SXSW 2021 Planning Online Festival, Does Not Specify Status Of Traditional Fest

While it's too soon to decide (officially) to cancel a physical, in-person version of SXSW 2021, the fest doesn't want to be caught off-guard again. In 2020, the decision was made at almost the last possible minute to cancel SXSW – a wise choice that still cost the City of Austin a large amount of money. As the never-ending nightmare that is 2020 draws to a close, organizers are hedging their bets and planning for an online event for 2021. There are still hopes for a traditional in-person event for 2021, but in the meantime, SXSW 2021 online is in the works.

What does the future hold for film festivals? Right now, it's hard to say. Several festivals had to cancel this year, or compromise with online components. And while there was once a hope that the coronavirus situation would be over and done with sooner rather than later, it doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.

Rather than wait around and suffer the consequences, SXSW is planning ahead. Today, they announced that SXSW 2021 will be held online. That's not to say there won't be a physical event. Indeed, the official statement from the fest even adds: "SXSW is working with the City of Austin and public health authorities on plans for a physical event in 2021. We will provide updates as more information becomes available."

But that reads like bet-hedging to me. SXSW would prefer to have a physical event, and they'll continue to hope it happens. But in the increasingly likely chance that it doesn't, the festival at least now has a backup.

Roland Swenson, CEO and Co-Founder, said: "The challenge of building a new future is one that we're excited to tackle. This has been such a year of change and we, like the entire world, are reshaping our perspective on how we connect. We're pleased to be working on SXSW Online as part of our program for 2021, and regardless of platform, we will continue to bring together the brightest minds from creative industries worldwide."

The digital experience will feature conference keynotes and sessions, screenings, showcases, networking, and exhibitions. Here are some dates to keep in mind:

  • SXSW and SXSW EDU PanelPicker Entries: October 6 – October 16, 2020
  • SXSW Film Festival Submissions: October 6 – October 28, 2020

    Press Accreditation Open: November 10, 2020 – February 10, 2021

    SXSW EDU Online: March 9 – March 11, 2021

    SXSW Online: March 16 – March 20, 2021

    In 2020, SXSW was canceled for the first time ever due to the coronavirus. The fest was scheduled to kick-off on March 16, and SXSW didn't announce its official cancelation until March 6. While cancelation was obviously the right call, the last-minute nature threw everything into a kind of chaos. By planning for an online festival in 2021, SXSW avoids the same dilemma two years in a row.