Pop Culture, Theory & Essay

Cheekie Does SXSW: Part 1

South By Southwest has always been on my bucket list. And since you’re never too young to start checking things off of the bucket list — and since I’m a filmmaker myself and shit — I decided to go this year. One of my friends suggested that I write about my experience and Damon one-upped the suggestion and said I should have a running diary. I ran with that idea. Ba dum tsssss.

Thursday, March 12

I head to the Austin Convention Center for the first time so that I can officially register and pick up my badge. I get my badge and am immediately pointed to another area to pick up my swag bag. SXSW Film’s swag bag was sponsored by HBO and was a cute tote bag filled with info and a drink ticket. It was Miller Lite (meh), but free is free. Even if free tastes like pit bull sweat and lake mist. Oh, and Torchy’s Tacos was had. Yums!

Friday, March 13

First of all, it was Friday the 13th. Just have to put that out there because creepy. I head to my first panel, “How To Remain Relevant In Today’s Digital Age” with Charles Barkley and Richard Dietsch. Charles was obviously hilarious. What was especially hilarious was that — despite the title of the panel — he focused on how he avoids social media. I mean, I guess that was the point… that he could still stay relevant without it. He also told the story about how he purposely gained weight so that he wouldn’t be drafted by the 76ers… and was anyway. If anyone here remembers that draft day, I have five words: three hundred pounds. burgundy suit. I then went on to another panel, “An Insider’s Guide to SXSW Film.” This was a great resource for first-timers, especially in terms of navigating such an overwhelming and overstimulating festival. I believe the biggest takeaway I’ve gotten was, “SXSW is a marathon.” Maaaaan, they ain’t never lied. Even just having 3 full days, I’m amazed I’m still functioning. A typical day (to get as full of experience as possible) for a SXSW film attendee means early mornings, a full day of panels, stuffing your face thanks to a swarm of food trucks (shouts to Chi’lantro from the kimchi fries!), screenings, and parties that last to the wee hours of the morning. And then… doing it all over again.

That evening, I went to see a screening of Honeytrap, written and directed by Rebecca Johnson (whom I got to chat a bit with and plan to promote her film further in the future on my podcast, Cinema Bun!) Afterwards, I hopped on a pedi-cab, of which was controlled by a man who was a biochemist by day! I traveled to 6th street to have the Austin nightlife experience I had been waiting for. I walked up and down the infamous block and was treated to several shots, a Blue Motherfucker, my first Flaming Dr. Pepper and a ton of people-watching and dancing.

Saturday, March 14th

I kicked off the morning on a super-high note with my most anticipated event, Ava Duvernay’s Keynote for SXSWFilm. But, before I got there, I had a major road bump. The overstimulation of the first day threw me off and I misread the train schedule. Basically, the train didn’t have early departures and I HAD to leave early in order to get to Ava’s keynote line on time. Through the power of cosmic timing and Morgan Freeman-voiced God, a nice White couple who made my exact same mistake offered to give me a ride downtown. I figured, hey, they’re just in a PT Cruiser so they seemed safe. YOLO.

Cut to Ava’s speech. To say it was inspiring was an understatement. She really lit a fire under our asses in the most humble and endearing way. Next up was a panel called, “The Future of Film Criticism: Diversify or Die,” which was spear-headed by the always enthusiastic Chaz Ebert (I got to shake her hand!). After, I inhaled a plate of Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken (chile!!). Other panels such as “A Conversation with Jimmy Kimmel” (hilarious!) and “Story of a Working-Class Screenwriter” w/ Mike Jones (who? not that one. He writes for Pixar, though! *faints*). I immediately jetted to stand in line for the documentary, Son of the Congo and as we entered, Serge Ibaka walked right past me. In the same vein that water is wet, Serge is tall as fuck. Pretty sure one of his arms alone is taller than me. Great movie. Because SXSW is one of those festivals where you up and find yourself somewhere, I up and found myself at the Yahoo! Community promo party, featuring some of the cast. Annnd I wrapped up my night with “Roast Battle” for SXSWComedy, and it’s a super fun show based in LA that I’d go to again in a heartbeat.

Sunday, March 13th

This day was the shortest of the weekend (since it started later), but seemed the longest. Maybe it was the exhaustion of the non-stop first two days, but I was tiiiiiiiie-yerrrrd. But, it started off on a dope note. Went to “House of Cards From Page To Screen,” a talk with creator, Beau Willimon, which let me tell you… is a dope motherfucker. But, fans of the show already knew that. I’m saying… as a human dope motherfucker… he’s dope. For example, he asked everyone if they’d seen the latest season and then said, “Well, I’ll try not to spoil too much for you, but you came so… tough shit.” Exactly. Another cool panel I went to was “No Underdogs Here: Changing the Female Narrative” from the founders of #WeAreTheXX and that had a cool girl-power feel to it. I wandered around aimlessly for a minute and saw folks with bright orange signs promoting an AT&T party with Rick Fox. Um… duh! He fahn. So, I went there where he chatted with fans and took individual pictures with EACH of them. Very cool dude.

The first weekend was really a whirlwind. Let’s just say I’m glad I took notes. And six more to go. ‘Til next time…

(You can check out the pictorial diary of my experience at #SXSWFilm on my Instagram page: @embracethej)

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Tonja Stidhum

Tonja Renée Stidhum is a screenwriter/director with cheeks you want to pinch... but don't (unless she wants you to). She is made of sugar and spice and everything rice... with the uncanny ability to make a Disney/Pixar reference in the same sentence as a double entendre.

  • celinad6

    I live in Austin and yes, Chi-lantro is the best. Enjoy the rest of the conference!

  • Keisha

    I don’t how you made it…I felt tired just reading about all the stuff you managed to pack into the weekend. “I figured, hey, they’re just in a PT Cruiser so they seemed safe. YOLO.” Glad you lived to tell the story! :-)

    • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

      Girl, SXSW IS THEE MOST. But I already know I’d do it again in a heartbeat ;)

  • miss t-lee

    Torchy’s is the truth and the light.

  • uniquebeauty79

    “I walked up and down the infamous block and was treated to several shots, a Blue Motherfucker, my first Flaming Dr. Pepper and a ton of people-watching and dancing.”
    What’s all the work with no fun!!?? Glad you made it through

  • “a nice White couple who made my exact same mistake offered to give me a ride downtown. I figured, hey, they’re just in a PT Cruiser so they seemed safe. YOLO.”

    Tune to TV One for “Whatever Happened to Cheekie Mae?”*

    Presented with limited interruptions by World Changers and Herbalife

    • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

      Sir…

  • Tx10inch

    “Cheekie does SXSW part 1”

    This sounds like bad porn.

  • asdfghjkl

    Sunday, March 15th

    • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

      Thanks, Rome!

  • Tx10inch

    “Cheekie does SXSW part 1”

    This sounds like bad p*rn.

    • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

      LMAO

  • Sylqué

    Love Flaming Dr.Peppers! Got introduced to those in college at a local dive bar.
    Between this and your tweets you def seemed to be having the best time. i’m happy for you.

  • theSUNK | Sh*t U Need 2 Know

    One day I’ll make it down there. Great re-cap. I also have to check out your Cinema Bun podcast.

    • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

      Preciate it, homie!

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