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Photo courtesy of Speak As One

Mental health apps are so alluring, but once you’ve recorded your two-week streak and things are feeling a little more organized, it can be hard to keep going. It’s hard enough to keep up with journaling and a great bedtime routine, and many lovely self-help tools also lose their effectiveness when the novelty wears off.

A smart company might harness that novelty as its hook — and an easily distracted self-helper won’t fall off the wagon. Like many other companies in the mental health space, Speak As One will work on a subscription model, but this one won’t languish, unused on a credit card statement. The service, which plans to launch during SXSW 2023, delivers boxes of tangible mental health tools, inspiration, games, and even sensory objects that act as a monthly nudge to try something new, and curiosity takes care of the rest.

A sample box included:

  • Stress balls with short inspirational phrases by MindPanda
  • An Emotional First Aid Kit containing advice for situations as they come up, like sleeplessness and feelings of inadequacy
  • Tiny colorful putties at different resistances by Flint Rehab
  • A notebook, and two books: Athlete Mental Health Playbook and 1000 Unique Questions About Me
  • Other small items

It’s more than packing and shipping out a few toys each month. The boxes are curated with help from a licensed therapist, who leaves a personal note along with tips on how to use the items inside and additional resources. There is one type of box right now that aims to “reduce anxiety, increase mindfulness, and promote peace and balance,” but for further customization (for $10 more), the team is working on boxes tailored to first responders, veterans, athletes, and people in “recovery.”

Speak As One emphasizes community stories in its branding outside the delivery box, and uses inspiration from “influencers” (less content creators and more so people who can embody a relatable story) to build the specialty boxes. The company’s YouTube channel shares dozens of interviews with founder Julie Korioth, a former board member for Austin’s SIMS Foundation, a well-respected mental health resource for members of the local music industry.

“With hundreds of millions of people struggling with mental health, and COVID making the issue much worse, society continues to ostracize those who openly discuss mental health issues,” said Korioth in a release. “I founded this company so we can change the way the world sees, discusses, and supports mental health. Our goal is to promote empathy, connectedness, acceptance, and thoughtfulness with an innovative toolkit that caters to specific needs."

In addition to offering a nudge, these boxes could make great care packages for a loved one who is feeling introspective or going through a significant life event. It is possible to buy gift boxes, if presentation is your thing, but it’d be just as easy to repackage a box that comes before the receiver ready to appreciate the items at home.

The cost of one box is manageable at $49.99 (especially considering the retail value of products included, which the sample box far exceed), but for many subscribers this adds up fast. Luckily, there is no pressure to continue a lengthy commitment — subscriptions last between one and six months, so users have plenty of time to reconsider and sit with the items that have already been delivered.“

The goal is to meet our audience at any phase of their mental health journey,” said Korioth. “We’re creating change and a global life-long support system for children and adults dealing with mental health challenges. We simultaneously highlight businesses, the tech community, athletes, and artists doing wonderful work in this space.”

The company plans to partner with corporations to connect with employees and provide boxes to individuals the company chooses, and will turn some content into session albums with sales proceeds dedicated to mental health research.

More information and links to preorder are available at speakasone.com.

Photo by Marcus Neto on Unsplash

SXSW and Rolling Stone magazine team up for new emerging artist showcase in 2023

Up Next

Few institutions can curate Austin the way South by Southwest (SXSW) has in its 35 years of programming. Even without the local advantage, Rolling Stone comes close with half a century of experience under its belt. Surprisingly enough, next year will mark the first year the two will enter a formal partnership during the SXSW festival, from March 14-17, 2023.

Showcases (accessible to wristband holders and registrants) are standard fare for the musical festival, which allows companies to participate through booking artists, often in micro-festival formats. There are nearly 200 performers already signed on for 2023 showcases. “The Future 20” is Rolling Stone’s contribution, which starts immediately among the more established showcases at a four-night span, and is already accepted as an annual project. It also booked an almost impossibly great venue: ACL Live at the Moody Theater.

Logistics aside, the real draw is, of course, the expertise behind Rolling Stone’s curation and the reputation it takes to book high-competition acts. In this case, the magazine has tasked its editors, in collaboration SXSW programmers, with choosing its top 20 emerging artists. This group will be international, genre-diverse, and perhaps most useful, introduced in editorial coverage preceding the show.

Nothing’s more exhausting than trying to get all the information on the many SXSW showcases playing in one night, not to mention each performer on the lineup. Audiences are lucky to get a record label bio. Not only will Rolling Stone consolidate all that information, it will tout the special value of each artist in its own voice through interviews, profiles, photos, and social coverage.

“This showcase is inspired by the spirit of SXSW, providing a stage to discover and elevate the next wave of influential artists,” says a press release. “Each night will showcase five acts spanning rock, indie, rap, hip hop, latin, [A]frobeats, R&B, soul, and more, giving fans a high-energy and unique glimpse into the future of music.”

“There is a deep connection between SXSW and Rolling Stone in our shared vision to recognize and highlight the work of rising musical stars,” said Rolling Stone CEO Gus Wenner in the release. “We are proud to give artists the platform to be recognized for their work and to create one more dimension in SXSW’s incredible slate of music programming for years to come.”

The Future 20 showcase is part of a larger initiative following its debut, which serves a similar purpose without the confines of a music festival. The series, called “Future of Music,” includes events as well as editorial coverage, and will be active until the Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas.

More information about SXSW, including a list of all currently registered showcases, is available at sxsw.com.

Photo by Blake Carpenter on Unsplash

SXSW unveils first round of nearly 200 music showcases for 2023 festival

That's Just Showing Off

Now that Austin City Limits Festival is over, there’s a void in Austinites’ consciousness where mega-lineups go. The 37th South by Southwest is swooping in with nearly 200 performers from around the world. The multi-hyphenate festival has just announced its first round of showcasing artists, to visit venues all over Austin from March 13-18, 2023.

The festival is always a hectic, but exhilarating mix of official and unofficial events, series, last-minute surprises, and shows to accidentally end up at during a normal evening out. Showcases are essentially SXSW-curated concerts, presented by industry partners in labels, booking agencies, and even media outlets or lifestyle brands.

Showcases are often part of other multi-day plans: for instance, in 2022, M for Montreal took over the Swan Dive on Red River Street for four nights of showcases, where it also hosted a cocktail party and networking event. It is returning for more in 2023. Gorilla vs Bear, another returning curation partner, held a similar event at Seven Grand and Las Perlas, with showcases by a dozen artists, which doubled as an afterparty for the premier of feature film Jethica.

Of the more than 190 performers on the first-round roster, 13 were from Austin: Being Dead, Big Bill, Chief Cleopatra, Colin Gilmore, Die Spitz, Fragile Rock, fuvk, Jad Fair and The Placebos, Letting Up Despite Great Faults, San Saba County, TC Superstar, Tribe Mafia, and Why Bonnie. Only two more were from elsewhere in Texas: Ariel & The Culture from Dallas, and Fat Tony from Houston.

There are lots of ways for Austinites and visitors to enjoy SXSW without a badge — including showcase artists participating in other events while in town — but showcases do require credentials. A music badge ($695) gives priority to music events like these, but other badge holders (film & TV for $995 and interactive for $1,095) get secondary access. Registration pages for each badge type show a full breakdown of which events are and are not included.

A full schedule goes up on October 25, detailing when, where, and for which attendees individual shows are going on. Users can add events to their own customized schedule. More rounds of showcase selections will be announced as planning progresses. This information and more on-demand content is available at schedule.sxsw.com.

SXSW Facebook

SXSW economic impact stumbles after multi-year pandemic closures

A Few Less Dollars

Still coping with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, South by Southwest saw its local economic impact drop 27 percent from the pre-pandemic year of 2019 to this year, 2022.

SXSW announced on September 21 that this year’s version of the music, film, and interactive confab generated an economic impact of $280.7 million for the Austin economy. By comparison, the economic impact of the 2019 gathering totaled $355.9 million.

Consulting firm Greyhill Advisors produced the 2019 and 2022 economic impact studies. Five days before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, the City of Austin shut down the 2020 edition of SXSW. The 2021 event was held virtually. This year’s in-person gathering lasted 13 days.

“We celebrate the return to Austin of SXSW and its unique energy that showcases the arts, live music, and technologies of the future,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler says in a news release about this year’s economic impact report. “SXSW captures why and how this city has become home to and attracts the most innovative and creative people. And once again, our local businesses and creatives were able to enjoy the support that SXSW brings.”

Although the economic impact of SXSW declined from 2019 to 2022, the event remains one of the biggest moneymakers for Austin’s hospitality industry.

In 2022, SXSW directly booked more than 10,000 individual hotel reservations totaling more than 45,500 room nights for event registrants. The average nightly hotel rate for SXSW-booked rooms in 2022 rose $2 over the average rate in 2019. Direct bookings by SXSW alone generated nearly $1.8 million in hotel occupancy tax revenue this year for the City of Austin.

Next year’s SXSW will be March 10-19.

“We were especially excited to see the crowds return … after being cooped up for so long,” says Hugh Forrest, chief programming officer at SXSW. “This year’s event was a huge success for the organization and for the city of Austin. While the anticipation of 2022 will be hard to top, we are thrilled to be producing an even stronger experience this coming March.”

Photo by Jessica Pages

SXSW unveils first round of featured speakers and sessions for 2023 festival

Get This

The beauty of South by Southwest is that attendees make their own lineups, even on the conference side. Still, there’s so much to look at every day, it helps that the festival chooses featured speakers to narrow things down.

On Tuesday, August 30, the storied Austin festival revealed a cast of 13 featured speakers for 2023, featuring personalities and experts in sports, business, music, food, and more.

The conference events — less talked about than the flashy music and film festival events, which are technically all under the former umbrella — include more business and information sharing than entertainment, in several formats. Keynotes are presentations in the form of conversations with a wide range of recognizable guests, often visiting to perform at some other time. Panels are slightly different, more topic based, and are mostly picked by the community. Workshops, mentor sessions, and meetups are more personally involved.

This leaves featured sessions, which the conference sets aside for industry leaders. Following 25 tracks including huge topics like civic engagement and niche ones like psychedelics, these presentations are all about finding the zeitgeist, and likely interrupting it with innovative questions and lenses.

Featured speakers (by individual) and sessions (by topic) include:

  • Kyle Andrew, Allyson Felix, and Gloria Riviera: Andrew, chief brand officer at Athleta will talk with track and field Olympian Felix, who also works in athletic wear, and reporter Riviera, who podcasts about childcare. About what? It’s anyone’s guess with this eclectic group.
  • Amy Gallo: Gallo is the woman you want on your side at work. Along with contributing to the Harvard Business Review and co-hosting its Women At Work podcast, she has her own book coming out soon called Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People).
  • Sophia Roe: James Beard Award-winning chef Sophia Roe hosts Counter Space, a Vice TV series that examines the world through food; not just culture but innovation and climate change. Her explorations are mainly in the name of inclusivity, sustainability, and food equity.
  • “2050: Digital Identity is a Human Right”: Working from home, staying in touch with friends, or even just using a site that requires a log-in, everyone who uses computers and smartphones has a digital identity, and Unstoppable Domains senior Vice President Sandy Carter wants that ubiquity acknowledged.
  • “Data Privacy After Roe v. Wade”: The last thing many U.S. citizens want right now is to leave a record that they may become pregnant…and not deliver. Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, Alexandra Reeve Givens of the Center for Democracy & Technology, and Nabiha Syed The Markup talk protections.
  • “RTR 2023: The Neuroscience of Self-Renewal”: Resilience has been a trending topic for a long time, but in this talk by Chief Technology Officer of Everbridge John Maeda, it’s narrowed down to self-renewal. Can trusting that process help people overcome upheaval?

The rest of the featured speakers announced in a press release containing the above developments are Ian Beacraft, Rohit Bhargava, Henry Coutinho-Mason, Bryony Cole, Alex Naghavi, Chris Hyams, Daniel Lubetzky, Guy Moot, Douglas Rushkoff, Joost Van Druenen, Amy Webb, and Molly White. It also details a featured session called “Design for a Better Future.”

The 2023 South by Southwest conference will take place March 10-19. Current selection processes include music and film submissions, and pitch entries. Registration to attend (starting at $595) is open at sxsw.com.

Photo by Charlie L Harper III

SXSW heads down under in 2023 with first festival in Sydney

SXSydney

One of Austin's premier events, South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals, is expanding beyond the Lone Star State. Bringing its famed celebration of the technology, film, and music industries to the Southern hemisphere, SXSW will head to Sydney, Australia, for seven days and nights from October 15 to October 22, 2023.

Much like its Austin counterpart, SXSW Sydney will gather the world’s most inspired thinkers, creators, and innovators for an exploration of the best in music, screen, gaming, technology, and innovation. The inaugural festival is sure to be a must-attend event for creators and professionals seeking to shape and discover future trends, emerging technology, and access unrivaled networking opportunities.

As a collaboration with TEG, The NSW Government & Destination NSW, SXSW Sydney will be the official annual Asia Pacific installment of SXSW, which has taken place every March since 1987 in Austin.

“We couldn’t be more excited and honored to work with TEG and the New South Wales Government via Destination NSW on an event that brings to Australia the professional opportunities and unexpected discoveries that make SXSW unique,” said Roland Swenson, CEO and co-founder of SXSW. “The purpose of SXSW is to help creative people achieve their goals, and Sydney is the ideal city to serve as a home for the cross-collaboration that exists within the many industries we bring together."

“SXSW is an event without equal internationally that has launched the careers of so many creative professionals,” said Geoff Jones, group CEO of TEG, event producer for SXSW Sydney. “Through showcasing the creator industries of the Asia Pacific to the world, SXSW Sydney will establish a new SXSW touchpoint, enabling the international and cross-sector connections that deliver the most innovative products and content."

Industry professionals, talent, partners, and more can register their interest now at sxswsydney.com.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort

tilman goes laguna

Fans of Tilman Fertitta's nationwide hospitality brands are in for a treat. The Billion Dollar Buyer has just secured an award-winning, 30-acre resort in sunny Southern California.

Fertitta has purchased the acclaimed Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel, a premier beachfront property in the sunny SoCal getaway destination. Notably, the Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel is one of only six hotels in the U.S. to score the Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel status. The Montage has also been included among Travel + Leisure’s Top Hotels in the World.

Image courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Fertitta's newest purchase overlooks the ocean in Laguna Beach.

“I am truly thrilled to acquire this world-renowned property and add one of America’s most iconic trophy resorts to our luxury hotel portfolio,” Fertitta noted in a statement. “I have been traveling to Laguna Beach for over 30 years. It is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The Montage is a stunning oceanfront property and one of the premier hotel brands in the world.”

Press materials didn't list the property purchase price, but Law360 reports that the deal is in excess of $660 million.

The Craftsman-style resort sits on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Impressive amenities are highlighted by the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movement studio, and a lap pool.

More outdoor fun includes two pools and direct beach access, a museum-quality fine art collection, and more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, per press materials.

Every resident space — the 260 guestrooms, including 60 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms, and multi-bedroom villas — boast stunning views of the Pacific.

Dining destinations offer chef-driven interpretations of coastal California flavors inspired by region. The property is designated and included in the distinctive Legend Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

“We are thrilled that Tilman is the new owner of this one-of-a-kind property and welcome him into the Montage family,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder, CEO, and chairman of Montage International. Mary Rogers, the Montage's GM added, “The staff is thrilled to be working with Tilman. Everyone here at the property is tremendously excited about his purchase and look forward to continuing to provide a world-class experience to all of our guests."

Aside from his palatial Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Fertitta also owns 14 other hotel properties around the country, including the award-winning San Luis Resort in Galveston, plus five popular Golden Nugget casino and hotel locations.

Another feather in Fertitta’s luxury portfolio cap is the iconic Huntting Inn, one of the most charming and historic locales in East Hampton, New York.

No stranger to California, Fertitta's presence there includes Catch Seafood and Catch Steak, Mastro’s Ocean Club and Mastro’s Steakhouse, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Palm, and more — all part of his 60 brands and more than 600 concepts nationwide.