A Swattie at SXSW

Towards the end of Spring Break, I traveled to Austin, Tex., to take part in South by Southwest (SXSW)—an annual film, interactive, and music festival and conference. A previous internship supervisor reached out to me last fall and suggested I attend SXSW to get experience connecting with filmmakers and industry professionals while enjoying films at the SXSW Film Festival. After speaking with him further, I realized the conference was not financially feasible for me, so I  reached out to the Dean’s Office here at Swarthmore to see if they’d be willing to help fund my experience. Luckily, the Dean’s Office approved my request, and with the help of them and others, I was able to purchase a student badge for the festival and head to Austin for Spring Break!

Myself with fellow Swatties Casey Schreiner '16 (left) and Allison Hrabar '16 (right) on the Mr. Robot ferris wheel!
Myself with fellow Swatties Casey Schreiner ’16 (left) and Allison Hrabar ’16 on the Mr. Robot ferris wheel!

At the conference and festival, I got to experience the newest virtual reality technology, hear from film financiers and producers about the latest trends in independent film distribution, and even go to panels with stars from two of my favorite shows, USA’s Mr. Robot and Comedy Central’s Broad City. My days were packed from beginning to end. Around 7-8 am I would wake up and my aunt (who conveniently lives in Austin) would drive me into the city where I would get free Voodoo Donuts (!!!), then head over to the convention center. In the morning I tended to go into panels and roundtables, sometimes with fellow Swatties Allison Hrabar ‘16 and Casey Schreiner ‘16, who were covering SXSW for The Daily Gazette.

Me on the Game of Thrones chair. Ironically, I do not watch this show.
Me on the Game of Thrones chair. Ironically, I do not watch this show.

As the day went on, I started going to film screenings all over the city. Over the course of the five days I was at the festival, I saw 12 films—from the small independent drama Claire in Motion to the animated summer blockbuster (and current work-in-progress film) Sausage Party, Seth Rogen’s latest film, a parody of Pixar films that explores what foods do after a grocery store closes. SXSW continues to be one of the most forward-thinking film festivals in the country and attracts visionary filmmakers to the screens of Austin, so I was happy that Swarthmore gave me the opportunity to attend.

Casey Schreiner '16 trying out virtual reality for the first time.
Casey Schreiner ’16 trying out virtual reality for the first time.

One of my favorite memories from SXSW is when I met Dawn Porter ‘88, who directed Trapped, a documentary about abortion laws in the South, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and continued on the festival circuit at SXSW. Before the film, I got to chat and catch up with Porter (who I’ve spoken to before for advice on obtaining film internships) about her film and her plans to speak at Swarthmore in the coming year about the making of the documentary. I always love interacting with alumni because I find that they’re so approachable and willing to talk to Swatties; Dawn is no exception.

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Dawn Porter ’88 (center, alongside abortion providers and activists) onstage during the premiere of her film Trapped at the SXSW Film Festival.

Overall, my time at SXSW is one that I’m extremely thankful for. Without Swarthmore’s financial support (as well as the support of my professors!), I wouldn’t have been able to travel to Austin for the event. Finally, Dean’s Office funding is available to every Swarthmore student who wants to attend a conference in their discipline. If you find a conference you want to go to, it’s as easy as filling out a short application asking to make that idea a financial possibility for you!

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