25 Years of SXSW Film Festival – Adam Leon

To commemorate the 25th edition of the SXSW Film Festival, we continue our weekly alumni spotlight on careers launched, artists discovered, powerful performances, and more with filmmaker Adam Leon.

Leon’s directorial feature debut Gimme the Loot world premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2012 and won the Grand Jury Award for Narrative Competition. Gimme the Loot earned Leon the Independent Spirit Award for “Someone to Watch” and an additional nomination for “Best First Feature” in 2013. Both Gimme the Loot and Leon’s second feature, Tramps are available to view on streaming services.

We are pleased to share his #SXSWFilm25 story with you.

“The team at SXSW were the first people to take a chance on us. There was nothing to sell this movie except the movie itself. It was everyone’s first feature, there was no ‘name’ cast, it’s beyond low budget. We really had nothing going for us. When we were trying to make it, we couldn’t get a meeting – I think we had two in total with anyone associated with the ‘industry’. In one, the person told us to change the lead characters from black to white. In another, the guy told me I should not to make this movie, that it wouldn’t work.

We came to Austin with 18 people, most of us sleeping on floors and couches. We didn’t have agents or distribution. We all smelled pretty bad. And it was a blast. For the first time me and my team could legitimately say that this is what we do. We’re actors and directors and producers. It’s real! We’re in the program guide, we’re on that poster, you can’t take this away from us!

There’s such an energy down there, it sounds corny but it’s a ‘can do’ spirit – ‘Hey, we’re filmmakers’ and you get a ‘Right on!’ instead of an eye roll – everything is just so encouraging, so empowering to do you, to make things they way you want to. Don’t fit in a box, don’t follow this template.

A couple months later we were at Cannes in tuxes, smelling slightly better, with international and U.S. distribution, sales agents, Hollywood agents, multiple publicists. I remember saying to one of my producers, ‘What just happened?’ I’m still not sure but I know it doesn’t happen without the approval from SXSW and attention we got while down there. It started everything for us.

SXSW was the first place to believe in us when we needed it most. They played the movie simply because they liked the movie. It sounds simple, but I know from working in the festival world for years that this is often not the case. I’m so thankful that they have the freedom to do that, to just say, ‘This seems interesting, lets show it.’ Being down there without a doubt changed my life and the lives of so many people I was able to work with. I know we’re all forever grateful.”

See you March!

Take a look at our 2018 SXSW Film Festival Lineup. During the nine days of SXSW, 132 Features will be shown. The full lineup will include 44 films from first-time filmmakers, 86 World Premieres, 11 North American Premieres, and 5 U.S. Premieres.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SXSW News for the latest SXSW coverage, announcements, and updates.

Gimme the Loot – Photo by Bradley E. Dugdale III

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