SXSW festival features members of NYU community

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Several NYU students headed to the annual music, film and interactive conference and festival South by Southwest — a beacon for rising stars in their respective industries — over spring break.

Held in Austin, this year’s festival lasted from March 7 to March 16. Over 30 NYU students participated, including master’s students Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers in the film conference, Tisch alumna Calli Higgins in the interactive conference and music business professor Judy Tint in the music conference.

Bliss and Rogers’ film “Fort Tilden” received the grand jury prize in the festival’s narrative feature competition. They said their experience at the conference could be the start of their professional careers.

“Once we won we were contacted by a few major publications for interviews,” Bliss and Rogers said in an email. “It’s been a very gratifying and surreal experience.”

The festival was also a chance for them to meet several other artists, brought together by months of hard work and common goals.

“It was an exhausting, overwhelming and sleepless experience, but [it is] something everyone should push themselves through at least once,” they said.

Higgins, who graduated from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development in 2007 and the Tisch School of the Arts in 2011, currently teaches in Tisch’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. She was nominated to SXSW’s Interactive Awards for her app ThrowBack, a photography app which allows users to take a photo that will be emailed back to them in the future. The project started as Higgins’ master’s thesis in ITP. After submitting the app to SXSW last fall, she launched the app for iOS and Android in early 2014.

Higgins said the festival is worth attending even for those who are not submitting pieces into the competitions.

“I would encourage people to explore areas of the festival that fall out of their comfort zone,” Higgins said. “Narrow down the talks that interest you in advance, but make sure that you can still be spontaneous.”

Tint took part in the SXSW Interactive Mentor Session, a panel offering one-on-one career advice from industry professionals. Viewers of the panel could read information about mentors in advance to select a mentor based on their career aspirations.

“I find that the people who got the most out of the process had done their homework, knew something about their mentors and had specific, thoughtful questions,” Tint said.

SXSW, mixing business with pleasure, presented the chance for students to connect with people in the same industry, attend conference panels and, of course, hear as much music as possible.

Sam Del Rowe is a staff writer. Email him at features@nyunews.com.

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