SXSW Music & Film Festival: An inside look from an intern’s perspective
The South By Southwest (SXSW) Music and Film Festival in Austin, Texas, holds a reputation for being the breakout location for artists each year in both film and music.
Most will settle for a trip to the festival, or for a look at the festival reviews a little later, but why settle for those options when you have the opportunity to work for the festival?
An internship with SXSW seemed like the perfect opportunity for St. Edward’s communications senior Jade Oglesby, who considers herself to be both a music and documentary enthusiast.
The SXSW Festival application process, however, started off leaving Oglesby feeling a little disappointed. After not hearing back from SXSW for while, a friend who had done the internship previously, called in a recommendation for her, and Oglesby managed to land an interview… and soon after, the ideal indie internship.
Sophie Zine corresponded with Oglesby in a question and answer session to get the dirt on what it’s been like working for SXSW thus far.
How would you describe the initial interview for the internship?
I was dressed up, trying look professional and feeling a bit nervous. It was pretty funny because everyone in the office was so laid back. There I was in a silk blouse, dress pants and high heels with everyone staring at me. In the interview, I expressed my love for music and art in general. My boss and I pretty much hit it off right away, and and I was hired. It was awesome. I am a lucky girl.
How much time are you devoting to this internship? Is this a paid position?
I am in the SXSW office for a full day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Roughly, I put in about 25 hours a week, but as the festival gets closer that number will increase. I’m not getting paid a thing; however I didn’t expect to considering that communication internships are rarely paid.
Are the film and music industries the way you imagined them to be?
The music and film industries are never going to be what you think. Both industries are are fast-paced, merciless, and do not wait for anything. I have yet to see all sides of it; that would take a lifetime. I can say that there are people out there making really, really good music, and that’s refreshing for me. I get discouraged at the stuff I hear on the radio as a music enthusiast. Nothing feels real or raw enough. Everything has this finished, polished way about it, and it kind of sucks. Interning with SXSW, I get to see that there are people on the scene with amazing things to say and beautiful ways of saying it.
The same goes for film, too. I really like documentaries because they’re raw and not Hollywooded-out. The side of film that displays itself at SXSW is incredible because it’s not about Blockbusters: it’s about talent and artistic ability. Enter your film, if it’s great we show it. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t know who you were; it’s irrelevant.
What are your responsibilities as an intern?
I sell music booths to businesses who want to exhibit at the music trade show, and I am putting together the book signings for the music, interactive and film portions of the trade show.
Outside of the trade show, I compile a list of indie labels to contact about advertising in the new magazine, SXSWorld, and I log payment records of guest writers who contribute stories.
I also screen documentaries on the film panel to help determine what films are shown in the film portion of the festival.
What do you look for in the films you screen?
When I’m screening films the first thing I look at is the overall concept. I look at the subject matter and consider whether this subject is interesting and unique enough to be shown to our audience. You can’t just make a documentary about anything; people do, and it doesn’t work out. The topic must draw the audience in and make them wonder.
Secondly, I look at the camera work, lighting and editing; all the technical stuff. These things don’t have to be refined and perfect, but it all has to look good together. Some documentaries use choppy editing and rough camera work as part of their thing. If it’s done right, it looks great.
Screening is difficult for me at times because I want to make documentaries. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes a film’s subject is amazing, and it’s just not executed properly.
How do you think this internship will help you in the future? What would you like to do after college?
This is a job that requires a lot of responsibility. This internship has helped me to understand the big picture. The way I do my job is going to affect others, so I better do it right.
After college I plan to start working on some documentaries. I’ve had so many ideas bouncing around in my head. I would love to work for SXSW, but I’m not sure how that’s going to pan out. It would be a really sweet job, though. I’m going to have to play it by ear, but should the job offer not happen, it’s all good: I’ll go to California and engulf myself in the world of being a poor documentary film maker.