SXSWORLD February 2013


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With Mentor Sessions, Registrants Meet Experts and Insiders One-on-One by Alison Willmore T T R AV I S B A L L he Mentor Sessions offer SXSW Film registrants a golden opportunity to have one-on-one interactions with a range of industry experts. These sessions offer a way for registrants to gain access to established people working in such fields as production, distribution, marketing, press and more. By utilizing these meetings, aspiring filmmakers and other talent can get professional advice on their projects and careers, without having to corner someone at a party. The Mentor Sessions will return for SXSW 2013, but this year, the program is being expanded to accommodate more attendees through the inclusion of a new initiative called "Meet the Insiders." This new series is similar to the previous Mentor Session format but allows for group participation, with industry leaders talking to attendees in an informal fireside chat format. Advisors for both the Mentor Sessions and Meet the Insiders programs are drawn from SXSW's alumni and associate pool, as well as by reputation and through recFilm Mentor Session at SXSW 2012 ommendations. The goal is to accumulate as broad a base of knowledge and expertise as possible, so that no matter what an Rivkin (producer of Wildness), with whom he says he would love to attendee's project is, there will always be someone worth talking to. work someday. What are the benefits of the program? As producer and frequent "I really enjoy the sessions," Gertler says. "SXSW is essentially participant Alicia Van Couvering (Tiny Furniture, Drinking Buddies) curating and potentially matchmaking with filmmakers whom I puts it, "access is almost always the central question" in the film might not have otherwise gotten to know," making them advantageous to mentors as well as to attendees. And it is not only up-and-comers in the film world who take advantage of the Mentor Sessions. Flatiron Pictures' Suzanne Weinert, a successful Austin-based producer behind such films as ExTerminators and Javelina, has served as a mentor herself while also using the program as a way to meet with Sarah Green, Terrence Malick's producer on The New World, The Tree of Life, To The Wonder and his current project. If you are considering signing up for a Mentor or Meet the Insiders session, Gertler has some helpful words of advice for how to go into the program. He suggests that attendees "approach these as conversations, not rigidly formatted pitches," saying that they are most useful after some initial preparation. People should research with whom they are meeting and come ready to ask questions dealing world, whether the topic is how to hire a producer or have one's with their mentor's particular areas of expertise. It is also good to music featured onscreen. She has found that the Mentor Sessions "bring a long list of questions, about how to tackle your project in seem to be particularly useful to people outside of the industry centhe marketplace and about other subjects that might be in the proters of New York and Los Angeles, who often feel that they do not ducer's wheelhouse, in case the specific project that you're bringing have the same access to connections and resources as those from isn't a match." areas better known for movie production. Each Meet the Insiders session will feature two industry experts "Almost every city has a thriving indie film scene," says Van and will run for an hour, kicking off with a 10-minute Q&A led by Couvering. "Becoming a notable person in that scene can open a lot a moderator and followed by 20 minutes of open discussion and of doors. Sometimes those sessions serve to demystify something, questions from the attendees. This process will then be repeated such as 'How do I get an agent?', and then as we talk through the for the other speaker. The Mentor sessions will follow the format specific problem they have, it becomes clear that they don't actually used in previous years, with briefer one-on-one meetings. Potential need an agent at all." attendees are encouraged to sign up for both programs in advance And sometimes, these sessions can lead to new collaborations. on, though limited on-site registration will be offered for Van Couvering started working with someone she met at a similar latecomers. ■ program at the Indie Memphis Film Festival. Howard Gertler, the producer of the acclaimed AIDS crisis documentary How to Survive For more information about both Mentor Sessions and Meet the Insiders, visit a Plague, forged a lasting friendship with fellow mentor Kathy "SXSW is essentially curating and potentially matchmaking with filmmakers whom I might not have otherwise gotten to know…" 36 SXSWORLD /FEBRUARY 2013

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