Holly Herrick is the Associate Artistic Director of the Austin Film Society and a certified local. She’s got cuisine, travel and film tips for out of towners and - even more important - an urgent message for all festival attendees: remember to day drink...but not too much.
What SXSW will this be for you? How many have you been to?
This is only my fourth. I had been twice before moving to Austin, and last year was my first as a local, after moving from Brooklyn to work for AFS. Contrary to what you might think, I think SX is even more fun when you live here.
What tip(s) would you give to someone visiting Austin for their first SXSW? How about if it's their first time in the city?
SXSW is not like other film festivals. A lot of people come to work, but of all the festivals where people are working, SX is hands-down the most fun and the most laid back. It's a place where organic connections happen and people form long-lasting collaborative relationships. It's important to remember to let your guard down and just look for movies you’ll love and people you'll get along with.
Also - very important - you need to be day drinking, but not so much that you are missing the films you need to see. Fortunately, most of our theaters here make it easy to do both at the same time. And if you are drinking, make sure its one of the delicious Austin-made beers that you can't get outside the state. Austin Beerworks and Real Ale both come to mind.
And while I'm encouraging SXSW attendees to be laid back and drink beer, I'd like to counter one of the most common myths about Austin, that this town is for slackers. Austin is full of people and institutions who are hardworking and high achieving. Even though we show our looser side during SX, this city has many many talented, passionate people who know how to get things done. This has been one of my favorite discoveries as a newcomer and makes me proud and humbled to be part of this community. It would take me hours to list the artists, organizations and companies who are completely rooted here and are accomplishing so much.
How do you like to get around town during the festival (cab, car service, limousine pedicab)?
The only way to get around SXSW is by bicycle! Fortunately for out of towners, lots of local bike shops do daily rentals. Seriously, get on a bike--it's also the best way to unwind in between movies.
What's delicious and close to downtown?
For quick, easy and low key: Yellow Jacket Social Club, East Side King at Liberty Bar, Home Slice Pizza on South Congress, or EastSide Pies on E. 11th. For something a little nicer, Hillside Farmacy or Lambert's, El Naranjo or La Condesa on 2nd street for upscale Mexican.
What's an app, website, or digital service you use to maximize your festival experience?
I definitely use the SXSW® GO app to check on the line situation - green means go!
Have you developed any strategies for navigating the crowds or getting into hot events?
I get in line early for anything I can't miss.
Is there a film, act, panel, or party that you're particularly looking forward to this year?
I'm really excited about all of the Texas-based filmmakers premiering films here. There are Texas filmmakers in every single section of the line up, from Competitions and Visions all the way through the Spotlight sections. Examples are Above All Else, The Great Invisible, Butterfly Girl, Thank You A Lot, Arlo & Julie, Two Step, and Boyhood.
And finally, SXSW features a lot of screen time. What would you suggest as an outdoor antidote for those experiencing a little media overload?
Last year I was riding my bike from Violet Crown Cinema (this year's AMC at Violet Crown) to a party on Rainey Street. When you are heading east-west in downtown Austin on a bike, it's best to hop on the hike and bike trail, which runs right next to the river. There are a surprising number of birds, turtles and other critters that hang out by the river right off of that trail. Sometimes that 10-minute bike ride is all you need to give your brain a little scrub in between movies.