SXSW, which was forced to cancel its 2020 edition that was to kick off today in Austin due to the coronavirus pandemic, is forging forward with a plan that includes screening links that will allow jurors to see and hand out awards to the fest’s competition films.
The news came via SXSW director of film Janet Pierson, who has been working to organize alternate plans since Friday when the fest was shut down by city and state officials due to the threat of COVID-19.
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“We had several Special Awards juries already in place via links, and since we are not able to present the event, we decided to continue and expand to all the juried competitions, if the majority of the filmmakers opted in and juries were available,” she wrote Friday. “We know it’s no substitute for the live SXSW event with its unique and fantastic audience, but at least it’s some way to get attention for these wonderful films.” (Read the full statement below.)
Separate from the juried links, this year’s SXSW filmmakers will also be able to opt in to the festival’s secure online screening library Shift72 to make content available for press, buyers and others.
Pierson also said Friday that this year’s festival will remain a qualifying event for the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and winners of the SXSW 2020 Animated, Documentary and Narrative Short Film categories will still be eligible for the Oscars.
After the cancellation, the festival was forced to lay off a reported 50 employees — nearly one-third of its staff. Austin’s mayor declared a local disaster Friday leading to the axing of the fest, as the city like others now faces a major economic impact; SXSW draws 100,000 to its film, music and tech gathering each March.
Here’s her full statement:
Faced with the cancellation of SXSW 2020 by the City of Austin because of health risks associated with COVID-19, the SXSW Film Fest immediately hunkered down to figure out what could we do to help and support the filmmakers whose work we love so much, and who put their trust and faith in SXSW for their launch. Many of them have spent years on the work they were bringing to SXSW.
This was going to a transformative event, and with the cancellation, the filmmakers were left stranded and scrambling. We had several Special Awards juries already in place via links, and since we are not able to present the event, we decided to continue and expand to all the juried competitions, if the majority of the filmmakers opted in and juries were available. We know it’s no substitute for the live SXSW event with its unique and fantastic audience, but at least it’s some way to get attention for these wonderful films.
SXSW is proud to be an official qualifying festival for the Film Independent Spirit Awards and the Academy Awards® Short Film Awards and has confirmed with both organizations that given the extraordinary circumstances that SXSW’s qualifying status still stands.
All Feature films selected for SXSW 2020 will still be eligible for the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Winners of the SXSW 2020 Animated, Documentary and Narrative Short Film categories will still be eligible for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards.
We have also arranged for filmmakers to opt-in to our Shift72 secure online screening library with options to make available for press, buyers, industry, or combinations of these audiences. It will launch on Friday, March 13 and run through Saturday, March 21.
We have been heartened by the efforts of so many in the film industry and wider film community to come together with offers to help SXSW projects by offering screening rooms, fee waivers, and so many ways. We are continuing to explore other ways to support the paths of the SXSW 2020 Official Selection films and filmmakers in this new environment.
We will announce the Award Winners on Tuesday March 24 for the following categories:
NARRATIVE FEATURE: Grand Jury Award
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Grand Jury Award
DOCUMENTARY SHORTS: Jury Award
NARRATIVE SHORTS: Jury Award
ANIMATED SHORTS: Jury Award
EPISODIC PILOT COMPETITION: Jury Award
MIDNIGHT SHORTS: Jury Award
MUSIC VIDEOS: Jury Award
TEXAS SHORTS: Jury Award
TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL SHORTS Jury Award
EXCELLENCE IN POSTER DESIGN Jury Award
EXCELLENCE IN TITLE DESIGN Jury Award
ADOBE EDITING AWARD
ADAM YAUCH HÖRNBLOWÉR AWARD
FINAL DRAFT SCREENWRITERS AWARD
LOUIS BLACK “LONE STAR” AWARD
VIMEO STAFF PICK AWARD
ZEISS CINEMATOGRAPHY AWARD
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