How does Austin interact with the world, and how does the world interact with us?
That’s the question the SXSW Flashback crew is trying to answer with this year’s program, airing at 9 p.m. Thursday, July 16 (additional airdates). In its fifth year, SXSW Flashback 2015 is themed around the international portion of South by Southwest — from UK rockers Wolf Alice to the phenomenon that is Korean pop music.
“This year we’re doing it a little different, because we went with a theme, which was international,” said JJ Weber, executive producer of SXSW Flashback. “How do we interact with the world, and how does the world interact with us? And why are they coming to this festival? It’s insane how many people come.”
Weber and his SXSW Flashback crew have seen the annual festival grow tremendously in the last five years. Two years before SXSW Flashback began, Weber was doing SXSW coverage for another KLRU program called Docubloggers. That’s where he and another crew member got the idea for the new program, he said.
“I call it, ‘All the best bits,’” said Galia Farber, KLRU’s production & operations manager who works as a producer on SXSW Flashback. “It is insane. I kind of try to start looking at what’s announced and coming, and we chat about stuff, but initially a lot of it is also just reaching out, throwing darts and seeing what sticks, but also we have to try to just stay in the moment and say, ‘Alright, we think we’re going to to this,’ and something kind of serendipitous happens. We’ll be interviewing someone, and someone will suggest something, or you’ll randomly stumble upon a party, something that fits in with another interview. Some of it lands in your lap, almost randomly.”
It takes months for the program to come together — from tracking down rumors of celebrity keynotes months before the festival to the post-production process, which is part of the reason the show is a “flashback” that airs four to six months after the festival, Weber said. Another reason is that it can sometimes take a while for the bands, films and technology introduced at the festival to filter out to a larger audience.
“So much of the stuff that’s at the festival, like films, they come out months later,” Weber said. “Bands release their CDs later or they get found at the festival and they’re not popular at first. The tech companies release a product, and the general public won’t have even touched it until months later. So sometimes, it’s almost better to see the show after, to say, ‘Oh my gosh, I saw that at the festival,’ or, ‘That was here? Those people were here? I can’t believe they did that.’”
One of the biggest challenges, Weber and Farber said, was passing up well-known celebrities or some of the larger, hyped-up parts of the festival because they didn’t fit into the theme.
“This year was definitely very intentionally done. There are things we would not do because it was not international,” Farber said.
“The hardest part is when you’re handed things on a silver platter, and you don’t want them. It’s like, ‘Are we making a large mistake, or is this going to work fine?’ And the viewers can tell us about that,” Weber said.
That’s not to say there aren’t big celebrities in this year’s program — Ryan Gosling, after all, is Canadian.
“I just hope from this episode that viewers might see something they would never have seen otherwise, and get into some random world music or look into film that they never would have watched,” Weber said.
Watch SXSW Flashback at 9 p.m. Thursday, July 16 on KLRU.