SXSW 2012: An Introduction to Meeting Celebrities at the Fest.

As a film fanatic, there is so much excitement in the air when attending a huge film festival such as SXSW. There is always the rush of seeing new films before majority of the world has seen them, but there is also several other things that really make the festival experience magical such as panel discussions, Q&A’s after most of the films, parties, meeting people from around the world that share a similar love for film, and last, but certainly not least bumping elbows with celebrities whether its directors, producers, writers, actors or actresses. To me, this is my favorite part of all the festivals that I attended, meeting and/or interviewing those who are lucky enough to be up there on that silver screen.

This idea has been one that has been floating around in my head for a while now so I finally decided from here on out, I, Scott Menzel, will have a dedicated opinion piece after each festival that I attend to summarize my celebrity encounters and this year SXSW 2012 is the first to get the MovieManMenzel treatment. Before I write an article about all the celebrity encounters of SXSW 2012 which ranged from Joss Whedon to Jack Black, I must give you some background on how I had these celebrity encounters at SXSW.

As an established member of the press, you have many opportunities to meet and mingle with celebrities at film festivals. There is a lot of behind the scene stuff that most people don’t know about that happens during a festivals run. Below you will find a list of various ways that I have met various people during SXSW.

The most popular types of interviews for the press during festivals of all shapes and sizes are roundtable interviews. If you are lucky, the interviews will consist of only 3 or 4 people, but sometimes consist of 10 or more. Just like the title suggests, you sit in a room either at a roundtable (most common) or sometimes not even at a table at all but rather in a room as if you were in a conference where there is a long table at the front of the room where the celebrities sit and you just sit in the audience. The point of these interviews is to ask various celebrities questions one by one going around to all people in the room. I personally love the smaller roundtables where there are less people because it makes the interview more personal and gives the interviewer a chance to really get to know who they are interviewing better. These types of interviews are usually audio only, which means no photos or video allowed during the entire interview.

Another type of interview is known as the 1:1, where yep you guessed it, a person goes 1 on 1 with the person they are interviewing unless the studio gives you several members of the cast at once and then it’s you and two or three stars at a time.  These can vary between audio and video. It really does depend on the studio, which one they want to let you do, but I have done several video interviews while doing one on ones.

Studio or film parties are another great way to meet and mingle with the stars. I always get special invites for parties, but very rarely get to go due to the lack of time in the day. This year I didn’t attend a single party, which I know is sad and is part of the SXSW magic, but at the same time, I have been to them in previous years and will admit that they are a great and unique way to meet the stars while they are relaxing and just having a good time.

Lastly, there are the red carpet interviews. This is usually the most frustrating part during SXSW  unless you work for a major outlet like E!, Sundance Channel, or IFC.  This isn’t SXSW’s fault because since the festival has grown so much over the last few years, the red carpet access is usually really limited. I must admit, however, that Rebecca and Emily bust their asses to try get as many people onto the red carpet, if they are put on the notorious “wait list.” This year, I didn’t get as many red carpets as I did in the past, which was a little upsetting, but I did get a few, which I am grateful about. The red carpet interview is just like you have seen on television channels like E! where members of the press ask celebrities walking down it anything and everything. It’s really a fun experience and makes you feel almost honored as a film lover to partake in such an exclusive event.

Outside of interviews, there are also various panels where you can meet celebrities as well as book and DVD signings. There is also that odd chance that you can walk around the city and just bump into a few celebrities as well.  During SXSW, being in Austin is great because everyone is very laid back and is usually all about loving the arts and just having a good time. While most people like me are really fascinated with meeting celebrities, the people in Austin and at SXSW are usually really respectful and kind so they don’t harass celebrities like the paparazzi do in Los Angeles. This allows more people to have casual encounters with celebrities during SXSW, which is another element that I really enjoy.

Well I hope you enjoyed my brief introduction piece on how I meet celebrities during SXSW. Be sure to stay tuned for my follow up article “SXSW 2012: Celebrity Encounters” where I run through a list and my experience of the celebrities that I interacted with during SXSW 2012.

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