Learn From a Local! Insider Tips from Ya'ke Smith.

Written by Jim Kolmar | March 4, 2014

Ya'ke Smith at SXSW 2012. Photo by Bobby LongoriaLearn from a Local is a great way to get some personal advice for navigating SXSW - Guest writer Joe Marshall returns with this series of interviews with Austin locals past and present to help you make the most of this year's SXSW Film.

Ya’Ke Smith is a leading light in independent cinema and a SXSW veteran, having won international acclaim screening and winning awards at over 80 film festivals, including Wolf at SXSW 2012. Professor of Film at the University of Texas at Arlington, Smith also knows where to eat - and cool off - in the city.

What SXSW will this be for you? How many have you been to?

This is at least the eighth; I’ve been going off and on since 2005. I’ve spoken on panels twice, screened a short in the AFS Showcase, and then of course premiered a feature there. Even when I wasn't technically in the festival, I was hanging around the parties and checking out films.

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?

Network as much as you can. It's important to not just eat and drink at the parties, but really make connections with people who can help you professionally. Have as many business cards as possible and don't be a fly on the wall - one of my problems.

How do you like to get around town during the festival (cab, car service, limousine pedicab)?

I walk. When I lived in Austin, my apartment was on E. 6th, so I'd just walk the few blocks down. When I come back to the festival, I try and find a hotel (or couch) closest to the action so I don't have to deal with those mammoth traffic jams.

What's delicious and close to downtown?

Manuel's for great mexican; Stubbs for pretty good bar-b-que; and the wife and I are suckers for Wahoo's fish and shrimp tacos.

If someone got the itch to see more of the city than the festival covered, where would you recommend they visit?

Depends on what you're in the mood for. If you're up for the drive and want to get wet, head out to Hamilton Pool. It's one of the most beautiful and heavenly sites you'll ever see and can offer a little respite from the hustle and bustle of all the happenings. I'd also head over and take a stroll down South Congress. There's always something interesting to eat or buy over that way.

What do you like most about the festival?

All the interesting people you meet. There's always some networking party, dinner, concert, or some venue where you can just meet up and talk to people that you'd otherwise not have the opportunity to meet. Also, I love being able to check out as many films as possible.

Is there a film, act, panel, or party that you're particularly looking forward to this year?

Evolution of a Criminal directed by Darius Clark Monroe. I had the privilege of seeing early cuts of the film and I think it's an amazing documentary by a first-time director - a very unique and powerful story of redemption. I'm drawn to films that really resonate with me emotionally, and this tragic, poignant, uplifting and ultimately cathartic film did just that.

And finally, SXSW features a lot of screen time. What would you suggest as an outdoor antidote for those experiencing a little media overload?

Again, head out to Zilker or Barton Springs and just chill out for a bit. It can all be overwhelming, and sometimes you just need to find a quiet place where you can collect your thoughts, before heading back into the beautiful madness known as SXSW.

Written by Joe Marshall - follow him at @joecharmar