The cancellation of the SXSW in Austin, Texas last month—an intersection of festivals and conferences in film, music, and technology—was one of the first major social upheavals caused by the coronavirus pandemic in North America. It of course would not be the last. However, as prudent a decision as it was by the city of Austin to prevent 400,000 global revelers to descend upon their city, there is no denying the heartbreak of denying hundreds of independent filmmakers, many of them first-timers, their moment of triumph. That’s why it’s a ray of good news that SXSW and Amazon Prime Video are partnering for a one-time online event to curtail the disappointment.
Indeed, Amazon and SXSW announced Thursday afternoon that they’ve joined forces for “Prime Video Presents the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection.” The online offer, which is aiming to be launched by the end of April, will allow movie lovers and consumers around the United States to stream films intended to premiere at the SXSW Film Festival over a 10-day period. While no lineup has yet been confirmed, SXSW is in contact with filmmakers. Those who elect to participate will receive a “screening fee” for streaming their films.
The event, however, will be free for consumers and separate from the traditional Amazon Prime paywall. Instead to watch the SXSW Film Collection, you simply need a free Amazon account and to be located in the U.S.
“Ever since SXSW was cancelled by the City of Austin, we’ve been focused on how we could help the incredible films and filmmakers in the SXSW 2020 Film Festival lineup,” said Janet Pierson, director of Film SXSW. “We were delighted when Amazon Prime Video offered to host an online film festival and jumped at the opportunity to connect their audiences to our filmmakers. We’re inspired by the adaptability and resilience of the film community as it searches for creative solutions in this unprecedented crisis.”
Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, also commented in a statement about the good news.
“We’re honored to be able to provide a space for the SXSW filmmakers to share their hard work and passion with audiences for the first time,” Salke said. “It’s been a privilege collaborating with Janet Pierson and the SXSW team to bring these diverse and inspiring films to viewers around the country. We are supporters of SXSW and other independent film festivals, and hope this online film festival can help give back some of that experience, and showcase artists and films that audiences might otherwise not have had the chance to see.”
This is a creative and welcome solution for filmmakers who lost the chance to have their big night in Austin, and is another sign of ingenuity as we find new ways to reclaim some stability in our new normal. We will have more about the SXSW Film Collection lineup as it becomes available.