What to See at SXSW: Netflix's 'Pee-wee' Film, Richard Linklater's 'Boyhood' Follow-Up
A springboard for last year's 'Spy,' 'Trainwreck' and 'Mr. Robot,' the Austin festival will have TV, music and tech vying for similar attention.
This story first appeared in the March 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Oscar winner Brie Larson's breakout role was in Short Term 12, a SXSW hit in 2013. This year, the Austin festival that kicks off March 11 includes hundreds of aspiring Larsons, the next wave of wannabe tech moguls and Netflix's first homegrown movie in Pee-wee's Big Holiday, featuring the return of the character Pee-wee Herman.
The film festival, once an after-thought amid buzzier music and digital gatherings, has emerged as a key launchpad for studios and indies courting young tastemakers. "SXSW is a unique event in terms of the types of people who are there from the entertainment, tech and media worlds," says Patrick Starzan, senior vp marketing at Funny or Die, which will host Tracy Morgan in his first SXSW appearance. Here's the rundown:
The 2015 movie lineup was one of the splashiest in the fest's history, introducing the world to Amy Schumer's Trainwreck and also debuting the Melissa McCarthy starrer Spy. This year's might not be as star-studded but pays tribute to local bigwigs: Richard Linklater's Boyhood follow-up Everybody Wants Some will open the festival, and fellow Austin local Jeff Nichols' Midnight Special will have its North American premiere. Documentaries might be where the heat is this year, with Beware the Slenderman, Tower and Asperger's Are Us considered among the strongest entries.
USA's hit hacker drama Mr. Robot, launched at SXSW in 2015, will take over Austin with a giant activation that includes a 10-story Ferris wheel and a retro arcade in a nod to the series' Coney Island setting. Other buzzy shows landing at this year's fest include the pilot for AMC's Preacher, HBO's new comedy Vice Principals and Cinemax's Outcast. Scandal's Kerry Washington and Broad City creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are featured speakers.
SXSW has become an ideal testing ground for technology — Twitter and Meerkat stole the show in previous years. There's also a March 14 conversation between directors J.J. Abrams and Andrew Jarecki (The Jinx) and an all-day Online Harassment Summit, a make-good following the cancellation of two Gamergate panels.
This year's event will include more than 2,000 artists over six days, including a keynote by longtime David Bowie producer Tony Visconti on March 16. Famed punk band NOFX will speak about its 30-year run March 17, the same day Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh will look back at his career. The fest's music opening party features Argentinian rockers Capsula performing Bowie's Ziggy Stardust.