SWSW 2023 was a bit different this year. Since the festival’s cancelation in 2020, organizers have worked to keep the event relevant and engaging. I wouldn’t say I liked the entirely virtual event, although there are benefits to watching screenings at home. Last year’s hybrid festival was a blur because of my health, but there were some pretty cool events and films. 2023, now back to entirely on-site, had its share of pros and cons.
The film (and TV) lineup was solid, but the time-frames were dodgy at best. Out of necessity, I try to stay downtown, watching films at the Stateside and the Paramount. While a great offering, the shuttle system can cause time issues when traveling between venues like Alamo South Lamar and Zachary Scott theatres. The Violet Crown might be more doable, but I didn’t try. The film lineup and timetable made it (as in the past) problematic to travel between venues, especially with parking being so limited and costly. I take a train in, so I have bypassed the parking issue, and still, I can’t seem to get around fast enough to see everything I hope to see.
One thing, and I just discovered this benefit that made my experience far better this year than last (given my disability), was the A (for ADA) designation on my badge. I was unaware that this was a thing, and getting the designation made a difference in my overall experience. I could see and do more with an attendant to help me tote things and a straight-to-the-door entry that significantly cut standing time. It’s worth looking into for all badge holders with disabilities.
The Expo this year lacked the oomph of previous years. There did not seem to be as many exhibitors, and while tech-enhanced construction, engineering, and farming are interesting, I miss the funkier booths and individual/smaller offerings. The country and city booths offer their unique take on tech and filming locations, but it’s the insanely ground-breaking technology, especially the virtual and AI innovations. Still, the edible/dispensary booths, as were the FBI, FFA, NASA, and CSI booths, were fascinating and educational. Of note, my granddaughter loved Loungify’s booth, and I spent $85 on a backpack. In addition to the SXSW Expo, I am a massive fan of the big events and freebies, and those seemed lacking. Also missing was the BIG event lot, like last year’s Prime experience. I am told Amazon hosted an event and perhaps others like Apple TV, but they were offsite and only lasted a few days. I love the experience events, so this disappointed me. Offsite (meaning not downtown) presents issues for a disabled badge-holder like me. For 2024, I will try to locate and participate in the big-ticket events. There are pedicabs, and some sponsors offer rides.
Ultimately, SXSW 2023 held up to expectations, but for whatever reason, I felt some things were missing – like the massage table in the press suite and the giveaways. After two major surgeries in 2021, and my attempt to plow through SXSW 2022, I found SXSW 2023 an exciting leap back in, and I learned how to maneuver the new me through the festival as a press person with a disability. I hope to take this experience and have an even better experience in 2024. I would like to see scheduling changes so that there is more time to get to more films and additional transportation options