During spring break, Southern Miss and Butler University students attended SXSW, a ten-day interactive, media and film festival located in Austin, Texas. While there, they attended movie premieres, networked with professionals, attended panel discussions and learned about innovation in the entertainment and tech industries.
Assistant professor of media and entertainment arts, Jonathan Pluskota, Ph.D., along with Paul Linden, Ph.D., associate professor of communications at Butler University, brought students from both of their programs to attend SXSW. The two used to work together at Southern Miss and have previously attended SXSW.
This is Pluskota’s sixth year attending SXSW. When he first started bringing students to the festival, his primary goal was to get them volunteer experience in their field.
“It’s almost like what we would call an externship, which is like a concentrated short amount of time in your field to see if it’s something that you’d really like to do, but it was also about the sessions. The people who are here are in the industry. When you’re talking about having anywhere from two to four people on a panel talk about their experiences, we can’t even afford to get one of them to come over,” Pluskota said.
Students at SXSW attend more than 20 sessions and get to learn from anywhere from 40 to 80 people in the industry.
“To be able to pick up on that information from people outside of the classroom that have made it, that have been successful, that are entrepreneurs, that are movers and shakers – I think that’s so important,” Pluskota said.
Pluskota also said that SXSW is important because it allows for students to see a real-life application of the things they learn in classrooms.
“It would be egotistical for me to think that I cover everything in my classes–I don’t. There are people who know more about it, so why not bring people to come listen to their expertise in their fields?” Pluskota said.
Three of his former students have gotten a job in Austin after attending SXSW.
“It’s definitely possible,” Pluskota said. “It’s all about the initiative and the tenacity. They also offer internships here too. This is the first year I’ve had so many younger students on the program, and that’s good for them if they take the initiative and want to do an internship their senior year. An internship with SXSW would be a really great experience for them.”
Students came to SXSW for many reasons, from looking for connections within their industries to being able to capitalize on the opportunity.
Senior recording industry major Demetrius Morrissette said he came to “meet new people and make some connections in the music industry.”
“ It’s been great, honestly. I’ve been loving everything I’ve seen and everything I’ve learned. I met Wyclef Jean and everyone that he’s had on his latest album, and they gave me some great tips. I met people from New York and Asia; they’ve got my contact information and my Instagram, and they’ve really been hitting me up. Come and don’t miss this experience. It’s definitely worth the money,” Morrissette said.
Junior broadcast journalism student Ikiesha Green said her professor, Mary Lou Sheffer, Ph.D., suggested she go.
“I came mainly because Dr. Sheffer wanted me to, but I’m really glad I did because I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned to network with people, even if they’re not in the direction that I want to go in,” Green, said.
Green said her favorite parts of SXSW was being able to attend the premiere of the film “Us.”
“It’s cool because we’re from Mississippi and obviously don’t go to movie premieres,” Green said. She also said she thought networking with movie directors was fun.
Patrick Wright, sophomore marketing major, said he decided to attend SXSW because it seemed like a cool opportunity.
“I got to see “Us” a couple of weeks before its premiere, and I saw some reviewers from Rotten Tomatoes. They argued a bit and it was a lot of fun. They were very jovial. I got to see Olivia Wilde speak. She’s a really great speaker. I also got to see some other great speakers as well. I went to the Q&A of “Us” and I met a film reviewer from Pop Axiom. I met a producer from Rooster Teeth, and an animator at Pixar while in line,” Wright said.
Pluskota advised those who want to attend SXSW to come with an open mind.
“Be prepared to go to sessions that are outside of your area. That’s really where you learn a lot. You’re going to be exhausted. It’s going to be tiring. You’re going to have to pace yourself. It’s ten days of just immersion and it’s just constant – everything that wants your attention is asking for it at the same time, so you have to focus on that and prepare ahead of time, too. Set your schedule and be prepared to change it at the last minute,” Pluskota said.
photo courtesy Inverse