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SXSW final wrap-up: transmedia, mobile & making it through crowdfunding

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By Kaye Blum

My final wrap-up of SXSW Interactive and Film sessions below. SXSW Music reports will soon be published on my music blog eyeswideclosed.com (in production).

SXSW13 Hipster warning

SXSW13 Hipster warning: If only they read the signs…

My main areas of interest at SXSW Interactive (and Film) 2013 were social media, transmedia and mobile. There was a huge range of sessions and workshops on social (of which I attended as many as was physically possible), hence it gleaned the majority of my report coverage.

SXSW queues for mobile

The queue for a session on mobile at SXSW13

SXSW13 mobile session queue blues cured by Chevy

SXSW13 queue blues cured by getting mobile in a Corvette

As mentioned in my first post from SXSW, there weren’t a lot of mobile themed sessions. Of the few they did have, most were held in a small venue called Wanderlust, which was a yoga studio with around 100 seats (if that). With the huge growth of mobile it was a surprising choice of venue. Consequently there were queues stretching around the block for these sessions and I missed out on both (one just after the opening night party which I’d forfeited to ensure I could get up early enough the next morning to attend). I consoled myself by taking a test-drive of the latest Corvette around the block (what a great branding exercise from Chevy).

I was also keen to attend any SXSW Film sessions featuring transmedia, interactive or cross-platform projects. Given the Film sessions overlapped between Interactive and Music, it was a challenge making the five or six I’d highlighted in the schedule. I managed to make it to two. The first, Exploring place with cross-platform storytelling, included some excellent speakers providing insights to their projects (Michel Reilhac, Liz Nord, Danny Harris and Mike Knowlton).

The second, 10 things I learned fro Kim Jong IL to make an interactive doc, featured Ann Shin and Hannah Donegan from Fathom Film Group; plus Media Ridha and Adrian Bellna from Toronto-based Jam3 (who made the award-winning Bear71).

They presented some great insights to the making of their interactive doco The Defector including spreading the word, doing your research, finance options, pushing boundaries, and the importance of testing.

I also attended a session on crowdfunding called Hacking the crowd – artists as entrepreneurs featuring musician Kim Boekbinder (The Impossible Girl) and

Molly Crabapple, Founder of Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. Both have built careers through crowdfunding and on their own, no management or labels or galleries involved.

They provided informal yet detailed accounts of their lives, creative drives, and how crowdfunding provided a powerful platform to launch their careers. Key take-out was a comment from Kim: “What we used to call art, photography, writing and music is now just called content. I make my living as a creator – it’s not about the content I’m putting out… I’m really really lucky, and I’d like a world where everybody’s that lucky.” Hell yeah.

Overall, SXSW Interactive was a full-on, intensive and pretty exhausting experience – but I still got a lot out of the sessions I attended and found it an enriching – albeit information-overloading – experience.

Being a first-timer, I learned some valuable lessons on how to make it a better experience next time. These include getting to Austin a few days before the conference actually starts to get your bearings on the many conference locations spread across town and to get over the jet-lag. I flew in from Australia via LA the day before it started which was almost two days in transit – I think it took me the whole first week to recover.

SXSW transport alternatives

Quicker than the bus? Smart SXSW transport alternatives.

I also recommend securing central accommodation at any cost (if budget is not an issue as it was for me this time) to avoid time-consuming bus rides or relying on the virtually non-existent cabs. City hotels start booking out in August, so be quick.

Plus, make an effort to go to as many of the social events that your liver can handle: it’s a great way to meet peers (I spent too much time running from panel session to workshops to more sessions, not wanting to miss out!).

Most importantly: accept that you can’t do everything on offer (and there were  over 1,000 interactive sessions to choose from this year). Try to choose a few sessions that are completely unrelated to your chosen topics – these are the sessions that can provide the most inspiration.

Would I go back? To be honest, I’m not exactly sure it provided enough bang for buck, with the cost of travel thrown in. It seemed to be over-subscribed, too much going on at once and too many people (there were 30,621 Interactive participants, plus 16,297 for Film and 25,119 for Music, although some of these numbers could have attended all three – the stats provided don’t specify).

However I fell in love with cowboy boots, duck tacos and the city of Austin itself; so I’d like to return one day and see it in its usual state without the 70,000 or so SXSW punters jammed into the city. For now, Austin, it’s over ‘n’ out.


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