Australia has no shortage of industry conferences, usually devoted to specific realms of media: Big Sound focuses on music, PAX on gaming and Screen Forever on film and television. But when South by Southwest (SXSW) makes its Sydney debut this October (marking the first time it’s been hosted outside of North America in its 37-year history), it will provide a broad church for panels and other events devoted to all three of those categories, as well as an entire tech expo geared towards innovation.
“Put it all together and that’s South by Southwest Sydney,” says Fenella Kernebone, head of conference programming. “There are basically 19 conferences happening at any one time, across five days. It’s about networking: using the conference as an opportunity to meet people from your industry and beyond your industry.”
Running across multiple venues from October 15 to 22, SXSW Sydney features four separate pillars: music, screen, games and tech/innovation. The original SXSW has been credited with helping launch the careers of artists like The White Stripes and Janelle Monáe, as well as hosting buzzy film premieres and spirited panels.
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“Austin has been succeeding at this for a long time, so it’s a great blueprint to work with,” says Kernebone. “We’re a shorter event [eight days versus 11 in Austin], but there’s still a heck of a lot of sessions and talks.”
She’s not joking: SXSW Sydney will encompass more than 1000 experiences – featuring over 700 speakers– and more than 400 performances, plus networking parties and themed industry meet-ups. The headline speakers include Chance the Rapper, Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, futurist Amy Webb and key figures from Disney, Binge, Slack and Coachella.
As for Kernebone, she comes to SXSW Sydney with a wealth of experience. After producing and hosting high-profile arts programs on both radio and television, she acted as head of curation for TEDxSydney and head of programming for Sydney Ideas. “It’s all kind of connected,” she says of her past roles. “It’s all part of the universe of storytelling.”
For the inaugural SXSW Sydney, Kernebone singles out sessions featuring AFL legend Adam Goodes (LINK), Formula 1: Drive to Survive executive producer Paul Martin and MakeLoveNotPorn founder Cindy Gallop, as well as one centred on the Korean content industry. The tech expo also spans breezier topics, including travel, lifestyle and leisure, while designated pitch events will see startups present their ideas to experts and investors in front of a live audience.
On the music front, international acts like Fazerdaze (New Zealand) and Connie Constance (England) will play alongside rising Aussie names like Teenage Joans, Caitlin Harnett & The Pony Boys, These New South Wales, Cool Sounds, Gold Fang and Telenova. Meanwhile, the screen festival will encompass screenings and talks alike, while a creative industries pillar will cover design, PR, marketing and advertising. Elsewhere, the tech programming will focus firmly on the future, and the games festival will span new title launches and broader showcases.
There will also be a wide program of free events descending upon Tumbalong Park, including an outdoor cinema and a rock‘n’roll circus.
“This is year one and the scale is huge, so I can only see how it can grow,” says Kernebone. “In Sydney, it’s similarly contained to a walkable footprint, but it’s a little bit smaller.”
Whether you’re curious to learn more about robotics or indie filmmaking, there’s something for anyone working in any creative industry – or interested passionate outsiders. And don’t be afraid to check out a stream that’s outside your usual interests – the results might surprise you.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with SXSW Sydney.