12 tips for a totally excellent SXSW Film experience
The South by Southwest Film Festival starts March 8, offering up hundreds of films, both feature-length and short. Don’t have a SXSW Film badge but still want to get in on the action? Here are 10 points to remember (and, to be honest, a lot of this applies to people with badges as well).
1. Interactive and Music badges are considered equal to Film wristbands.
In keeping with the notion of SXSW convergence, if you have an Interactive or Music badge, you can get in the Film wristband line. This is reciprocal: If you have a Film or Interactive badge, you can get in the Music wristband line, and so forth.
2. In fact, let’s talk about the Film wristband.
The Film wristband is a sometimes under-the-radar element of SXSW. It gets the wearer into any screening after Platinum and Film badge-holders, subject to theater capacity. The wristband is good for all nine days of the film festival and costs $110. Purchase them at wristbands.sxsw.com/film and pick them up at the film wristband help desk at the Austin Convention Center in Exhibit Hall 5, starting March 8.
• RELATED: 40 films we've gotta see at SXSW
Each person must pick up their own wristband and will need to present a driver’s license or valid government-issued photo ID to claim it.
But let’s say you don’t want to get a Film wristband or another conference badge, or they are sold out ...
3. Tickets for SXSW films are sold 15 minutes before the start of a screening.
After those with badges and wristbands have been let in, single-admission tickets will be sold for $15 if any seats remain, starting 15 minutes before showtime. But it helps to …
4. Know your theaters.
Here's this year's SXSW film venues.
• Paramount Theatre (713 Congress Ave., 1,100 seats)
• Stateside Theatre (719 Congress Ave., 298 seats)
• Atom Theater at Austin Convention Center (500 Cesar Chavez St., 450 seats)
• Zach Theatre (202 S. Lamar Blvd., 420 seats)
• Rollins Theatre at the Long Center (701 W. Riverside Drive, 210 seats)
• Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar (1120 S. Lamar Blvd.; 126 seats in Theater A, 126 seats in Theater B, 86 seats in Theater C, 198 seats in Theater D, 198 seats in Theater E)
• Alamo Drafthouse Ritz (320 E. Sixth St.; 172 seats in Theater 1, 69 seats in Theater 2)
• AFS Cinema (6406 N. Interstate 35 frontage road; 278 seats)
• Long Center Terrace (701 W. Riverside Drive)
Here is a pro tip: According to SXSW folks, the Zach and the Atom rarely fill up, even during the first few days of the festival.
5. The Paramount and State theaters have a new bag policy.
Bag larger than 14 inches wide, 12 inches tall and 6 inches deep will not be allowed in the venues. Bags smaller than this, diaper bags (with a child present), medically necessary items (breast pumps included), jackets and coats are permitted but subject to inspection. The official SXSW bag received at registration will be allowed.
6. The Atom Theater replaces the Vimeo Theater.
It is now in Ballroom A on the Cesar Chavez Street side of the convention center.
7. Most movies show more than once.
There are a few films that screen just one time, but the vast majority are shown once the first weekend and at least once after. And …
8. A lot of people leave after Monday.
It is much easier to see films after March 11 and gets even easier any time after midweek.
9. Pay attention to the venue status board.
Those who have been to SXSW in the past remember the screens outside each theater letting you know how full a particular screening is. The boards are also integrated into the SXSW Go app and online at vsb.sxsw.com.
It’s stoplight color-coded: Red means don’t bother, it’s sold out; yellow means a few seats are left; and green means plenty of seats are left. The likelihood that you can get into something, somewhere, at any given time, is high, so be willing to take a chance on a film you don’t know based on how open the theater is.
10. Even without a badge, the queue card system is useful.
If you have a badge, and you want to ensure you get a seat, show up early to get a numbered queue card. Queue cards will be distributed starting one hour before screening time and whanded out until capacity has been met. A card guarantees you a seat as long as you stay in line at the venue.
If you don’t have a badge and want to see something at a theater with queue cards, ask someone at the back of the line what their number is. If it’s the Paramount and their number is higher than 900, you might not get in. If it’s 200, you have a good shot. And while you’re there …
11. Embrace the networking opportunities of the line.
SXSW is a line culture; I can tell you I have met more interesting film people in line at SXSW than at any given party.
12. Remain chill.
They’re only movies.