With ‘Everything Everywhere’, SXSW Became an Oscars Launchpad
A year to the day before Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert — collectively known as Daniels — ascended the Dolby stage to collect the best picture Oscar, the team behind Everything Everywhere All at Once was on the stage at the Paramount Theater in downtown Austin debuting the movie at the 2022 South by Southwest film festival.
The best picture win marks a first for a film debuting at SXSW, not known for awards films. Toronto and Telluride have long been considered launching pads for awards runs, while recent best picture winners winners CODA, Nomadland, and Parasite have had their premieres at Sundance Film Festival, Venice and Cannes , respectively. Of this year’s best picture nominees, two had Cannes debuts (Elvis, Triangle of Sadness), two bowed at Telluride (Women Talking, Tar), two more at TIFF (All Quiet on the Western Front, The Fabelmans) and there was Venice prominence for good measure (Banshees of Inisherin). But SXSW has never been considered a best picture springboard.
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“We are not known for picking Oscars films, obviously. We have a lot more stuff that pushes the edges of what is allowed,” said SXSW film and TV fest programmer Claudette Godfrey ahead of the 2023 fest of the festival’s future awards potential in the wake of Everything Everywhere. Everything Everywhere‘s rowdy SXSW premiere — where the audience was near-manic and Michelle Yeoh cried on stage — became one of the biggest stories out of a festival that also included the movie where Nicolas Cage starred as a version of himself (Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent) and Sandra Bullock announced an acting sabbatical.
Of course, the A24 movie was never the typical Oscars fare. A genre-bending drama that is equal parts absurdist and sentimental, It stood out among a field often populated with historical dramas, adaptions, dramatic social critiques, and biopics. (It is also the first Oscar winner to have popularized the phrase “hotdog fingers.”)
“That film popping is more of a surprise to other people than it is to us, because we have been having the Daniels work so long,” Godfrey continued.
Kwan and Scheinert have a long history with the festival, having premiered their music videos at the SXSW, including for Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What”, which won the SXSW 2015 grand jury award for music videos. “It’s been such an exciting thing to have a film that was a fan favorite get this much attention and get actually what it deserves. It’s not the traditional Oscars film,” said Godfrey.
Coincidentally, the first weekend of this year’s SXSW conflicted with Oscars weekend, leaving some talent and executives with particularly chaotic travel schedules. Stars like Evan Longoria, who was at the fest with her feature debut Flamin’ Hot, and Elisabeth Olsen, who premiered HBO Max miniseries Love & Death, were on the Oscars stage as presenters a day after their respective Austin premieres.
SXSW has long been seen as consumer-facing. Its program is filled with more comedies and genre films than your typical dramatic festival fare, and studios often use it as a soft launch of their spring releases. Last year’s line-up included The Lost City, which went on to an impressive global box office of nearly $200 million. The 2023 festival opened with Dungeons & Dragons; screenings of the latest installments in the Evil Dead and John Wick franchises are still to come — not exactly awards contenders.
But with the run of Everything Everywhere, which earned a mindblowing seven statues on Sunday night, will the industry see the festival as a jumping-off point for non-traditional awards players? This year, said Godfrey, SXSW received the usual amount of inquiries from studios but “there is maybe a different idea of what things could be.”