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Oklahoma’s big presence in film, music, interactive at SXSW Conference

By Heide Brandes

In March, when the national and global arts and interactive SXSW returns to Austin, Oklahoma will have a presence that few other states in the nation has.

With 72 countries represented, along with more than 65,000 people in attendance, SXSW is a set of film, interactive and music festivals and conferences that take place every March in Austin, Texas. It began in 1987, and the festival has continued to grow in size every year. In 2011, the conference lasted for 10 days, with SXSW Interactive lasting for five, Music for six, and Film running concurrently for nine days.

SXSW Music is the largest music festival of its kind in the world, with more than 2,200 “official” performers and bands playing in more than 100 venues. One of those venues, as well as one of the largest “presences” at the festival is Oklahoma’s The Buffalo Lounge.

“The Buffalo Lounge’s mission is to promote film, music and interactive from Oklahoma to the rest of the world,” said Abby Kurin, one of the organizers of the Buffalo Lounge. “We are one of only a handful of states that organizes anything like this or that gets the audience we have.”

The mission of The Buffalo Lounge includes providing filmmakers, musicians, and interactive companies opportunities to network and gain exposure in a fun, relaxed atmosphere that spotlights Oklahoma’s progress in these industries.

While in Austin, The Buffalo Lounge is an event and an outlet both for Oklahoma artists and entrepreneurs to connect with supporters and audiences. A collaborative effort to spotlight Oklahoma filmmakers, musicians and companies, the Lounge attracted more than 50,000 visitors in 2012.

“The Buffalo Lounge began in 2010 when the Oklahoma Film & Music Office, the Idea Collective and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber joined forces to create a collaborative effort to increase Oklahoma’s presence at the SXSW festival,” said Kurin. “The question was, ‘how do we take the Oklahoma brand and make it all inclusive?’”

Since then, more than 30 Oklahoma companies, agencies and organizations have participated in numerous events held by The Buffalo Lounge at a local Austin venue. In 2013, The Buffalo Lounge hosted four events at The 512, as well as a booth at the SXSW Exhibit Hall during SXSW 2013.

“2011 was a highly successful year for The Buffalo Lounge,” said Organizer David Kittredge. “Our venue opening the music portion had a line out the door and down the sidewalk.”

Musical artists like Graham Colson headlined the Buffalo Lounge events in 2011, and that year was the first time SXSW included interactive arts and companies into the mix. Whereas music and film took the spotlight in the previous years, the festival now centers around interactive and innovation.

“Across the board, the focus has been on start up companies, and with the help of i2e and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, we helped develop a program called Elevator Pitch to help start ups,” said Kittredge. “The Pitch Competition last year was the largest we had. Companies develop a 90 second elevator pitch and we had angel investors who judged which pitch won.”

Film also plays a big part of Oklahoma presence, said Ginger Roddick, the third organizer. In fact, the Buffalo Lounge kicks off the first event of SXSW.

“We invite members of the film industry to check out what’s going on in Oklahoma with film, and we host a big event so people can learn about it,” said Roddick.

The Buffalo Lounge hosted 411 Publishing and Entertainment Partners at the venue in 2013 for their first production incentives webinar. These webinars are filmed at Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival each year, so the organizers were excited about the addition to the Buffalo Lounge and SXSW.

“The entire idea of the Buffalo Lounge is to show the world how cool Oklahoma is,” said Kittredge. “It’s a great place to show others that there’s a large amount of growth in these industries in Oklahoma. Everyone here can relate to the fact that Oklahoma has not been seen as an epicenter for film, music or interactive, but we can now showcase those industries and bring more of it to Oklahoma.

“One of the biggest exports from our state in the past was of creative people,” he said. “Now, Oklahoma is a great place to be. We now have a creative culture that’s growing fast. Because of the collaborative nature of our creatives in the state, we now have a strong front to present in those industries at SXSW.”

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