2019 South by Southwest: What to expect at this year’s SXSW event

March 6, 2019

by Carla Hay

SXSW 2019

The “Ready Player One” activation at SXSW 2018 (Photo by Alexa Gonzalez Wagner)

The South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference & Festivals (held every year in Austin, Texas) is arguably the best-known event in the U.S. that combines music, film, interactive and convergence programming. The 33rd annual SXSW event takes place from March 8 to March 17, 2019.

Here are some of the anticipated highlights of the festival:

Keynote and Featured Speakers

The lineup of SXSW keynote speakers includes:

  • Actress/filmmaker Olivia Wilde
  • Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer/songwriter T Bone Burnett
  • Quibi co-founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman
  • Beastie Boys co-founders Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond
  • Shirley Manson​ (lead singer of Garbage) and ​Lauren Mayberry​ (lead singer of Chvrches) in a keynote conversation
  • Kevin Systrom​ (co-founder/CEO of Instagram) with ​Josh Constine (editor-in-chief of TechCrunch) in a keynote conversation
  • BuzzFeed co-founder/CEO Jonah Peretti
  • Marti Noxon (writer/producer, whose credits include HBO’s “Sharp Objects” and Bravo’s “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce”)
  • William Morris Endeavor chief marketing officer Bozama Saint John and supermodel Ashley Graham in a keynote conversation
  • Emmy- and Grammy-winning comedian Kathy Griffin
  • Tech entrepreneur Joseph Lubin

Featured speakers include:

  • Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster
  • Emmy-winning actress Elisabeth Moss in conversation with Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile
  • Movie/TV producer Jason Blum
  • Grammy-winning musician Wyclef Jean
  • U.S. Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez
  • TV journalist Katie Couric,
  • Former Starbucks chairman/CEO Howard Schultz
  • BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) founder Bjarke Ingels​,
  • Singer/songwriter David Byrne
  • #MeToo activist Susan Fowler,
  • Singer/songwriter Amanda Palmer
  • Actress/filmmaker Zoe Saldana
  • Sci-fi writer/producer Neil Gaiman
  • ABBA co-founder Björn Ulvaeus
  • Emmy-winning actor Henry Winkler
  • Georgia politician Stacey Abrams
  • Singer/producer Lance Bass
  • Author/journalist Malcolm Gladwell
  • Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser​
  • BenevolentAI CEO Joanna Shields
  • Future Today Institute founder Amy Webb
  • Author/journalist Michael Pollan

Music Performances

Khalid performs onstage at Sony Event during SXSW at Trinity Warehouse on March 15, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW)

There are about 2,000 artists who perform at SXSW every year. In 2019, some of the biggest names include Khalid, Billie Eilish, Bully, Dan the Automator, Dreezy, Lizzo, Laura Jane Grace and Lukas Nelson.

Movie and TV Premieres

Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong’o and Evan Alex in “Us” (Photo by (Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures)

SXSW has a wide variety of feature-length and short films. Here are some of the more high-profile feature films that will have their world premieres at the festival:  the horror movie “Us,” from writer/director Jordan Peele and starring Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke; the stoner comedy “The Beach Bum,” starring Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron and Snoop Dogg; the teen comedy “Booksmart,” the feature directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde; the drama “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” starring Shia LeBeouf and Dakota Johnson; and the comedy “Long Shot,” starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen. Documentary films that will have their world premieres at SXSW 2019 include “Running With Beto,” about Texas politician’s Beto O’Rourke’s U.S. Senate campaign in the 2018 mid-term elections; the concert film “Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story”; and “I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter,” which reports on the controversial case of a teenager who pressured her boyfriend to commit suicide.

TV shows that will have episodes premiering at SXSW 2019 include Taika Waititi’s “What We Do in the Shadows,” a FX vampire comedy series based on his 2014 film of the same name; the final three episodes of Comedy Central’s “Broad City”; the premiere episode of Hulu’s “Shrill,” starring “Saturday Night Live” cast member Aidy Bryant; and the premiere episode of OWN’s “David Meets Man,” the first TV project from Oscar-winning “Moonlight” screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Comedy Performances and Q&As

Kathy Griffin in “Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story” (Photo by Tanne Willow)

Participants in the 2019 SXSW Comedy Festival include Kathy Griffin; Trevor Noah and other stars of “The Daily Show”; Doug Benson; Todd Glass;  Busy Phillips; Ricky Velez; Upright Citizen’s Brigade​ co-founder Matt Besser; and “Broad City stars” Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer.

Showcases include “The New Negroes with Baron Vaughn and Open Mike Eagle,” ​a new stand-up and musical series which premieres on Comedy Central this spring. There will also be the musical comedy showcase Riffs and Riff Raff with Nick Thune & Friends. Paul F. Tompkins ​will host the variety show “​Dynasty Typewriter Presents That’s Enchantertainment!​,” and there will be another Roast Battle this year.