Nothing Happens: 5 Intriguing Film-Festival Stories from South by Southwest (SXSW)

Joss Whedon's take on a Shakespeare comedy and a movie-ticket subscription service made news at SXSW film festival

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The cast and crew of 'Short Term 12' pose with the Grand Jury Award for Narrative Feature at the 2013 SXSW Film Awards on Mar. 12, 2013, in Austin.

Now that SXSW Interactive is over and the rest of the fest—film and music—begins to wind down before the respective Mar. 16 and Mar. 17 conclusions, it’s as clear as ever that film is the awkward middle child of the Austin event. But, as Deadline reminds us, while SXSW lags behind other major festivals in terms of major deal-making and star-studded premieres, it can provide clues about which movies to keep an eye on: after all, Bridesmaids bowed at South By—and we all know what the festival’s good word of mouth accomplished there.

Here are a few other movie-news items out of Austin that we’re sure to hear more about:

(MORE: TIME’s Complete Coverage of SXSW 2013)

(1)  Short Term 12, from director Destin Daniel Cretton, won the Grand Jury prize. Brie Larson of United States of Tara stars as a young woman working with troubled teens while struggling to deal with her own life. The movie is based on a short film of the same name that was an award winner at Sundance in 2009. Other festival prize winners include William and the Windmill for documentary, Burma for ensemble cast, and Tishuan Scott of The Retrieval for acting.

(2)  The first movie to get a distribution deal from SXSW this year was Cheap Thrills. As Deadline reports, Drafthouse Films and Snoot Entertainment bought the comedy, by first-time director E.L. Katz, about a down-on-his-luck dad offered financial security by a wealthy couple, in exchange for completing a series of twisted dares. The second acquisition of the week was Haunteran updated ghost story staring Abigail Breslin.

(3)  Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is catnip for Whedonites, Shakespeare-lovers, black-and-white-film buffs and rom-com crowds. The Buffy creator and Avengers director’s take on the Shakespeare comedy made news at the festival, though it had already been acquired (and given a June 7 release date) — positive buzz zoomed around the Internet this week. It doesn’t hurt that the movie features faces that will be familiar to anyone who has tuned in for a Whedon show. The director told TheHollywood Reporter that he sees the material as “a deconstruction of the romantic comedy that it is inventing.”


(4)  Danny Boyle fans got a really, really good look at Trance. You know you’ve got buzz when Deadline‘s Nikki Finke tweets the following:

Boyle, the director of Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting, presided over a SXSW event focused on his upcoming James McAvoy/Rosario Dawson thriller Trance, which opens in the U.K. at the end of this month. The audience may have been excited to see what he had to show—but many seemed to feel that he had shown too much, with Deadline reporting that Fox Searchlight was unhappy that crucial plot points were given away in the preview clip, although Boyle says the clip does not contain the “exact ending” to the movie. But the director didn’t seem too concerned: Entertainment Weekly reports that Boyle thinks spoilers get too much attention. Filmmakers hope that audiences are so focused on their movies that they forget what they’ve heard from the world outside. Sounds like a condition appropriate for this film’s title…

(5)  Movie tickets are the new subscription-service item. Okay, so this isn’t actually a movie—but it is a way to see lots of them. MoviePass is a service that allows subscribers to go to the movies, once a day, for a flat monthly fee. MoviePass has been around for a while, but its co-founder was at SXSW for the interactive portion of the festival and spoke to TIME’s Harry McCracken about the future of the business. That future will, hopefully, be cheaper and won’t get subscribers tangled up in whether theater chains want to be a part of the concept.

(READ MOREMoviePass, a Movie Subscription Service — for Theaters)