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Austin Film Festivals

published on March 15, 2013

sxsw filmMusic may be king in Austin, but film is queen. Notable names in pictures like Trouble Maker Studios anchor the filmmaking scene, and organizations like the Austin Film Society promote the art of film within the city every day. Film festivals, spread throughout the year, attract producers, actors, special effects crews, screenwriters, critics, fans, and more to Austin every year, allowing Austinites their own avenue to premieres and stars.


SXSW Film Conference & Festival is part of the larger SXSW Festival, which is also comprised of an Interactive (technology) and Music component. The festival is held every March, with a mission to champion the vitality, innovation, and opportunity that drives the entertainment and media landscape, boldly tackling the evolution of all aspects of “film” today. Launched in 1994, the Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013. The SXSW Film Conference takes place at the Austin Convention Center in downtown Austin for five days, with film screenings taking place daily at The Convention Center, the Paramount & State Theatres, several Alamo Drafthouse locations, Violet Crown Cinemas, and assorted other downtown venues that vary by year. The festival also includes nightly parties and daily networking events that are attended by filmmakers, distributers, national and international media, critics, academics, programmers, screenwriters, agents, film crews, actors, digital creatives, and film fans. The different categories of films screened include Narrative Feature Competition, Documentary Feature Competition, Headliners, Narrative Spotlight, Documentary Spotlight, Visions, Midnighters, 24 Beats Per Second, SXGlobal, Festival Favorites, Special Events, Narrative Shorts, Documentary Shorts, Animated Shorts, Midnight Shorts, Music Videos, and Texas High School Shorts.

Fantastic Fest

austin movie festivals Fantastic Fest is an annual September film festival founded in Austin in 2005 by Tim League of the Alamo Drafthouse, Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News, Paul Alvarado-Dykstra, and Tim McCanlies, writer of The Iron Giant and Secondhand Lions. The festival specifically focuses on genre films that include horror, science fiction, fantasy, action, Asian, and cult, and is the largest genre festival in the U.S. Traditionally held at The Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, close to Barton Creek neighborhood homes, the festival spans eight days and hosts screenwriters, directors, and actors, both well established and unknown. Recognizable past premieres include There Will Be Blood, City of Ember, and Zombieland. Fantastic Fest was listed as one of the “10 Film Festivals We Love” in 2007 by Variety president and publisher Charlie Koones.

Austin Film Festival

The Austin Film Festival & Conference, held in October every year, was founded in 1994 by Barbara Morgan and Marsha Milam to celebrate the art of storytelling through film. The Festival is known for championing great work from legendary, contemporary, and rising talent with a focus on screenwriting. Meant to recognize the writer as the core of the creative process in filmmaking, the festival screens high caliber narrative, documentary, and animated films, as well as premieres, advance screenings, and independent films. The festival originally consisted of the Heart of Film Screenwriters Conference, a forum for craft development, inspiration, networking and launching careers created for screenwriters; it has since grown to serve all filmmakers and Austin’s arts community. The Film Festival & Conference was the first event of its kind to take the lead in bringing professional and amateur screenwriters as well as filmmakers together to celebrate the role of the screenplay in filmmaking and discuss the considerable creative possibilities of writing for film and television. Equally important, the Conference brought producers, agents, and screenwriters together to foster the sale of screenplays and launch long-term successful careers. The festival attracts film creators and lovers from all over the world, and contributes an average of $8 million to the local economy annually.

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