Gary Vaynerchuck at SXSW 2017

By Alvin Singh

Once again tens of thousands of people are heading to Austin, Texas for the largest tech, film and music convergence in the United States better known as South by Southwest (SXSW). This is my third attendance but the first one that I’m doing full exclusive reporting on the ground.

My previous attendance was as a speaker I was working in a different capacity. Photojournalism during live events is fast paced and requires some good sneakers cause your on your feet for hours.

I’ll be filming with various equipment during this mission using the latest technology in digital photography and 360 videos. Drones for large crowd footage and Austin’s beautiful skyline. This year’s keynote speakers are a wide range of thought leaders from National Geographic photographer Cory Richards to filmmaker Lee Daniels to Garth Brooks. The SXSW Conference is a melting pot opportunity for global professionals at each level to network, interact and learn about what’s next in the world of culture, technology and entertainment.

In the film world this year’s documentary highlights are Walk With Me, Stranger Fruit and Barbecue. Walk With Me goes deep inside the Zen community highlighting the life and meditations of Thich Nhat Hanh in the pursuit for deeper connections with the world around us. Barbecue dives into the ritual practices performed across the world from South Africa to Sweden journeying to 12 countries to talk about the art of grilling meat.

As for the tech geeks, this year has a plethora of speakers and innovators walking around looking to close the next deal. Many of the sessions this year are covering discussions on virtual reality, influencer marketing and building chatbots for customer relationship.

With 350 sponsored events set around Austin this year, fewer than last year’s comparisons. Top brands such as Samsung, Spotify and Bud Light have decided to do highly curated private events for rising cost, cluttered marketing and budget cuts.

Even former Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak to outline his plans for a new cancer initiative that we started in the White House. His talk will be part of SXSW Interactive’s Connect to End Cancer series.

HBCU@SXSW is on its second year as the idea from Rodney Sampson, co-founder of Opportunity Ecosystem partnering with Tennessee Titan defensive end Derrick Morgan and tech investors. The effort is to help build startups connect with investors and introduce black students from historically Black colleges to learn the culture of Silicon Valley and address the issue of diversity in the tech industry.

Other highlights: A “Game of Thrones” panel will round up show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss with actresses Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner, who play Stark sisters Arya and Sansa.

And “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” director Gareth Edwards is returning to SXSW. Edwards will deliver one of the film festival’s keynote speeches Monday.