PanelPicker® is the official SXSW user-generated session proposal platform. This easy, two-step online process allows the SXSW community to have a voice in what sessions are programmed at SXSW.

2021 Sessions Announced

Kat Candler, Amanda Marsalis, Jennifer Phang, and Todd Rohal - SXSW 2019. Photo by John Feinberg

Kat Candler, Amanda Marsalis, Jennifer Phang, and Todd Rohal - SXSW 2019. Photo by John Feinberg

About PanelPicker


SXSW values community input and involvement. The two-step online process PanelPicker® was developed to encourage the SXSW community to enter proposals and have a significant voice in Conference programming. The SXSW community is then able to browse proposals, leave comments, and vote to help shape the event.

Over 230 PanelPicker Sessions Announced

Explore over 230 PanelPicker® sessions sourced from the SX community and curated by SXSW staff. Browse the full list of sessions organized by Conference themes, specifically focused on our unique moment in history and a glimpse into what the future could look like.

View 2021 PanelPicker Sessions

2021 Event Information

SXSW is launching SXSW Online as part of our 2021 offerings. The digital experience will feature conference keynotes and sessions, screenings, showcases, networking, and exhibitions. The dates for SXSW EDU Online are March 9-11, 2021 and SXSW Online will take place March 16-20, 2021. Learn more »

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Philip Kalin-Hajdu

SXSW has become, starting with Game of Death in 2017 and every year since with meetups and mentorship and what was to be this year my first panel, not only the most important annual event in mine and my colleagues year, but one that felt comfortable and inspiring and fun.

Philip Kalin-Hajdu
Producer / Game of Death

Kat Candler

I love SXSW because it fosters gorgeous collaboration among a community of wickedly talented artists.

Kat Candler
Director / Hellion

Hannah Fidell

SXSW changed my life by introducing me to so many wonderful people that I’m happily working with and am inspired by today. After programming my first short, the festival gave me the confidence to dedicate my life to making films. Going to SXSW (with or without a film) feels like coming home. Janet and the entire film programming team have been true champions of independent film and I can’t thank them enough for all their support over the past few years.

Hannah Fidell

Stella Meghie

SXSW changed my life by giving me a platform to premiere my feature debut Jean of the Joneses. I love SXSW because they love true independent cinema!

Stella Meghie

Karyn Kusama

SXSW gave us one of the most fulfilling and thrilling moments of our film lives in front of the perfect audience. SXSW means discovery, it means surprise, and it means a jolt of energy, which was there in abundance for us. We carried that energy with us for the life of the movie. SXSW is where it's at.

Karyn Kusama
Director / The Invitation

SXSW, besides being one of the most amazing and diverse festivals in the world, was also key to Bomba’s career. The first time we played there we managed to get contacts such as signing with our former label in the US (Nacional) and booking for several European festivals. It’s awesome how Austin can be so musical and unite so many different genres during these days.


The New York Times – Music Fest

Originally a scrappy showcase for new bands, South by Southwest — or “South By,” as it is widely known — has long since morphed into a vast mix of media, marketing and pop culture, where major brands intermingle with tech start-ups and independent musicians to mutually drum up buzz.

The New York Times


SXSW has taught me so much about Music, Culture and even Technology! Every time I go, I learn something new! Plus, people come from all over the world, so this ain't your regular Festival ! Also getting a chance to meet attendees has been invaluable as they somehow down line the line lead to more opportunities. But most of all SXSW is fun ! As music should be! Doot doola doot doo...


John Berardo

The experience I’m trying to communicate with Dembanger is an enjoyable and hyper-realistic ride that pays homage to the movies I was inspired by, but with a modern take for today’s generation.

John Berardo
Filmmaker / Dembanger

Jiayan “Jenny” Shi

I hope after the audience watches the film, they walk away with the image of an extraordinary woman who had a wonderful life ahead and the impact of such a sudden loss in the community and everyone around her. I also hope Finding Yingying can help change the narrative of crime stories nowadays.

Jiayan “Jenny” Shi
Filmmaker / Finding Yingying

Annie Silverstein

The spirit of SXSW resonates deeply with us as filmmakers and Bull is a Texas born and bred film. Can’t think of a better TX homecoming.

Annie Silverstein
Filmmaker / Bull

Lynn Chen

The first two movies began at SXSW in 2011 and 2012, so I can’t think of a better place to premiere the final installment of the trilogy. Music plays a huge part in I Will Make You Mine, which is perfect for the whole focus of SXSW.

Lynn Chen

Iram Parveen Bilal

This is the first script I ever wrote and it is the film I always knew I had to make. I wrote the first draft of this film 13 years ago, during film school. I wrote it when I didn’t know if I had a voice that was worth listening to.

Iram Parveen Bilal

Brandon LaGanke and John Carlucci

SXSW has been a major contributor to our career. The very first project that we collaborated on got into the festival, and from there, our career started and has been going strong for 10 years. It’s kind of perfect that this will be the 10 year anniversary of our partnership and it all started at SXSW.

Brandon LaGanke and John Carlucci
Filmmakers / Drunk Bus

Sony Wow

All of us involved in WOW Studio are deeply moved by being recognized with this award and are appreciative of the title that really resonates with us. SXSW is a very unique stage for the purpose of our brand appeal and accelerating the open innovation.

Shigeki (Simon) Mori
General Manager of Brand Strategy Department / Sony Corporation


In recreating Westworld at SXSW, our goal was for fans to feel like they were stepping off the train and looking down the main drag into Sweetwater. We wanted to inspire that sense of wonder or apprehension or curiosity that takes over when a new guest visits the park in the show.

Steven Cardwell
Director of Program Marketing / HBO

Paul Solet

This is not a traditional doc by any stretch of the imagination, so a festival that is totally fearless and unusual was the perfect fit.

Paul Solet
Filmmaker / Tread

Colby Holt and Sam Probst

We felt like if any festival was going to program a film like Pig Hag it was going to be this one. It deals with tough issues in a grounded and offbeat way that we felt would play well with the vibe of SXSW audience, who might be willing to go somewhere weird, but honest.

Colby Holt and Sam Probst
Filmmakers / Pig Hag

Gabriela Calvache

I like the globalized feeling that SXSW brings forth in their festivals. I believe it’s an incredible privilege and honor to be part of a festival that interprets cinema as part of a cultural system and not as an isolated art.

Gabriela Calvache
Filmmaker / La Mala Noche

Patricia Ortega

I have always been a follower of SXSW as a special festival where industry and art merge into a whole. The right place to launch our movie to the world.

Patricia Ortega
Filmmaker / Being Impossible

Karen Maine

SXSW is an amazing festival that has premiered some of my all-time favorite films, so we knew it would be the best fest to launch our film to the widest and most receptive audience possible.

Karen Maine
Filmmaker / Yes, God, Yes

Alex Thompson

We knew we had a little movie, but we also knew it was a 'little movie that could', and SXSW is one of the few true champions of both the art and commerce of independent film.

Alex Thompson
Filmmaker / Saint Frances

Catalina Arroyave Restrepo

"Our film is connected to an indie spirit...We feel that SXSW has this same spirit and celebrates openness and risks, as we do in Days of the whale."

Catalina Arroyave Restrepo

Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts

SXSW is one of the most exciting festivals in the world, the new standard bearer for bold, innovative and independent filmmaking. We couldn’t be happier to have our world premiere here.

Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts
Directors / For Sama

David Modigliani

There is no better place to screen a film than at the Paramount, to the SXSW audience, which is one of the most engaged audiences I’ve ever seen.

David Modigliani

Olivia Wilde

I can now call myself a SXSW Filmmaker, and that is a huge honor.

Olivia Wilde
Director, Actress, Producer, and Activist / 2019 SXSW Film Keynote

Hugh Forrest PanelPicker Quote

"PanelPicker connects us with the thousands of creative professionals, experts and decision-makers from the many disciplines in the global SXSW community. This interface helps us identify the most compelling new ideas within the many different industries we serve and, in so doing, keeps SXSW exciting, timely, and relevant."

Hugh Forrest
SXSW Chief Programming Officer

David Carr Prize Prompt

“What do we do with our time and lives if society no longer depends on us to work?”

Quote Highlight 3

Peanut. Hazelnut. Cashew nut. Macadamia nut. Pine nut, which is a nut, but it's also the name of a town.

– Harlan Pepper

Quote Highlight Test 2

The owls are not what they seem.

Quote Highlight Test 1

Don't go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to.

2021 Themes



2020 has amplified issues like racial injustice, poverty, nationalism, and the climate crisis amidst a global pandemic. The future depends on the business, non-profit, government, science, and technology communities all working together. What advancements are needed to create immediate and lasting progress?


If we are to achieve real change as a society, then the many ways in which the tech industry impacts our lives must be leveraged as a positive force. To build a better tomorrow, what lessons can an industry integral to our existence learn from its current failings?


Great art often thrives in times of turmoil and chaos. How will the eruption of creativity we are currently seeing across music, film, experiential, written, and visual arts impact our culture for the next decade and beyond?


From startups to small companies to major corporations, capitalism must be examined as we look to rebuild the global economy. A potential leveling of the playing field awaits if we seize this opportunity for more equitable systems across race, gender, and class.


Conventional wisdom from entertainment industries has lost its shine in the face of evolving consumer habits, technological advancements, and an increased focus on social issues. These pressures are forcing a much needed metamorphosis. What lessons can music, film, television, sports, and gaming learn to keep up with an ever-accelerating pace of change?


We’re living lives we never could have imagined as we head into our own brave new world. The consequences of social isolation have been brewing for years. Now online platforms are some of the only outlets available to foster a sense of community. How do we return to a world where individual concerns give way to embracing the value of humanity?


Biohacking, consumer space travel, quantum physics, radical life extension, drone delivery — these concepts that once belonged in science fiction are now part of our immediate future. What mind-blowing new ideas will inspire the next generation of innovators?

Community Voting


All ideas received during the PanelPicker® entry period will be posted online for community voting from November 10-20, 2020. It’s as easy as “review, comment, and vote” to help shape SXSW programming.

Community votes comprise 30% of the final decision plus input of the SXSW Staff (30%) and Advisory Board (40%) helps ensure that less well-known voices have as much of a chance as being selected to speak at SXSW as individuals with large online followings. Together these percentages help determine the final content lineup.

PanelPicker Community Voting graph

Public Votes: 30%
Who knows what you want to see at SXSW better than you? Your input is very important in terms of shaping the look and feel of the March event.

SXSW Advisory Board: 40%
A group of 200+ industry experts from around the world, the SXSW Advisory Board provides significant feedback on all entries.

SXSW Staff: 30%
With years of experience programming this event, SXSW staffers work to fill any gaps in relevant subject matter, striking a balance between new and veteran speakers.

Learn More

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