a day (or two) in the life of a first-time sxsw attendee | sxsw 2022

a day (or two) in the life of a first-time sxsw attendee | sxsw 2022

I finally got to attend my first SXSW!

Full disclosure: my daughter, Meredith, is the creator and Editor in Chief for ImperfectFifth. I have wanted to go to Austin to cover SXSW as a writer since she first went five years ago. I heard stories of all the people she had met, the music she had heard, and the movies she had seen. I was all set to go in 2020, but we all know how that ended. I ‘attended’ virtually last year, but as great as it was to see all the content, we all know it isn’t the same.

This year, though, I finally got to attend SXSW!

Once we found out that Meredith and Erin Zimmerman (also my daughter) got their press and photo badges to cover the festival, I got a link to the schedule and immediately froze. There is so much content to choose from! Even though I knew I would only be there for a short, two-day window, narrowing down the possibilities seemed daunting. Enter Google Docs. Meredith created a spreadsheet that had a tab for each day, a different color for each of us, and a column to indicate if the event was in person or VOD. She has done this each year to organize coverage. I also knew that there were two kinds of events – official and unofficial. Since I didn’t have a badge, I wasn’t eligible to attend a portion of the official events. However, I was able to attend most of the unofficial events. The upshot? During the time that I was there, we decided to attend anything that A) didn’t require a badge; and B) sounded interesting. Pressure off! Fortunately, both of them found some things that I didn’t even see in the schedule, and I love trying all the new things! 

We arrived on Sunday, March 13th and got in line for the Create & Cultivate Pop Up. This was an unofficial event, so didn’t require a badge. However, we did have to pre-register, and spots filled up in the blink of an eye! There were speakers, sponsorship installations, refreshments, and an amazing swag bag! It was a ‘make a trip back to the car to drop things off before we could continue with our day’ sized bag.  I subscribe to the Create & Cultivate newsletter and this event was the newsletter come to life. 

In our walks to and from the car, I saw a proliferation of movie posters for Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off and the upcoming Nicholas Cage film, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Each film had already had its premiere, but I made notes (in my newly acquired notebook from my gift bag) to see both of them once they got distribution.

After walking through the Convention Center to pick up badges, we took a stroll down Rainey Street, where we had the most amazing fresh mini donuts. There were also several houses that had exhibits (we saw you CNN and “Summer In Argyle”), most open to non-badge wearers as well. The one that caught our eyes was the Peacock Playground. They had taken some of their new shows and created playground games out of them. You could shoot hoops in the “Bel Air” booth or seasaw with a “Joe vs. Carole” backdrop, among other things. Our personal favorite? You could make a music video in the “Girls 5 Eva” booth. Yes, we did and here it is! We also had drinks and snacks and would have gotten a handmade t-shirt if the t-shirt people hadn’t gone on break. It was all outside and was a great way to spend some time while we learned more about Peacock and its new content.

By now, it was time for a late lunch which we ate at the Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill. I had my first ever chicken and waffles – did not disappoint! We also used this time to map out our route for the rest of the afternoon. 

The first place we headed after lunch was to the WarnerMedia House. While a lot of the activity for SXSW takes place near the convention center, there are things spread throughout downtown. The several block walk to the WarnerMedia House took us past the Porsche Unseen building. As a major sponsor, Porsche had several presentations and displays scheduled for badge holders; however, they did have an amazing car parked outside that any of us could drool over!

The WarnerMedia House had THE exhibit we had come to see. The Batman had been released on March 4, but we hadn’t gotten a chance to see it before going to Austin. This exhibit included costumes from all the main characters, as well as props from the movie. Other DC content, like Peacemaker helmets and other franchise NFTs, games, and artwork were represented as well. The highlight, though, was down the block and around the corner – the Bat Mobile from The Batman. Only a few people at a time were allowed in the garage, but we were able to walk around the car and look inside. I’m not a huge car fan, but it was a cool experience!

After the WarnerMedia House, we poked our heads into the Virtual Equality Lounge before we headed back up toward the convention center. We had RSVP’d to the Future Today Institute (FTI) 2040 House which was an installation that reflected 2040, based on future trends. When we entered, we walked through a facial reading station that texted a report to us that captured our heart rate, body temperature, mood, and social score. My heart rate and temperature were right on what was listed on my FitBit. My mood was ‘sleepy’ – not surprised! It also gave me the recommendation to eat some protein to uplift my mood. From there, we had some snacks and drinks, served the 2022 way. We did take away some 3D-printed drink mixes to use at home. I also discovered that chocolate is considered contraband in the year 2040! Even with all of the fun, we received an FTI 2022 Tech and Science Trends Report via email that covered key trends impacting 15+ topics. A very educational, informative, and fun space.

After a good night’s sleep, we started the day getting our hair styled at the Jonathan Van Ness salon. The JVN Come As You Are Tour had taken over a current salon in downtown Austin and was the site of the product launch of his haircare products, JVN Hair. We knew he was speaking later, but the event was sold out. Erin gave us a heads up about the pop-up and we got ourselves scheduled. Very relaxing and such a fun way to spend a half-hour. 

One of the host hotels for SXSW is the JW Marriott. We had parked our car there, so explored the different panels and lounges that were available. We were able to sit in on a panel entitled “What the ‘She-cession’ Will Teach Us About Hiring”, which was a fascinating look at what hiring might look like as we head out of the pandemic. I know that it clarified some ideas I have for my own career going forward. 

The second place that we discovered was the Future of Work Summit Lounge Presented by Indeed. It was located in a space close to the panel, so we stepped in to check it out and I am so glad we did! Indeed had career coaches on hand to chat with, they had a coffee/cocoa bar for a much-needed caffeine boost, and space to sit and charge your devices. They also had photographers taking headshots and tarot card readers. I thought that was an especially intuitive touch because the job search combines all the facets of your personality and life. Indeed also had a salary board where people could write where they lived, what their job is, and what they get paid, then post it. Salary transparency is vital to help people, especially women, get paid their worth. 

Our next stop was closer to the convention center, but our first music stop – the SoundCloud Next Wav showcase. Although we were fifth in line when we got there, the line soon stretched around the block, and for good reason – the musical showcase presented by SoundCloud was great and the 30-minute presentation Vocals on the Go by Dub Academy was amazing. Dub Academy is a program based in Austin that helps musicians fine-tune their craft. It was super interesting to watch them create in real-time. It is clear that Soundcloud hosts showcases that people look forward to each year. 

After leaving the showcase — and even though I had some amazing Mexican food and a couple of drinks there — I was in the mood for food from a food truck. Austin did not disappoint! We ate the most amazing corndogs but also had our choice of a myriad of other offerings. Our goal was to walk and eat so we could check out more things and that is exactly what we did. 

 After a break to grab some dinner, change clothes, and unload the car, we came back downtown, parked and walked 6th Street and some of the same areas we had walked during the day. There is a completely different vibe at night – everyone is ready to relax and really listen to some music. Walking in any direction, you could hear different genres of music emanating from venues in every direction. I was completely content to stand outside listening and people watching. We had a reservation to attend a showcase at Elysium later, so we relaxed with a few drinks at Iron Cactus before. 

The showcase ran from 10:00 pm – 2:00 am at the Elysium. We found a place to sit and got to see Body Meat perform. The artist we came to see was Haru Nemuri. She is a singer/songwriter from Yokohama, Japan who has quite a fan base in the United States. The club quickly filled up when her set started at midnight. Nemuri’s fans knew all the songs, even though most were sung in Japanese. She never stopped dancing and the audience matched her energy. Such a great way to end the evening!

I went home on Tuesday morning, so didn’t get to see anything else live. I will say, though, that I have now seen Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off, since it is on streaming platforms, and thought it was a very complete documentary. The camera work was breathtaking and well worth your time to watch. Now to catch The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent!

cleaning up fashion through policy | a conversation at sxsw 2022

cleaning up fashion through policy | a conversation at sxsw 2022

Moderator Shilla Kim-Parker (CEO and Co-Founder of Thrilling – a marketplace for independent mom n’ pop secondhand and vintage shops across the country) led three panelists through a discussion of what makes fashion’s impact on the environment so dire and what can be done going forward.

Rachel Kibbe, founder of the advisory firm Circular Services Group, addressed the question of why we should care about fashion’s impact on the environment and why it is so problematic? “Apparel/textiles is the fastest growing waste stream in the United States. They are about 7% of our landfills now. In the last 25 years, textile waste has grown 80%, meanwhile, every other waste stream (electronics, food, organics, paper) has only grown about 25%.” In addition to these alarming statistics, she reminded us, “With globalization, it’s kind of been a race to the bottom and a huge supply chain issue – you may be growing cotton in one place, spinning and weaving it in another, dying it in another and cutting and sewing it in another. Just the shipping alone to chase cheaper and cheaper cost of production has become really problematic from an environmental and labor standpoint.”

“We’re also creating garments that aren’t re-sellable, they are disposable. How do we produce for durability, for resale, for repair?” – Rachel Kibbe

Plastics also exacerbate the problem, according to Alexis Jackson of The Nature Conservancy. She serves as the Ocean Policy and Plastics Lead for TNC’s California Oceans Program and is working on how plastics enter the environment from all sources – including the fashion industry where plastic looks like nylon, polyester, and acrylics. “Throughout the lifecycle of all these materials, when they’re being woven, designed into clothes and we’re washing and wearing them, they’re letting off these small fragments which are known as microfibers. That water that we are dying and washing these clothes with, that water can carry these microfibers into the environment”, Jackson pointed out. The microfibers then “end up in our oceans, in our food, and in our bodies”. She stated, “… just from clothes washing. And that’s not even the upstream side of what’s happening in textile mills. It’s opened our eyes that plastic comes in many shapes and forms and what can we do.” Furthermore, “we know that fibers are one of the most prolific shapes of plastic found in the environment that kind of work their way up the food chain – they’ve been found in carrots and apples. We know their impact on smaller wildlife – can impact their reproduction and their feeding behavior.”

Panelist Devin Gilmartin has created a platform for small emerging brands from around the world called The Canvas. Most clothing brands don’t have access to the vast physical spaces that an H&M, for example, might have. In addition, most malls or shopping areas have empty retail spaces and this is where The Canvas comes in – they reach out to landlords and ask them to revenue share with the emerging brands. Each small brand also comes in on the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development goals. In this way, Gilmartin “believes that small brands can help break through the fast fashion barrier.”

The question then becomes, what kind of policy responses have been made to the fashion industry? Although this is a global issue, there is not one global answer. According to Kibbe, “I’ll focus mainly on waste policy because that’s my area of focus and I think I can speak to it best. In France, they have banned the destruction of unsold goods. In Holland, the policy on deck for I believe 2023, where brands would be responsible for paying for the collection of used clothing which is really interesting to me because that’s been a focus in my career – trying to get brands to support the waste management of our used clothing. I know in Scotland, I think they have a similar bill on deck to France that would ban the destruction of unsold clothing. You’re seeing different policies globally mainly coming out of Europe focusing on waste. In Boston, in Massachusetts, they are outlawing textiles to landfills.” In New York, she referred to a bill that is going through the process of public response now that would require any company doing business in New York with revenues over $100 million to disclose their environmental impact maps, about 40-50% of their supply chains, make science based target commitments and track those commitments. When asked, she also said that her dream bill would include a production cap on fashion companies.

“What does that look like to build an innovation contest that allows us to think more creatively about getting the technology on the market or thinking about redesigning clothing the things that we need to get the markets there, and the end goal is that capture component.” – Alexis Jackson

Jackson also believes policy is essential, but it might not be applicable because of the global nature of fashion and how each local and regional area is so different. Her suggestion was a more streamlined approach, like “let’s get policies in place to put filter in washing machines. The policy doesn’t have to be perfect.” Jackson is an advocate of setting goals and letting innovation get there since some of the technology is already on the market, including in the manufacturing space.

When asked what we can do as individuals, Gilmartin had one very concrete suggestion, “From a shopping perspective, I think we need to move away from shopping with the fast fashion giants, I think there are more and more alternatives, yours (Thrilling) being one of them, I think the resale platforms for the issues they’re still figuring out are amazing and growing very quickly and will probably start taking a market share from the bigger companies.” Jackson had a couple of ideas about care of garments: “The first is wash your clothes less often which is not always the most popular solution. Colder loads, shorter loads. If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, buying a front loading washing machine. And then you can think about buying a filter to include on your hose capturing some of these microfibers.”

When asked which companies are close to getting it right, Kibbe responded, “Everybody wants to know where to shop and who to shop from. The thing is, I don’t have a great answer because it’s always buy used.” Gilmartin did have a couple of suggestions:

“On the production side, footwear is a huge contributor to these issues and there’s a company based in Germany called Zellerfeld. They are building 3D printing boxes basically where you can scan your foot with an app and in ten minutes, have a perfectly printed pair of shoes custom to your foot. They’re building these amazing printing farms, they’re going to be in the US soon, but when you’re done with that footwear, you’ll be able to send it back to them. They’ll shred it up and create an entirely brand new piece of shoe from your previous shoes. You basically subscribe to their service one time and you’re wearing that same shoe for the rest of your life. I think this is an amazing physical material fashion innovation.

On the media side, there’s a New York-based editorial agency called Monad Agency. I think a lot of the issues when it comes to sustainable fashion is it needs to be aesthetically appealing, it needs to be desirable and Monad is creating great content around sustainable fashion. They’re working with small brands and giving them Vogue-level content production and I think that’s kind of what we need on the media side. More focus and larger reach for the small brands.”

“It will really take all of us working together to solve the problem.” – Alexis Jackson

i love my dad garnered rave reviews + awards at sxsw 2022… and it’s easy to see why

i love my dad garnered rave reviews + awards at sxsw 2022… and it’s easy to see why

I didn’t read the synopsis first.

And I’m glad I didn’t. While I do not suggest going in blind to every movie or television series, this one is one to make an exception for. So, if you’d prefer to be surprised and haven’t yet seen I Love My Dad, stop reading and twiddle your thumbs until there is a wider release.

First of all, this film got rave reviews and awards from SXSW. It brought home the Narrative Feature Competition jury prize AND audience choice award, so the crowds went wild for it. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be a wide release in the coming months. If you’ve seen it – or like some spoilers like my mom does – come sit a moment!

I Love My Dad is based on a true story about a dad who catfishes his son in order to have a closer relationship with him. Yes, it’s as oddball/creepy/sweet as it sounds. And it feels just as oddball/creepy/sweet throughout the entirety of the movie, because the actors bring a really nuanced and realistic script and story to life.

But, of course they do! With the writer-director, James Morosini, also starring in the film (alongside Patton Oswalt, who plays his father), the “based on a true story” hits extremely close to home — as it is based on HIS true story! While this fact does make the viewer empathic toward Morosini – especially during a handful of crucial points in the movie – you can’t help but be grateful for what transpired in his life, because it makes for incredible material for his art.

Don’t worry. It’s not sexual or scary, this picture they paint of an estranged-ish father rekindling his father-son relationship with the son he fathered. You will laugh. You might cry. You can watch it, comfortably, with your parents OR your kids. And Oswalt’s performance? *chef’s kiss*

But, as relatable and quick as it is, it’s also cringey pretty consistently throughout. Just like real life. Only, you’ll be glad it’s based on James Morosini’s true story instead of your own.

We’ll report back on updated release information when it becomes available!

how do artists make money now? an eye-opening discussion incorporating wellness at sxsw 2022

how do artists make money now? an eye-opening discussion incorporating wellness at sxsw 2022

“Just because a lot of art comes from pain does not mean the artist has to suffer.” – Naithan Jones

During the 2021 SXSW Conference, I watched a virtual panel and the topic addressed how touring would change for artists once the world opened up. It was a fascinating discussion about how art was made during the lockdown and how artists were creating more balance in their life with their work.  This year, I was able to attend a panel that is taking the concept one step further – “How Do Artists Make Money Now?”.

Moderated by Tiffany Gaines, Found and CEO of SS Global Entertainment, the discussion focused on mindset; mental and physical health and perspective; the power in community; and the advancement of technology. Panelists Naithan Jones (Founder of web3 platform Royal), Andra Liemandt (Founder and CEO of The Kindness Campaign), and Matt Ott (Vice Chairman and Co-Founder/Executive Director of Black Fret) came together to address some different forms of creating income that may not have existed, even a couple of years ago. 

All of the panelists emphasized the importance of community. When asked about an artist just starting out without a lot of resources, Jones pointed out that, although “streaming is like a map of the industry and specifically to artists….it doesn’t give you the topography, which is who are those 200-300 fans who are willing to support your bills for a year?” The industry doesn’t have a good way to track this. “If I have a super fan in Des Moines, IA and I’m not touring for the next two to three years, I can’t activate that intent.” Jones shared that if these fans are token holders, you can do all kinds of things with them now from music releases just for them, to free merch, to arranging a FaceTime together because you have a token, etc. These are things that enhance relationship management as well as generate an income that allows the artist to live a life, rest, work, and create in cycles outside of the normal 9-5 most people work in.  “Creatives don’t really work that way. Where they can express their gift in a healthy way, where they have the economic base to do that, that’s a critical goal.”

Liemandt expanded on that thought: “Nate, I love what you were sharing about giving rest to musicians, to be who they are and work in their passion and their purpose. What we want to be able to do is put musicians to work right now, pick up gigs when they’re in the mood, not have to do something, but when the mood strikes, pick up a gig that is in line with their craft.” The Kind Music platform supports independent artists with songwriting workshops and recordings – all created through community.

“Community is more important than ever to help ourselves and help each other.” – Matt Ott

Black Fret operates in various cities using the patronage model that symphonies have used – people pay for subscriptions to hear local music. Ott said, “When we started Black Fret, we wanted to get some members, throw some parties, and give money away.” But he discovered in the process that people are always looking for ways to help and give back. As an artist, he suggested hanging out after shows, playing early gigs (“old people like to go to early gigs”), networking, playing corporate gigs. Ott thinks that Kind Music is “an incredible opportunity for musicians to lay down a track on a song written by people in a collaborative effort that gets that musician paid”. In the same vein, he loves the Royal business model “to find a revenue stream that helps them find the 1000 true fans”.

Each of the panelists emphasized the mental health and mindset aspect of creating art and being paid for it.  Leimandt summed it up best when she said, “When I started seeing dollars roll in, it related to my self-worth. Purpose, value and what you’re doing daily to support them equals joy.”

As a publication that focuses on mental health issues and the arts, we found this panel to be comforting. More people are seeing the value in a holistic approach to wellness, and artists are slowly (but surely) being praised for the wellness opportunities their art provides to the masses as well.

“what the she-cession will teach us about hiring” + indeed lounge provide workforce healing | sxsw 2022

“what the she-cession will teach us about hiring” + indeed lounge provide workforce healing | sxsw 2022

On our second full day experiencing SXSW 2022, we wandered into the JW Marriott to check out what was going on shortly after getting our hair done at the JVN pop-up. “What the She-Cession Will Teach Us About Hiring” was listed on the board, a panel starting in mere minutes upstairs. So, we meandered up the escalator and got our seats. (After a brief stop to the Indeed Lounge for an iced latte and hot cocoa, of course.) The panel was led by Jessica Jensen, the CMO at Indeed, and included Mandy Price (CEO, Co-Founder of Kanarys, Inc.), Janet Gipson (VP of Talent Acquisition for Global Medical Response), and Jennifer Tracy (VP of Talent Acquisition at Spectrum).

So, we were in the presence of greatness. Incredible women in C-Suite positions doing good things in the hiring world.

And then the stats hit.

90% of the 50 million people who left the workforce permanently during the pandemic? Women.
70% of women who reduced hours or left jobs during the pandemic in the US did so because of a lack of support in the workplace.
89% of these women admitted that their male partners weren’t as negatively affected.

The numbers are absolutely devastating. Women – who are often relied on for extra work throughout their lives – were stretched thin when things took a turn for the worse two years ago. After all, who was widely expected to make sure kids in the household were logging into Zoom for schooling and keeping them entertained while they were trapped inside? Who is always encouraged to keep a tidy home, cook, and possibly even have a full-time job to financially support a family or any dependents? Plus, women are often tapped to be caretakers/caregivers when family and friends become less capable of handling their own things. The pandemic brought that into even harsher light than ever before. And women aren’t, truly, asking for that much from their employers. The panelists went on to outline common needs women seek from their place of work:

  • Pay
  • Happiness and a sense of belonging
  • Flexibility to make work and life
  • Caring managers

Luckily, the massive change in workforce dynamic during the pandemic led to a few realizations by companies across the United States. “Organizations became more thoughtful as to when they scheduled meetings – are they scheduled during the day or during the times childcare would be more problematic,” elaborated Mandy Price. “We also saw organizations realize that, just because you weren’t on camera, didn’t mean you weren’t working.” 

“We have to collect the data and see who is exiting the workforce, what is their profile and how can we support them,” encouraged Janet Gipson. “Starting at the top, women are exiting faster and leaving for more flexible work and lucrative pay (travel nurses, for example). Moving down the tree, women of color are leaving even more.” In fact, examining intersectional dynamics has been key in a lot of their upward movement over the past few years. And it needs to be a practice that more companies – especially at a corporate level – employ and expand on.

As for changes within their respective companies? “When we look at the ability to change healthcare, our company is innovating in how we deliver healthcare,” Janet said. “We’ve partnered with Mobile Health and are delivering paramedics, EMT’s and the like to homes of patients. People do not have the dollars or reimbursements for 4 or 5 days post-surgery. We deploy health care professionals to take vitals, check-in on patients, etc. This has allowed a couple of things – The pay is more competitive. The other thing is the flexibility. The data, along with changing how we schedule and do work are key to keeping and retaining the women in the work force.

Which, by the way, isn’t always as easy as it seems. Many jobs require physically demanding work that women aren’t historically linked to. However, many women are more than capable nowadays to tackle heavy lifting and challenging physical roles. But that doesn’t mean they’re being considered in the same ways men are. Explains Jennifer of Spectrum’s current hiring process and capabilities, “65% men, 35% women. 86% of hiring is frontline. Some roles have historic physical barriers. 80+ pound ladders. We have a tool on our site called ‘Fit Finder’ – a candidate can take this and it allows them to be served jobs based on their personality. Launched two years in the past, we have seen gender representation in those frontline roles has increased, simply because we have made the suggestion that women may be a good fit for this role.” 

In addition to software updates and more open-minded hiring practices, Spectrum has brought their 80lb ladders down to 50lb ladders, a feat that benefits people of every gender and helps relieve pressure and unnecessary tension as we all age.

Jennifer, perhaps, made the most poignant statement on how to move forward in the hiring process to retain talent that will stick with you, and reduce turnover and disappointed employees. “Working to remove education requirements and focusing on skills and abilities. Working to expunge criminal records. Proactively retain your talent, not just acquisition.

___

I found the Indeed Lounge to be an especially absorbing stop in my day. It seemed to be much more tailored to the whole person, rather than just the resume of a person. The Share Your Salary to Support Equal Pay was fascinating – people were encouraged to write their job titles, location, and salary on a card to post for all other participants to see. In this way, salary is not a closely held secret, but rather knowledge to help in your own negotiations.

Indeed had headshot photographers, coffee, appointments with a career coach, and tarot readers. Yes, tarot readers, which make all the sense in the world in a job search. It is important to identify your own possible strengths and fears and tarot is the perfect vehicle for this understanding. 

insightful hilarity and inspiration drawn from the atlanta season 3 premiere and panel| sxsw 2022

insightful hilarity and inspiration drawn from the atlanta season 3 premiere and panel| sxsw 2022

SXSW 2022 – as we have established – was such a welcoming and wonderful experience. With 2020 being canceled and 2021 being an all-digital event, coming back into a hybrid in-person/digital setting was everything we could have hoped for. This year, the film/television panels and events were spread out further into the week than years past, and we were thrilled at the thought of trying to get a glimpse of Donald Glover and the Atlanta team on the red carpet on Saturday, March 19th, at the Paramount. Not expecting to get a chance to actually step foot into the theater, we were shocked when we got into the premiere with no issue as secondary music badge holders. Viewers were promised the first episode followed by an extended Q&A. We got that PLUS the second episode! 

“We like to under promise and over deliver.” – Show creator, Donald Glover.

If you love Atlanta already? You will be pleased right out the gate. If you didn’t love Atlanta already? It’s absolutely time to give it a try! 

Without any big spoilers: The first episode is a reimagining of real events. Because there are plenty of things that happen in this real world – in our individual lives – where you just think: that could have happened differently. One of the things the cast revealed in the Q&A was that, in putting together these final two seasons of Atlanta – If you didn’t know, now you know. Seasons 3 and 4 have been filmed, and they will be the show’s last – they spent a lot of time watching other amazing shows like Succession while asking themselves: What is something these shows CAN’T do that we can?

And with the preview of just the first two episodes? This team can do a LOT that others can’t!

During the first season, the writers and cast genuinely felt like they were trying too hard – and, upon reflection, they can still feel it in the work itself. During season 2, they were trying hard to prove that season one wasn’t a fluke. They earned that success, and they did a brilliant job. In these final two seasons? They’ve grown up, survived 2 years of a pandemic, some even have growing families that they didn’t have before. Admits Donald of how he writes post-children: “Kids make you soft as butt.”

The consensus this time around? “We’re just trying to have fun.” 

And, when the Q&A host asked if some of the subject matters in the first two episodes were based in truth (including instances of black face and euthanasia), show writer (and show creator Donald Glover’s brother) Stephen Glover said: “That shit is just funny”.

“We’re just fucked up people,” Donald added. “It came from us.” He went on to explain the correlation between fear and comedy, which are both massively present in Atlanta. “Fear and comedy are closely related, they’re always touching each other. They’re very connected. That’s why we’re trying to do that.”

From a viewing perspective? This show has always hit the tough, societal, human notes right alongside the wacky, weird, hilarious, bizarre WTF moments.

The panelists revealed that their writer’s room has been a physical location – but also a group text thread filled with memes and videos. Which, in hindsight, is made crystal clear in season 2, episode 6 with the character of Teddy Perkins (IYKYK). Donald Glover revealed that the character and episode were inspired by a photo of Michael Jackson ducking and covering, and the follow-up question: “What if you were being chased by that version of Michael?”

After this theatre viewing, we can admit it’s OUTSTANDING to watch alongside other fans, but just as hilarious, poignant, and effective when watching alone. Starting this season, you can watch it on Hulu the day after the episode airs on FX. And if the rest of the series continues with the cadence of the first two episodes of the 3rd season? You will not want to miss a single second.

The insight during the panel revealed self-awareness and an all-encompassing relatability to the content. With everything I learned about the creative process behind Atlanta, with its text thread writer’s room, I am feeling inspired to start my own writer’s room text thread. Because, my friends and I are SURELY clever enough to create our own epic, highly anticipated show, right?

On second thought, I think I’ll leave it to the pros. I already miss you, Atlanta crew!

Episode 1 of the 3rd season drops tomorrow, March 24th on FX. (Available on Hulu starting March 25th!)
Keep up with our continuing coverage of SXSW here.