The Reimagined SXSW Festival 2021 Diaries

SXSW Diary Day One Tuesday, March 16, 2021.

Curious about the reimagined 2021 SXSW Festival? Read my festival diaries. You’ll feel like you’re walking along virtual 6th Street.


 NUEVO RICO, the animated short from filmmaker Kristian Mercado Figueroa, makes its world premiere SXSW 2021.

It’s SXSW week, but log-in passwords replace industry badges, and few if any musicians or marketing pros are traveling to Austin, Texas. This Year’s SXSW Festival is virtual due to COVID-19. Our laptops and smartphones are festival movie screens and conference sessions. A digital platform allows SXSW 2021 attendees to stream conference sessions, film screenings, and music performances. It’s a screen experience similar to how we’ve been participating in work meetings and industry summits during the spread of COVID-19. Networking features provide opportunities for connecting virtually with fellow attendees. SXSW 2021 is just underway, but so far, I’m having a blast exploring the films and more than 230 sessions.

What I’m Watching:

‘Nuevo Rico’

With ‘Nuevo Rico,’ making its world premiere at the SXSW 2021 Animated Shorts Competition, a timeless story of the high cost of artistic fame and success comes to life via Caribbean colors, Reggaeton music, and a lively visual style paying homage to Tron and classic game design. Barbie (the voice of Jackie Cruz) and her brother Vico (the voice of Antonio Vizcarrondo) uncover a secret that makes them Reggaeton superstars. Unfortunately, their success comes at a horrifying price.

Shorts competitions at festivals like SXSW are my favorite ways for discovering emerging talent like ‘Nuevo Rico’ director and co-writer Kristian Mercado. Her artistic talent is impressive and unique. More importantly, her script with co-writer Juan Arroyo puts a Latina spin on a classic story. I’m excited about what’s next.

Veteran entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban joins Kendra Scott, designer and founder of Kendra Scott, and ‘Fast Company’ Editor in Chief Stephanie Mehta on a panel about the positive impact entrepreneurs make on their communities.

What I’m Learning:

‘Beyond the Tank: Investing in Your Community.’

Veteran entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban joins Kendra Scott, designer and founder of Kendra Scott, and ‘Fast Company’ Editor in Chief Stephanie Mehta on the positive impact a growing entrepreneurship network makes on their local communities. Cuban and Scott focus on Texas, but their concepts apply to mid-sized cities from Boise to Pittsburgh. Positive entrepreneurial networks provide encouragement, mentorship, and idea-sharing. For Scott, it’s evident that entrepreneur-support networks help new companies grow and reignite communities. Mark Cuban previews Fireside, a new app using live audio to make communities better. Cuban, Scott, and Mehta also discuss how entrepreneurs are well-positioned to provide solutions to long-term problems. That’s another way how entrepreneurs invest in their local communities.

‘The best businesses start with their backs against the wall and without capital. Go for it. That’s where the funding will find you.’ – Mark Cuban, Founder, Mark Cuban Companies.

What’s New:

Virtual networking features replace club crawling between 6th Street music clubs. While the virtual vibe may lack a party atmosphere, I’m impressed how SXSW designers are providing opportunities for festival attendees to connect virtually.

What’s the Same:

There are multiple festival happenings every hour, from screenings to presentations and music performances. Industry vets describe the 2021 SXSW as “pared-down,” but it feels robust to me. Before Coronavirus, on the ground in Austin, SXSW attendees would push through 6th Street crowds and gridlock to attend the multiple events competing for your time. However, SXSW Online allows various screens at once and the chance to pop into panels.

Behind the Screens:

SXSW 2021 launches while I’m in recovery from COVID-19. It’s a powerful reminder of the remaining Coronavirus challenges outside the virtual festival.

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