SXSW is largely a place of discovery, but for technology companies and creatives, it provides a massive platform to get in front of new audiences. In the case of filmmakers, it's an opportunity to debut their work and — fingers crossed — score distribution deals. After the 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, these creators and creatives were left without an avenue to showcase their work and audiences without the opportunity to see it.
In early April, Amazon Prime provided one of the only pieces of good news in the wake of this year's cancellation: it will screen the festival's films — for free.
Prime Video presents the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection launches on Monday, April 27, through Wednesday, May 6, with 39 films ranging from narrative and documentary features to shorts and episodic shows. All titles will be available for free for both Prime members and non-members.
Each film would have been screened during SXSW Film, the movie portion of the 10-day mega-festival. In an earlier release, SXSW said every filmmaker would be invited to take part in the Prime festival, but it was not required. An earlier release noted that filmmakers would receive an undisclosed screening fee to participate. On April 9, the Hollywood Reporter said it had reviewed the fee documents given to filmmakers, but it was unclear what the compensation would be.
Writes THR, "The compensation would be delivered after the projects complete the 10-day run on the service. But it is was unclear to filmmakers what type of compensation that 'screening fee' would be, which was troubling for filmmakers that were trying to accurately weigh the possible financial risk."
"We understand every film has its own strategy and we know this opportunity may not make sense for every filmmaker. However, for those who want to share their stories right now and with as many people as possible, we’re excited to provide them this platform,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, in an April 21 release.
Along with the titles, nonprofit Free the Work is curating Q&As and online panels to accompany the collection, bringing a bit of that South By spirit to the online streaming platform.
"Free the Work's mission is to find new pathways to the discovery of underrepresented creators and we're excited to help celebrate, spotlight, and provide a platform for the voices of these talented filmmakers," said founder and filmmaker Alma Har’e of the organization's part in the collection.
To take part, users must create a free Amazon account and can stream the films through a browser or download the Prime app to watch on personal devices and smart TVs. See a full list of participating titles here, and start planning your very own SXSW Film festival.