The SXSW Film Awards are here. Don’t worry, the festival isn’t over; films will run through Saturday, and you’ll probably have better luck getting into them during the second act of the festival. The film awards actually refer to the jury awards (you’ll still be able to cast votes for audience awards at screenings). Jury awards are awarded in the following categories: Documentary Feature, Narrative Feature, Animated Shorts, Documentary Shorts, Midnight Shorts, Music Videos, Narrative Shorts, Texas Shorts, and Texas High School Shorts.  There are also Special Awards (like the Louis Black “Lone Star” Award), Audience Awards, and Design Awards.


Have another look at this year’s eligible films.

But what does a film festival award mean? What do you win? As much as everyone loves a SXSW statuette, every filmmaker I’ve ever met is after something more elusive: distribution.  Distributors are the guys who make sure the film makes it in front of you—the movie-goer.

To find out what the actual filmmakers think about the awards, we talked to Luke Korem, director of DEALT, the 2017 Audience Award Winner in the Documentary Feature Competition.

Do distributors care about awards?  Does winning an award at a festival like SXSW help you find a buyer?

Yes, distributors care about awards.  However, most often distributors are already circling and targeting films of their taste prior to the festival.  Winning an award won’t usually make or break the sale of a film, but it certainly helps!  Awards add visibility and thus help the distributor in their marketing.  So, winning an award at a known festival like Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, TIFF, etc can increase the asking price when making the sale.

DEALT won the Audience Award last year, but your features have been recognized at a number of festivals.  Is there one award that means more to you than the others (like an audience award, a jury prize, or recognition from a special interest group)?

Receiving an award of any kind is exciting and always gratifying.  It means people appreciate the hard work you put into each and every frame. Personally, I don’t have a preference for the type of award.  I will say winning the Audience Award at SXSW last year gave me the biggest rush because it was the world premiere.  There’s only one debut, and to receive an award from that audience is thrilling.

What’s happening with DEALT now? 

After SXSW, DEALT was sold to IFC / Sundance Selects, and its US release was in October.  We’ll soon be announcing an international deal, which will bring the film around the world.

Visit the official website to learn more about DEALT and its journey after the 2017 SXSW World Premiere.

Jim Gaffigan will present the 2018 awards tonight at the Paramount Theater.  Listen up for the winners so you can catch their encore screenings during the second half of the festival.  Happy watching!