South by Southwest is the biggest conference of its kind in Texas. It draws in tens of thousands of people and has an economic impact of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Janet Pierson heads up SXSW Film, which is screening 150 films this year – the most ever.
“We actually really wanted to show fewer films. The last couple of years we had settled on about 130-133 features – down from 140 – and we wanted to actually pull it down to about 125, and then there was just too much work that was interesting,” Pierson says.
Pierson says SXSW isn’t just an Austin party because it draws in so many people from across the state – and the globe.
“Although Texas and Austin are at the heart of it and are kind of what makes it so special, I think one of the things that people love about it so much is that you’ve got that niceness and the directness and the smarts and the enthusiasm of the Austin audience for sure,” Pierson says. “And it’s not one of the normal entertainment centers – it’s not New York or LA or even France – so people love the difference, the realness of it and the intelligence of it. But the whole world is here so you have kind of this incredible melting pot where really surprising things happen.”
Pierson says this year’s film lineup is no more “commercial” than usual and that the goal is always to have a very diverse program.
So who are the stars you might see around Austin this year? Oscar Isaac, Ryan Gosling, Adrien Brody, Natasha Lyonne and Russell Brand, just to name a few.
SXSW Film runs March 13-21.