SXSW Filmmakers Proves A Major Point: Success Is Measured By Effort

The Writers and Filmmakers Present Faced Setbacks, But Made No Excuses

With SXSW officially in the books, there are a lot of talking points. Great experiences? Check. Great films like “I Used To Be Funny” and “Late Night With The Devil”? Check. Music and networking? Check. SXSW was an experience like no other in terms of scale and the opportunities at hand, but above all else, the most interesting aspect of SXSW was the abundance of films and filmmakers in attendance.

Though films like “John Wick 4” and “Evil Dead Rise” headlined an absolutely packed festival, it’s the independent films and their respective filmmakers that truly stood out. Films like “The Artifice Girl” and “I Used To Be Funny” were two films of several that created high-quality and entertaining stories and characters that broke away from the tropes many of the larger studio films share. The independent narratives stood out as some of the most jaw-dropping films in the fest, but the filmmakers behind them revealed something more: They were us.

This sounds like an odd statement, but the filmmakers involved aren’t mythical figures who had an abundance of wealth, but were people with great ideas who wanted to share their stories with the world. These films were done on a lower budget, regardless of subject matter, and told strong, character driven narratives complete with simple stories, complex characters, and strong themes. Filmmakers had great ideas, great films, and like every other filmmaker, were in the festival looking for distribution. These filmmakers also understood that their stories needed to be told but didn’t have a major motion picture budget. They knew what they had, and they knew what they didn’t have.

But they didn’t use it as an excuse.

Still from I Used To Be Funny

I commend the films and filmmakers selected to participate in SXSW because they proved that talent is the bare minimum of what it takes to make it in this industry. Each film met similar circumstances and obstacles but powered through in a different way. “The Artifice Girl” told a great story, and their story started at a table read. Realizing this is a story that must be told, the creators decided to film the entire first act and present that, which helped them get a budget to finish the full movie. Director/ Writer Ally Pankiw wrote “I Used To Be Funny” in 2013, and finally got funded in 2019, and was scheduled to film in 2020, then the pandemic occurred. Pankiw persevered and was able to complete her film, and premiered at SXSW along with The Artifice Girl.

As filmmakers, things happen. You lose an actor to another film or you aren’t able to get the rights to a song or location. Sometimes, people say no. sometimes your budget doesn’t match what your film needs, but what separates the premieres from the stops is what you’re willing to do. As artists, we have to work with what we’ve got and create something. It may not look like how you envisioned, but if it’s something that you found a new way to do, it’s still a great accomplishment. A closed door is not an end, it’s a chance to innovate.

Anything can be overcome as a filmmaker if you can think outside the box. This doesn’t mean you’re cheating your film, but it becomes an inspiring story of how you triumphed in the face of adversity. These filmmakers took what they had and made great films and moments that will last a lifetime with me and others. Do I care that they had a high budget or not? No. What mattered is I saw a film that was made by a group of filmmakers in Jacksonville, Florida that took low budgets, combined roles onset, were guerilla filmmakers for numerous scenes, and took everything they had to make “The Artifice Girl”. I saw a woman from Toronto who had an amazing story set back until she met the right people and overcame a global crisis to produce one of the most heartfelt films of the year in “I Used To Be Funny”.

To every filmmaker, screenwriter, or artist looking for inspiration, look to these filmmakers and films. They gave it their best show with what they had, and they absolutely succeeded. There are times that it feels insurmountable, but you have the ability to make it work. Any obstacle that comes your way isn’t a block, it’s something to climb.

Your script, your film, and your art are in your hands. What are you willing to do?

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