
- Get out of the convention centre and make connections when you’re out to breakfast, lunch or dinner and of course, the socials/parties
After this, the West Midlands contingent went to a Mexican restaurant on 6th Street. I had one of my favourites – tacos. We then went the Soho Lounge, which was a bit dark for me and then went to Coyote Ugly, which was quite cool, because I absolutely loved the film. Becky and I said goodbye to the rest of the squad and pedicabbed it to her hotel where I got a taxi back to mine.
This concludes Day 1 of SXSW.
Well, here’s the first installment of my SXSW adventure.
BHX to Newark, NY
Surprisingly a mild morning in Brum. Got to Birmingham International later than I initially planned, so there was no time to hang around Duty Free. Thank goodness Rebecca (@beckycad) was already there to let me know where to head. The queue was long and it was getting warm in the airport with all the early morning travellers just wanting to check in. Headed to Boots to get some last-minute bits and then we both went through security, but strangely enough (!) I got asked to go to one side to have myself and my black rucksack checked. Becky heads over the seating area, whilst I take my coat, cardigan, scarf and shoes off. My bag and wallet were also inspected including pages of my Alexander McCall Smith book ‘The Miracle at Speedy Motors’… as I start gathering my stuff, the other security guard sees my Aquila (@aquilatv) business cards and asked what a Digital Development Ninja meant and asked if he could keep one of my business cards. I found this rather disturbing, but shudder to think what would or could have happened if I refused giving him one of my cards. Perhaps I am overreacting and have watched one too many Spooks.
We boarded the plane and take off was great. Bumped into Sally from the Arts Council, so it was nice to see a familiar and friendly face. She’s also heading to SXSW.
Having indulged with a variety of reading materials, breakfast was served at 8.45am UK time and Becky being a vegetarian got given a ‘special breakfast’, which consisted of a small tub of fruit, bread roll, salad and vegetable masala… I, on the other hand, got beef with rice and veg, salad and a brownie. Yummy as it may be, it’s not quite the brekkie we were thinking of.
The in-flight entertainment was great. I thought it was anyway. I started with an episode of CSI. It’s so new that I have never seen it and so it was a shock to find out that one of the lead characters had died. I was mortified. It was a good episode though and that has just reignited my love for the show. That was followed by cheese-tastic CSI Miami. I’ve never seen a workplace filled with so many good looking people and well coordinated clothing from the people at Miami Dade Police. I was getting groggy at this point, so I actually can’t remember much from the episode. CSI New York was next and again, it was just a great episode. Even groggier than before, I pushed to watch a bit of Everybody Hates Chris and an episode of House. I love Hugh Laurie but this was the programme that sent me to nod land.
We got given lunch, which had a strange combo and we were increasingly getting impatient. We realised that we’ve literally spent an equivalent of a whole work day literally just sat on a plane. A few Bookworm games and House episodes later, we finally land in New York and it was such a tease to see the buildings. I was glad to get off the plane, because the lady who sat behind me was a pain in the behind. She either yanked my seat to support herself everytime she got up for toilet break and it was every 30 mins. She also decided she was going to play a game and tapped the screen like there’s no tomorrow, which is of course attached to my head rest!
Immigration is always fun and got asked the normal questions. This time, I was nervous, so I didn’t do my jazz hands although I was of course very excited to be in the US. Anyway, off to baggage reclaim only for us to recheck the bag and I literally had to head off to my gate going to Houston. I said good bye to Becky and Sally. I now have to spend three hours in Houston before I reach Austin.
Newark to Houston, TX
Had a really good seat – had leg room and although I am vertically challenged, it was nice to be able to stretch the old legs. To my right were a couple and to my left were a young family with a screaming child. This toddler pretty much cried all the way to Houston. When he wasn’t crying his mother was reading Dora the Explorer short stories. The woman beside me was getting increasingly irate and told the young mum to sort her kid out. It was like a Jerry Springer moment! Good thing it was only three hours and bit going to Houston, so I indulged in more Bookworm game, Free Cell and more House. The lady on my right was in awe of my ‘English accent’ that she just chatted and chatted and forced me to watch the end of ‘Australia’. Yes, it’s the Baz Lurhman film with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. It is not one for my DVD collection and although I don’t want to use the words ‘really’ and ‘sucked’ together – the film really sucked and apologies to any ‘Australia’ fans. It also made me realise that it is in the same league as ‘Four Christmases’ with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn – I started watching it on the plane, but just fell asleep because it was just simply not entertaining enough.
Landed at rainy Houston at around 10.30pm UK time and it was tipping it down. So much for this longest drought ever claim they’re making!
The airport is great and so I found myself a Papasito’s Cantina and had a beef in crispy taco and washed that down with rootbeer. I. Am. In. Heaven. I don’t know whether I was just hungry, but it was good stuff. I only paid £3 for it and the drink, which was ginormous in the first place, was refillable.
Now, I am just waiting at the gate to head over to Austin. It’s supposed to leave at 2.45am UK time, but it’s now delayed, so am stuck here for a bit. I managed to survive the long walk from whichever gate it was that I started as I nearly got run over by the airport buggies three times… I phoned the hotel to organise a shuttle to pick me up – this is going to be interesting. I refuse to pay for Internet access, so just walked around the shops. Since I love bovine stuff, this is probably my kind of place as they have tons of the stuff. I nearly bought a ‘You don’t mess with Texas’ mug, which I might get when I leave.
Watched a bit of basketball. It was Lakers V Spurs. Go Lakers! The flight is still delayed because of visibility issues in Austin. Met Claire (@Minkette), which was great. After an hour and a half of delay, the plane takes off and heads to Austin. Bit of a problem with the hotel’s airport shuttle, so was standing outside the airport for a while, but finally, I managed to check in to the hotel and got to my room. Thank goodness for that. There’ll be more interesting things to say tomorrow as I embark on Day 1 of the SXSW festival.