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SXSW Sydney 2023 – the first five days: Where Creativity and Innovation Collide.

South by Southwest (SXSW) Sydney, the eminent futurist conference and festival, has brought together the Asia-Pacific region's most brilliant creative industries right to the heart of Sydney Harbour. This week-long extravaganza offers a staggering line-up of over 1,000 ground-breaking events and networking sessions, spanning pillars of Tech and Innovation, Games, Music, Screen, and Culture.

Highlights from the Grand Opening

The opening day of SXSW Sydney was nothing short of spectacular, and it had something for everyone:

SXSW Sydney Opening Ceremony: The event started with a warm "Welcome To Country" by Yvonne Weldon, followed by an introduction from SXSW Sydney Managing Director, Colin Daniels. A Smoking Ceremony by Dave Barnett added an aura of cultural significance, while performances by Eric Avery and the Jannawi Dancers captivated the audience. The event was graced by a speech from the Hon. John Graham MLC, the Minister for Jobs, Tourism, Arts, Music, and the Night Time Economy.

SXSW Sydney’s inaugural Opening Night: The Royal Hotel screened the highly anticipated Australian outback thriller, "The Royal Hotel." Co-written and directed by Kitty Green, the film brought Kitty Green, actor Ursula Yovich, and keynote speakers Charlie Brooker and futurist Amy Webb to the red carpet at the ICC’s Darling Harbour Theatre. Following the screening, Tumbalong Park hosted the official Opening Party of the SXSW Sydney Screen Festival.

• Big Questions with Adam Spencer: A series of engaging discussions curated by the entertaining Adam Spencer, featuring luminaries like Professor Toby Walsh, Professor Georgina Long, and Dr. Cameron Ferris.

Day Two Unleashes the Full SXSW Sydney Experience

The second day of SXSW Sydney was filled with action, including the conference, tech and innovation events, and a bustling schedule for the Screen Festival. The day's highlights included:

• Keynote: Amy Webb in Conversation: Attendees gathered to hear from futurist and CEO of the Future Today Institute, Amy Webb, as she delved into emerging tech trends and the future of technology. The session, hosted by author and broadcaster Adam Spencer, offered a glimpse into the technological frontier.

• Once Upon A Time in Hollywood: An inside look at Hollywood featured Australians both in front of and behind the camera. Jason Clarke, legendary director Phillip Noyce, actor Charmaine Bingwa, and screenwriter Amy Wang discussed their Hollywood experiences and how they relate to Australia.

• ONEFOUR: Against All Odds World Premiere: The documentary on Australian drill rap pioneers ONEFOUR premiered, followed by a panel discussion with the director, Gabriel Gasparinatos, and others.

Day 3: A Day to Remember

The third day of SXSW Sydney was a dynamic blend of intellectual exploration, insightful discussions, and vibrant entertainment. As the day unfolded, attendees were treated to a feast of knowledge and entertainment across various pillars of the event.

Rohit Bhargava's World-Changing Insights

The day commenced with a thought-provoking session by Rohit Bhargava, who delved into the intriguing realm of ideas. Bhargava explored the factors that distinguish world-changing ideas from those that fade into obscurity. His insights left the audience pondering the mechanisms behind the survival of revolutionary ideas in a rapidly evolving world.

Confronting Taboos: Menopause and Midlife

One of the day's highlights was the compelling panel discussion titled "Menopause and Midlife," featuring prominent personalities including Naomi Watts, Dr. Ginni Mansberg, and Alison Brahe Daddo. Hosted by Mia Freedman, this panel ventured into a subject often considered taboo: the experience of women transitioning through menopause. The discussion spanned life before, during, and after menopause, aiming to destigmatize the conversation surrounding women's health during midlife. The engaging discourse opened new dialogues around an often-overlooked topic.

The Art of Cutting-Edge Sports Documentaries

The day continued with Paul Martin, the Emmy-winning executive producer of Netflix's hit series, "Formula 1: Drive To Survive." Martin offered a glimpse into the making of this ground-breaking sports documentary series. He revealed the secrets behind its success, discussing everything from accessing the inner workings of leagues to crafting compelling episodic narratives. Martin, also the Co-Founder of Box to Box Films, shed light on how the popularity of "Drive To Survive" ignited a demand for more sports access shows. Panellists further delved into the evolving landscape of sports docuseries, shedding light on the format's appeal and its potential future.

Music and Gaming Unite

As the evening descended, attendees were in for a treat with two exhilarating events:

• Accenture Music Festival Opening Party: The Starship was set to host a night of discovery as the SXSW Sydney Music Festival kicked off in style. Music industry leaders, creatives, and marketers gathered to meet the visionaries behind innovative trends and ideas that promise to shape the music business for years to come. The event was proudly presented by Accenture, adding an air of innovation to the night's festivities.

• Games Opening Night Party - Stray Gods In Concert: The excitement continued at Fortress, where music and gaming merged on a grand stage. Renowned headliners Troy Baker and Anjali Bhimani were set to perform songs from the newly released game, "Stray Gods." Adding to the magic of the night, Australian artist and singer-songwriter Montaigne was ready to grace the stage. The evening promised an enchanting performance by musical artist Sarah Wolfe, courtesy of League of Geeks, creating an immersive experience that combined the best of music and gaming.

Day 4: A Day of Inspiration and Discovery

Day 4 brought the full scope of SXSW Sydney to life, with music, games, tech, conference, and screen events captivating the audience. Highlights included:

• Keynote: Charlie Brooker in Conversation with Julia Zemiro: Charlie Brooker, the mind behind Black Mirror, engaged in an intriguing conversation with Julia Zemiro, exploring his diverse catalogue and the crystal ball of Black Mirror.

• Tech Expo Opening: The highly anticipated Tech & Innovation Expo unveiled Intel's new Intel® Core™ 14th Generation desktop processor family, offering attendees a glimpse into the future of technology.

• Troy Baker in Conversation: Actor Troy Baker shared insights into his unique career spanning screens, games, and music.

Day 5: A Day of Learning and Insight

The fifth day of SXSW Sydney was a captivating voyage into the minds of visionaries across all event pillars, offering deep insights into their careers, strategic processes, and creative brilliance.

Cal Henderson Unveils the Slack Story

The morning began with an illuminating fireside chat between former Minister Victor Dominello and Slack CTO and Co-founder, Cal Henderson. Cal embarked on a narrative journey through the inception of Slack, sharing the story of its genesis and evolution. He also provided invaluable insights into the future of the workplace, shedding light on the role of AI and automation in shaping productivity. The conversation left the audience with a fresh perspective on the digital workspace.

Nicole Kidman and Per Saari: Unveiling the Essence of Blossom Films

Moderated by Peter Overton, this session was a heartfelt journey into the world of Nicole Kidman and Per Saari. The duo ventured back to their early memories, reminiscing on Nicole's passion for acting and producing, which began in her childhood. They also explored their enduring friendship and successful business partnership under Blossom Films. According to Nicole, the secret to creating outstanding productions lies in resilience and unwavering belief in one's vision. The session left attendees inspired to tackle their creative endeavours with resilience.

Celebrating 50 Years of Hip Hop with Chance the Rapper

The DH Theatre brimmed with anticipation as Chance the Rapper took the stage for a keynote conversation with Poppy Reid, Editor of Rolling Stone Magazine. The session celebrated the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop, delving into Chance's remarkable career and lyrical genius. Attendees had the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of Chance's personal experiences and how they have influenced his work, including his incredible charity, SocialWorks. It was an insightful look into the mind of a modern musical icon.

SXSW Sydney Pitch Grand Final: Paving the Way for Innovation

The pinnacle of the Tech & Innovation Festival, the SXSW Sydney Pitch Grand Final, took place with great anticipation. Winners from SXSW Pitch in Austin, collectively worth over $9 billion, showcased ground-breaking innovations. The event was a crucible of creative ingenuity, with the six category winners from across the festival coming together to crown the ultimate victor. The deserving champion was Lisa Milani, Co-Founder of Nanocube Health, whose innovation promises to have a transformative impact.

Hot Potato: The Wiggles' Endearing Legacy

The day concluded with a heart-warming tribute to The Wiggles, Australia's beloved children's entertainers. An early appearance of the original Big Red Car at Amazon's Primeville set the stage for the main screen event. The premiere of "Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles" offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of the four individuals who initiated the global phenomenon. It celebrated their enduring legacy of spreading joy to children around the world, and attendees left with a smile and a renewed appreciation for the magic of The Wiggles.

Day 5 of SXSW Sydney was a tapestry of insight, creativity, and iconic memories, underscoring the event's ability to encompass the spectrum of human innovation and inspiration.


Words by AW.

Photos courtesy of SXSW2023.


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