Joshua Talks To Alan Berg, Director Of Outside Industry: The Story Of SXSW [SXSW 2011]

One of the great pleasures of attending the SXSW Film Festival, is that it’s not rare to run into filmmakers, and get the chance to chat with them about their respective pieces, showing at the festival.

A film that I admittedly loved from this year’s festival was the Alan Berg directed film, Outside Industry: The Story Of SXSW, and I had the chance to chat with the man himself.  It isn’t the longest interview, but it’s one that is relatively insightful, particularly with the really interesting and engaging piece of documentary filmmaking that Berg was able to create with this feature.  An Emmy award winner for a shorter look at the festival, this isn’t new ground for Berg, which itself is a topic that we briefly touched on during our chat.

So, without further ado, here’s my chat with director Alan Berg.  Also, stay glued as a review of the film, Outside Industry: The Story Of SXSW, will be hitting later this week, along with much more coverage from this year’s SXSW Film Festival:

This isn’t your first time talking SXSW.   What is it about this festival that intrigues you so much?

For me, I’m attracted to it because I’ve been here.   I’ve been on this road.   It’s a story about guys outside of the industry, trying to make a name for themselves with a festival hell bent on promoting those bands that fit the festival’s overall aesthetic.

Could you talk a little bit about what it’s been like making this film.   You say this film’s been 15 years in the making, so what has that really lengthy experience been like?

See, the funny thing is, it’s been 15 years in the making, but with about 14 years of doing nothing.   I won a regional Emmy for the 30 minute short, and then one of the founders, Roland Swenson allowed me to shoot events for four years.   However, clearance issues came up, budget ran a tad dry.   Ultimately, we got everything set in stone; it was just seven months of getting this thing finalized

What is one thing that you think people should really know about this festival, that they could take away from your film?

I really want people to know how this began.   This film has a ton of really great footage from the early days, and it’s really intimate.   This festival was very much learning as they went, something they are still very much doing.   Things like the day parties, the huge companies coming in, all have this festival changing continually.   It’s a festival that is still growing, and still learning how to do things with the ever expanding nature of the festival. I think the festival might have realized that cracking down was generating more negative publicity than it was worth, so they may have lightened up, but I’ve never had that conversation with any of the founders.

You are showing this doc at SXSW.   Are you nervous about bringing a SXSW doc to the festival? 

It’s a little weird, yeah.   It was a logical choice to play the film out of competition, as if it won while in competition, it would look shady, and if it lost, it would have been rather negative buzz for the film.   So the decision to bring it here and play it out of competition in the 24 Beats Per Second portion of the festival. However, it’s not a favor from the festival.   This is an Arts+Labor production, and we didn’t receive a single penny from the festival.   We had full editorial independence.   This isn’t a vanity film for the festival.

One of the questions brought up in your film is the question of how big is too big.   Has SXSW gotten to that point? Do you think there is a stigma to that, and if so, is it rightly placed?

It’s really Darwinian in many ways.   The festival itself is really for bands who are looking to get noticed, unless they play half a dozen day parties, and network the hell out of their time spent here.   The modern world of fractured media has helped change that a bit, but bands really have to work hard to get noticed here.   Months in advance really.


Joshua Brunsting

Josh is a critic, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, a wrestling nerd, a hip-hop head, a father, a cinephile and a man looking to make his stamp on the world, one word at a time.

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