By Steve Winter

There are dozens of reasons why people travel to Austin for South-By-Southwest.  Some attend for the film and interactive festivals; others for the music; still more attend primarily for the workshops and panel discussions while everybody here finds ample reason to enjoy the food, drink parties and raucous 6th Street nightlife.

But if you play your cards correctly – and know precisely where to look – you will find that SXSW offers a veritable feeding frenzy for celebrity sighting.

“I love coming here because you always wind up seeing the stars,” said Juliana Hauser, an attendee from Corpus Christi.  “You see them in the sessions, you see them in the lounges and sometimes you even see them on the streets.  It’s really amazing how visible they are.”

Several of these pop icons were on hand exclusively to promote their television shows.  Actresses Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams joined producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff to publicize the upcoming seventh season of Game of Thrones.  While the show hardly needs the coverage, the festival, Williams says, gives the cast and crew a unique opportunity to personally interface with their fans.  Likewise, the entire cast of Veep, led by Julia Louis-Dreyfus also turned out to head a session entitled Veep: A Conversation with the Cast and Showrunner – devoted exclusively to the promotion of their show.  Seth Rogan, meanwhile, was on hand promote the second season of Preacher, while Bob Odenkirk hosted not one but two panel session to publicize his hit show, Better Call Saul.

Others turn out to support a cause.  Former Vice President Joe Biden, for example, headlined a session as part of the Connect to End Cancer Series focusing specifically on the responsibility of the Federal Government to facilitate action toward finding a cure for cancer while entrepreneur, investor, Shark Tank regular and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban participated in a panel discussion on government regulation across multiple marketplaces.

But the largest treasure trove of Hollywood celebrities can be found at the SXSW Film Festival.  With more than 250 movies, documentaries and pilots screened throughout the week – roughly 30 of which can be classified as major features – stars by the dozen make their way to Austin to publicize their productions, virtually all of which are making their debuts at SXSW.

At the world premiere of The Ballad of Lefty Brown, actor Bill Pullman said the South-By Film Festival was the absolutely perfect venue for the launch of his movie.  “Lefty Brown is a traditional Hollywood Western,” he said “For a movie that’s shot in Montana, what better place than South-By-Southwest to unveil this film?

“Typically though,” Pullman said, “South-By is extremely supportive of pretty much all films.  The audiences here are generally knowledgeable and always appreciative.  It’s fun launching movies here in Austin.”

Actor and producer James Franco was joined by his brother Dave Franco and also Rogan for the launch of The Disaster Artist, a hysterical film that focuses on the 2003 making of The Room, labeled by many as the worst Hollywood movie ever produced.  Having enjoyed a massive rebirth as a cult film, Franco’s masterpiece is certain to spark an even greater revival.  “We are so proud to be here in Austin for this premiere,” said Franco, who traditionally – along with Rogan – appears regularly at the Festival.  “South-By-Southwest is exactly where we want to be.”

Other stars on hand to market their productions include Melissa McCarthy, Ryan Gosling, Charlize Theron, Melissa Leo, Peter Fonda, Michael Fassbender, Judd Apatow and Pierce Brosnan.

Later in the week, music takes over the spotlight, with keynote speeches, panel sessions and discussion groups featuring Garth Brooks, Mick Fleetwood, Lyle Lovett and Cindy Wilson.

For those who run South-By-Southwest, these celebrity appearances are hardly kept quiet.  Each year, the show releases – and then constantly updates – their list of attending celebrities, using those names as marketing tools to attract attendees.

Clearly, the process works.  After all, last year, nearly 100,000 people turned out for the 10-day show; and while there are no exact numbers to support this theory, better than even money can be wagered that most are not just here for the food and drink.

(In Photo: James Franco, Seth Rogan and Dave Franco at the SXSW premiere showing of The Disaster Artist. Photo by Michael Wertheim.)

Steve Winter, Brotman|Winter|Fried, a Sage Communications, Company, which is a Capitol Communicator sponsor.

 

 

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