South by Southwest (SXSW) is a set of interactive, film, and music festivals and conferences that take place every spring in Austin, Texas. SXSW first began in 1987 and is centered on the downtown Austin Convention Center. Each of the three parts runs relatively independently, with different start and end dates.
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SXSW is one of the largest music festivals in the United States, with more than 1,400 performers playing in more than 80 venues around Austin over four days, in March. Though it is an industry-based event, SXSW Music links locally with events such as the annual Austin Music Awards show. SXSW is the highest revenue-producing special event for the Austin economy, with an estimated economic impact of at least $110 million in 2008.
In 1994, SXSW added film and interactive conferences. SXSW Film has become one of the world's premiere film festivals, focusing on new directing talent. Similarly, SXSW Interactive has attracted a strong following among web creators and entrepreneurs. SXSW Interactive's focus on emerging technology has earned the festival a reputation as a breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies. Twitter launched at SXSW Interactive in 2007.
The music event has grown from 700 registrants in 1987 to nearly 12,000 registrants. SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive events attract approximately 11,000 registrants to Austin every March.
SXSW has inspired similar festivals elsewhere, including North by 35 (NX35) in Denton, TX, North by Northeast (NXNE) in Toronto and West by Southwest (WXSW) in Tucson, AZ.
SXSW also offers a free musical samples of featured artists at each festival. The number of songs has grown from 775 MP3 tracks in 2005 to 1267 in 2009.
The 2007 music festival took place from March 14 to 18, and more than 1,400 acts performed. Two of the top film premieres this year was the highly anticipated Elvis and Anabelle starring Blake Lively and Max Minghella and the indie comedy Skills Like This, which went on to win the Best Narrative Feature Award.
The 2009 festival was held March 13-22. In 2009, the Interactive section of SXSW in particular drew larger attendance levels. This influx of tech-savvy attendees seriously strained the networks of providers such as AT&T (primarily due to heavy iPhone usage). Also new was the founding of an international netroots organization for those not attending, dubbed NotAtSXSW. Coordinating through Twitter and other online tools, notatsxsw events were held in London, New York, Wisconsin, Portland, Oregon and Miami. According to the Los Angeles Times, some Twitter users are only pretending to be at the 2009 festival. During the conference a group of British web developers occupied a conference room and held their own panel "Not Another Social Media Panel" in reaction to the perceived homogeneity and lack of dissent of some of the other panels. The film division of SXSW 2009 screened 250 films, including 54 world premiere.
Among the highlights are the award-winning film The Hurt Locker directed by Kathryn Bigelow which has been nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, the Spike Lee-helmed Passing Strange, Greg Mottola’s entry Adventureland, Sebastian Gutierrez’s Women in Trouble, Wyatt McDill’s Four Boxes, David Lee Miller’s My Suicide, Tim McCanlies’ The Two Bobs, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre, Brant Sersen’s Splinterheads, Andrew Bujalski’s Beeswax, John Inwood’s ExTerminators, Joe Swanberg’s Alexander the Last, Duncan Jones’ Moon, Nash Edgerton’s The Square, Joel Anderson's Lake Mungo, Michael Paul Stephenson’s Best Worst Movie and Lynn Shelton’s Humpday. The festival's opening-night selection will be I Love You, Man, starring Paul Rudd, and the Centerpiece film is Observe and Report, starring Seth Rogen.
Eight films will vie for the narrative feature grand jury prize: Artois the Goat, Bomber, Breaking Upwards, It Was Great, But I Was Ready to Come Home, Made in China, The Overbrook Brothers, That Evening Sun and True Adolescents.