Film Students Attend SXSW Festival

Students stand in front of a South by Southwest backdrop

Film students attended the 2022 SXSW Festival. Photo by Brett Helms.

Students from the Department of Film, Theatre, and Creative Writing traveled to Austin, Texas, as part of South by Southwest (SXSW). The trip included 32 students majoring in film and five faculty members who took part in the conglomeration that brings media, film and music together. 

The department’s annual trip is the first since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing students to an interactive festival that is both reasonably nearby and attracts a broad range of filmmakers. SXSW attracts largely independent filmmakers to screen new projects, but SXSW also features a conference and trade show component that always attracts industries to participate. 

“South By Southwest shares many of the same values with the UCA program,” said Chris Churchill, an assistant professor of film. “There is a degree of southernness, where filmmakers champion individuality and previously unheard voices that are unique to southern life.”

Besides the screenings, the students also used the conference as a networking opportunity, with students getting the chance to meet working filmmakers at panels and social mixers. 

Panelists sit on a stage at the South by Southwest festival

Film students attended panels and met filmmakers. Photo by Brett Helms.

SXSW allowed me to catch a glimpse into what networking in the film industry is like,” said Carlie Crabtree, a senior majoring in film. “I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but it was such a relief when all of the filmmakers I observed and engaged with were genuine and eager to socialize.”

Since students developed their schedules, they had the freedom to interact with those filmmakers who have similar creative techniques. 

“Because short films are what we do in the film program at UCA, the short film blocks at the festival are probably where we get to learn the most and are able to apply our findings to our own projects,” said Nathaly Rivera, a graduate student pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Film. 

Churchill said trips like this are made possible by a grant from the Bridges-Larson Foundation, which encourages students to attend film festivals and enjoy a broader educational experience.  

“Students can often think that the movie industry is unreachable and unattainable,” Churchill said. “I think just getting access to physically nearby with many other like-minded, creative people is really inspiring. That makes the world seem less foreign, which I think is really powerful.”