Fest is the place to catch breaking talent and trends

After the film and interactive players departed Austin, a louder and shaggier music crowd took over the festival, helping solidify its reputation as a vital destination to catch and debate breaking talent and trends — including the emerging hotspot of alt-comedy.

Record-breaking attendance of the concurrent film and interactive conferences (up 25% and 40% respectively from 2009), new programming that reflected their natural crossover and the ubiquitous influence of tweeting created a dynamic and intense atmosphere in this laidback city, whose slogan is “Keep Austin weird.”

Kickstarted by SXSW staffer Charlie Sotelo a few years back, comedy programming is an emerging strand here, attracting big auds for faves from the alt-comedy scene.

The grungy attire of the music folks promenading 6th Street, SXSW’s main drag, was noted — to big laughs — by comic Pete Holmes, first up in Comedy Central’s inaugural SXSW showcase.

“SXSW has always been such a cool, trend-setting place and the comedy presence here is growing so we wanted to be a part of it,” said Comedy Central talent scout Anne Harris.

Comedy Central execs were in full force, including original programming senior VP Lisa Leingang, also planning to scout talent from the remaining film slate.

The channel also showed auds the first episode of new animated series “Ugly Americans” before its broadcast preem that night.

With programming support from L.A.’s Comedy Death-Ray co-founder Scott Aukerman, Sotelo said SXSW comedy is in line with the fest’s spirit of discovery.

“When Hannibal Buress first played here no one had heard of him and now he’s a writer for SNL,” Sotelo said. “Comedians want to come and hangout at SXSW — because wherever the comedians are, that’s where they want to be.”

While buzzing pics like Lena Durham’s narrative competition winner “Tiny Furniture,” Aaron Katz’s mumblecore thriller “Cold Weather” and Jeff Malmberg’s docu winner “Marwencol” seem certain to find release homes following their SXSW bows, dozens more will find auds via new frontiers discussed this week.

For all the tweet-generating panel debates among biz and creative players about studio vs. self distribution, competing delivery and business models and similar issues about the future of specialty film, SXSW’s main draw remains its atmosphere of serious fun.

Where else could a fan watch the world premiere of “Lemmy,” a docu about the frontman of the legendary band Motorhead, catch a live set by the trio and spot the man himself taking a pedicab ride?

Music and film also converged in other programs. Screenings of Bahman Ghobadi’s Cannes fave “No One Knows About Persian Cats” were complemented by a set from pic’s featured band, the Yellow Dogs, one of three Tehran acts playing at the fest.

Veteran Canuck helmer Bruce McDonald’s “This Movie Is Broken,” with a story penned by Don McKellar, premiered against a live concert by Toronto rock collective Broken Social Scene, with auds primed to catch the band’s showcases.

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