Watch This: THE RUSH – A Year with No SXSW

From AFS Head of Film & Creative Media Holly Herrick:

Independent film is vital to our culture, but the infrastructure to support a career in filmmaking is elusive in the United States. The system that we have in place for independent film includes brilliant people and institutions who are leveraging their best thinking and sweat equity so that visionary work at all budget levels can be made and seen, but the fact is that most emerging artists are under-resourced at every phase of production and distribution. Sometimes this means that filmmakers leverage all of their own resources to get work made, which can result in severe threats to their livelihoods.

Enter Covid-19, which in the film world, means that all of the existing cracks in our infrastructure have become gaping holes. Removing the film festival—the vital launch for any independent filmmaker—from the eco-system leaves filmmakers stranded. With no way to gain momentum for their projects or artistic profiles, they can’t take their next step. For many of the filmmakers selected for SXSW, participation in that festival marked major career leap, one that might mean finding distribution for their work, but almost certainly would help secure their next jobs and opportunities.

The major blow dealt by the cancellation of SXSW was quickly overshadowed by the devastating death toll of Covid-19 and apocalyptic reports from Italy and New York, then the terrible news of job losses and the rising food and housing insecurity. A new short from director Rebecca Stern on The Atlantic posits that our collective mourning for these tragedies doesn’t mean we can’t recognize the threat to our artistic community at this time. Artistic loss and misfortune are something for our film world to grieve, and to be seriously worried about. Artists are set back, and permanent consequences for our culture are certain if we don’t find a way to create opportunities for work to be produced and effectively distributed.

The artists featured in Stern’s THE RUSH tell the personal story of how the cancellation of SXSW directly affected filmmakers in our community. Sarah Brennan Kolb (GOOD OL’ GIRL), Jessica Wolfson and Jesse Auritt (THE PAINT WIZZARD), and Kevin Ford (THE PUSHBACK) had films years in the making that had big plans for their SXSW premieres. We got to know all of these artists well through our programs—Sarah, Jessica and Jesse were recipients of AFS Grants, which brought each of them major momentum at critical phases in their projects. Kevin Ford brought THE PUSHBACK to AFS’s Works In Progress program, where he workshopped his rough cut. The cancellation of their premieres is not something we could have helped these filmmakers to plan.

We hope you have a chance to watch this 5-minute piece and hear from these filmmakers in their own words.

If you want to be a part of filmmaker support at AFS, consider a donation to our grants program.

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