Cruise through the crowded Convention Center trade-show floor at South by Southwest and everyone’s trying to sell you something. Some of those doing the selling are cities, states, regions or countries trying to lure everyone from film producers and tech start-ups to those in the music industry to work, play and maybe set up shop in their part of the world.
From Quebec to Germany to Richmond, Virginia, they’re all here but there’s one newcomer nestled among them this year: Fort Worth.
With a booth on the convention floor, where Fort Worth musicians perform 15-minute sets at the top of each hour, and a 6th Street showcase scheduled for Thursday called Fort Worth House at Soho Lounge, the city is trying to attract attention to its possibilities as a filming location and to its music talent. It’s all part of the city’s effort to brand itself as a creative destination.
The booth is decorated with drawings of some of the city’s most famous artists -- Ornette Coleman, T Bone Burnett, Leon Bridges among them -- and the free swag available to passersby includes a CD featuring tracks from Luke Wade, Green River Ordinance, Reagan James, Joey Green and more. There’s also a screen showing music and CVB videos.
So far, the response has been all over the map. “It’s been outstanding,” says Tom Martens of the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau. “People are unaware that so many artists are from Fort Worth...Overall, the branding has been really well-received and it’s drawing people in.”
“With the filmmakers we’ve been able to speak to, they’ve been impressed by the variety of locations that Fort Worth has to offer,” says Jessica Christopherson of the Fort Worth Film Commission, which was just established in October. “People are discovering where Fort Worth is and what it has to offer so it’s exciting to share that.”
Martens said that a meeting planner swung by who had never even heard of Fort Worth before. Now she wants to consider it as a possible destination. “I’ve had people ask me because, they knew where Dallas was, but they had no idea where Fort Worth is...I said ‘Have you flown into DFW airport?’ She said, ‘yes, but I didn’t know the FW was for Fort Worth.”
Christopherson laughs, “That’s why we’re here.”
Others though are a bit more aware. Christopherson says she has inquiries from both coasts and far afield as Israel about possible relocation. “The reputation of Fort Worth of being such a friendly city and such a welcoming place, that word is starting to spread,” she says. “People are learning it’s easy to get business done there and we’re welcoming to filmmakers. I think it’s the same for the music scene, too.”
Fort Worth isn’t the only Lone Star city pitching itself. Houston, Denton and San Antonio all are here. But guess who’s not here? Dallas.