Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and eOne

The adaptability of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D or dnd, colloquially) has brought it well into the 21st century and even into its diametric opposite: a scripted, finite creative work. This isn’t the first time the tabletop role playing game has been adapted into a feature film format, but it’s certainly the highest profile with an ensemble cast including Chris Pine and Hugh Grant. It’s only fitting that its release should open the festival where strange things go on to become the gold standard, South by Southwest.

The festival announced on January 11 that Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has clinched the prestigious spot previously occupied by the wacky but heartfelt 2022 standout Everything Everywhere All At Once (now making rounds on social media again thanks to wins and moving speeches at the Golden Globes). This highly anticipated world premiere has what the A24 film did not before its meteoric success: a staunch fan base nearly 50 years in the making.

For the suddenly-decreasing population of uninitiated onlookers — thanks to TV shows like Stranger Things, Freaks and Geeks, and Community, and actual-play streams like Critical Role and Dimension 20 Dungeons & Dragons is essentially structured make-believe. A staggering collection of official rulebooks applies a dice-based system of logic and possibilities that players navigate verbally. Say one player is a Legolas-like elf ranger; she may decide to jump over a chasm, rolling a 20-sided die to dictate how successful she is as the narrative pushes on.

“A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers embark on an epic quest to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people,” describes a press release. “The movie brings the rich world and playful spirit of the legendary roleplaying game to the big screen in a hilarious and action-packed adventure.”

Because these hyper-dramatic fantasy games tend to be played by friends in marathon sessions at home, the resulting narratives often take on a campy, scrappy tone that a trailer for the new film immediately reflects. It is borderline nonsensical that a group of underprepared, randomly assembled heroes would need to save the day via a buckshot plot (it’s unclear so far what actually happens in this film besides watching fun tropes play out), and that describes the overwhelming majority of real D&D campaigns.

The rest of the cast is not quite as mainstream as Pine and Grant, but they’re getting close. The appropriately motley crew includes San Antonian Michelle Rodriguez, who played a supporting role with Pine in the Fast & Furious franchise; Bridgerton heartthrob Regé-Jean Page; Jurassic World park technician Justice Smith; It protagonist Sophia Lillis; Guilt star Daisy Head; and athletic Avatar actress Chloe Coleman, only 14 years old.

Conspicuously missing from the official list of directors (Game Nights Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley) is actor and Dungeons & Dragons writer Joe Manganiello (True Blood, Magic Mike), known for his especially committed devotion to the tabletop game. Manganiello is the highest-profile Hollywood D&D player aside from Stephen Colbert, who has only recently dipped his toes back into a childhood obsession. Reports in October excitedly anchored the film to Manganiello as a co-director with Kyle Newman, but the initial script seems to have been scrapped.

Beyond the effects of cast, crew, and plot, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves represents something oddly universal to players, yet almost completely unique in film: What would happen if anyone in the theater wrote the script?

More information about SXSW’s film programming is available at sxsw.com.

Photo courtesy of Speak As One

New Texas-based mental health subscription box plans national launch in 2023

Speak Now and Hold Your Peace

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 in Austin during SXSW in spring 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 courtesy of SXSW

SXSW celebrates 2021 festival with special $149 passes

SXSW 2021

SXSW was arguably the first Texas company to fall victim to the pandemic. On March 6, just days before the 2020 festival was scheduled to begin, local officials issued an emergency order, effectively banning large-scale events in Austin as the novel coronavirus began spreading across the U.S. As a result, SXSW canceled its flagship 10-day festival for the first time ever.

In retrospect, the decision likely saved lives and helped curb the spread of COVID-19, but SXSW's corporate fallout was fast and brutal. Within days, SXSW laid off 30 percent of its Austin-based workforce, and many were left wondering if the festival would ever return.

Finally, a bright spot of news in a dark time: SXSW is back. Yes, it will look different than years past, but beginning Tuesday, November 10, registration is open for SXSW Online, taking place March 16-20, 2021.

"This year has been one like none of us have faced. At SXSW, the impact has been profound and has involved substantial changes in how we work, so it means a lot for us to have the chance to plan a 2021 digital event where we can share experiences and exchange ideas at this crucial time," says SXSW cofounder and CEO Roland Swenson in a release.

Since its founding in 1987, SXSW has grown from a little Texas music festival to an internationally renowned festival that attracts the brightest minds in technology, film, music, and comedy. The 2021 digital version will capture much of that spirit, with signature keynote addresses, conference sessions, music showcases, comedy sets, film screenings, and other "unexpected discoveries."

Badges are on sale beginning today, and are priced at $149 for a limited time. By March 2021, that rate will go up to $399. Student and group discounts are also available. Digital passes grant access to the following:

  • SXSW Keynotes and Featured Speakers
  • Mentor sessions and workshops
  • SXSW Film Festival screenings, events, and exclusive premieres
  • SXSW Music Festival showcases and events
  • SXSW Comedy Festival content
  • Online exhibitions
  • Networking opportunities

A lineup isn't yet available — SXSW usually announces details in the two months leading up to the festival — but community voting on SXSW session proposals is currently underway through November 20. Peruse the more than 1,500 panels here, and vote for the ones you want to attend next year.

"It’s a new day for America and for the world," Swenson adds. "We have the opportunity to face challenges that affect us all, and we’re honored to bring you the conversations that will renew your hope in tomorrow."

Photo by Charlie L Harper III

Amazon Prime sets premiere date to stream SXSW 2020 films for free

Home Theater

SXSW is largely a place of discovery, but for technology companies and creatives, it provides a massive platform to get in front of new audiences. In the case of filmmakers, it's an opportunity to debut their work and — fingers crossed — score distribution deals. After the 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, these creators and creatives were left without an avenue to showcase their work and audiences without the opportunity to see it.

In early April, Amazon Prime provided one of the only pieces of good news in the wake of this year's cancellation: it will screen the festival's films — for free.

Prime Video presents the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection launches on Monday, April 27, through Wednesday, May 6, with 39 films ranging from narrative and documentary features to shorts and episodic shows. All titles will be available for free for both Prime members and non-members.

Each film would have been screened during SXSW Film, the movie portion of the 10-day mega-festival. In an earlier release, SXSW said every filmmaker would be invited to take part in the Prime festival, but it was not required. An earlier release noted that filmmakers would receive an undisclosed screening fee to participate. On April 9, the Hollywood Reporter said it had reviewed the fee documents given to filmmakers, but it was unclear what the compensation would be.

Writes THR, "The compensation would be delivered after the projects complete the 10-day run on the service. But it is was unclear to filmmakers what type of compensation that 'screening fee' would be, which was troubling for filmmakers that were trying to accurately weigh the possible financial risk."

"We understand every film has its own strategy and we know this opportunity may not make sense for every filmmaker. However, for those who want to share their stories right now and with as many people as possible, we’re excited to provide them this platform,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, in an April 21 release.

Along with the titles, nonprofit Free the Work is curating Q&As and online panels to accompany the collection, bringing a bit of that South By spirit to the online streaming platform.

"Free the Work's mission is to find new pathways to the discovery of underrepresented creators and we're excited to help celebrate, spotlight, and provide a platform for the voices of these talented filmmakers," said founder and filmmaker Alma Har’e of the organization's part in the collection.

To take part, users must create a free Amazon account and can stream the films through a browser or download the Prime app to watch on personal devices and smart TVs. See a full list of participating titles here, and start planning your very own SXSW Film festival.

Amazon Prime to stream SXSW 2020 films for free for first time ever

Flicker of Hope

And now, for some good news. Among the many victims of SXSW's last-minute cancellation was the loss of its 10-day film festival, a cinema celebration ranging from Hollywood blockbusters to sleeper indies to Academy Award-winning documentaries. (Seriously, if you still haven't seen For Sama, put it on your confinement must-watch list.)

SXSW Film is part of a small but important network of festivals that help artists find distributors and get onto screens. Its loss means the end of a years-long dream for some filmmakers and deprives audiences of their work.

But now, thanks to a new partnership between SXSW and Amazon Prime, these films will be screened for audiences across the country for the first time ever.

The Austin-based festival and the tech giant have announced the creation of a one-time online film festival where filmmakers slated to debut their work at SXSW 2020 can do so on Amazon's streaming platform. Running the length of SXSW itself, the fest will stream for 10 days in the U.S. and is available for free, with or without an Amazon Prime membership.

“We’re honored to be able to provide a space for the SXSW filmmakers to share their hard work and passion with audiences for the first time," said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, in a release.

Though the dates are to be determined, the release says it could begin by late April. The exact lineup is also still unknown, but filmmakers slated to appear at SXSW have been given details on how to take part, and they will receive a screening fee for the 10 days of the festival.

“I’m thrilled that these two great champions of indie film ... are teaming up to resurrect this year’s canceled film festival,” said Jay Duplass, independent filmmaker and SXSW alum, in a release. “These are unprecedented times, and it’s going to take unprecedented solutions to carry on and celebrate these great films and the people who worked so hard to make them.”

On March 24, SXSW Film announced the 2020 Jury and Special Award winners of what would have been the 27th festival.

Courtesy/Phillip Wolf/Facebook

San Antonio takes SXSW by storm with local films, hot bands, political stars, and the Spurs


SXSW, Austin’s annual gathering of tech-minded creatives, filmmakers, and musicians, officially kicks off March 8 and lasts through March 17. Though the nine-day fest attracts talent and attendees from around the world, dozens of current and native San Antonians are taking the SXSW spotlight this year.

Local luminaries, many of whom work in technology, film, music, and other industries, are already gearing up for panel discussions, one-on-one interviews, mentoring sessions, workshops, performances, networking, parties, and much more. Before you head to Austin for the fest, take a look at the official SXSW participants representing the Alamo City.


San Antonio Spurs— March 8-10
The San Antonio Spurs will host an interactive lounge March 8-10 on the fourth floor of JW Marriott. There, visitors can meet team representatives, show off their basketball skills, snag giveaways, enjoy photo opportunities, and more.

R.C. Buford —March 9
Speaking of the Spurs, general manager R.C. Buford, one of the architects of the Spurs’ two decades of success, will be on a panel about the future of basketball at 5 pm at JW Marriott.

Julián Castro — March 10
Former Mayor and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro is among a handful of presidential candidates and other notable politicos taking part in Conversations About America’s Future at 11 am. This new SXSW series of one-on-one interviews will unfold at ACL Live at the Moody Theater.

Will Hurd March 10
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) will be in a panel at 6 pm at Hilton Austin discussing politics in the technology sector. Hurd will appear in two other tech-related panels later the same day at Antone’s Capital One House and The Palm Door on Sixth.

Henry Cisneros— March 11
Former Mayor Henry Cisneros will be on a panel about positive longevity in the city at 3:30 pm at Hilton Austin. The former Housing and Urban Development secretary will add insight about how growing cities can address the challenges of an aging population and how to use older adults’ socioeconomic power to improve city services.

Jade Floyd— March 12
Jade Floyd, VP of communications at the Case Foundation, will be on a panel about how startups can tell their story at 3:30 pm at Hilton Austin. The University of Texas at San Antonio graduate will discuss what makes for an effective pitch on behalf of one's company and how to build positive working relationships with the media. After the panel, attendees will get to pitch their personal business story with the panelists in real time.

Jose MenendezMarch 16
State Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) will sit on a panel to discuss the politics of marijuana in Texas at 12:30 pm at Hilton Austin. The panel will delve into the potential impact of the state possibly decriminalizing marijuana or expanding its medicinal use.

San Antonio will have additional representation from Antonio Petrov, UTSA professor and founder of the Urban Future Lab. He plans to network with fellow festival attendees, and promote work that he and his students have been doing in various San Antonio neighborhoods and discuss how those communities can be revitalized or transformed through creative solutions to urban challenges, such as infrastructure, housing and transportation.

Also, the local tech sector advocacy group Tech Bloc will again be accepting resumes from job-seekers at the SXSW trade show March 10-13 at the Austin Convention Center.


Ernie & Joe
Officers from the San Antonio Police Department’s mental health unit will be in the spotlight thanks to new documentary film Ernie & Joe, which will be screened several times during the SXSW film festival. The film follows two of the officers and their efforts to divert at-risk individuals from jail and toward mental health treatment.

Saint Mary’s Hall alumnae Miranda Potter and Jade Jess co-directed short film BlueInk, which will be screened March 9 at The Long Center and March 16 at Alamo Drafthouse Lamar. The film uses the voice of a human trafficking victim, set to animation, to tell her harrowing story. BlueInk has received awards and honors, including a first-place prize in the 2017-2018 San Antonio Youth Film Contest.


Lisa Morales— March 14
Lisa Morales, one half of Sisters Morales, returns to SXSW to play The Continental Club at 10 pm. Lisa previously played the festival with sister Roberta on a regular basis; a 2017 show was her first solo concert at SXSW.

Phillip Wolf— March 14
Filipino-American hip-hop/soul artist Phillip Wolf performs at 7 pm at Sheraton Austin's backYARD Bar. Wolf’s debut 2018 album, Undervalued Attention, produced by New York's Kid Ocean, is available on Spotify, iTunes, and other platforms. He took part in unofficial SXSW shows last year.

Garrett T. Capps— March 14
Alt-country mastermind Garrett T. Capps returns to SXSW with a 9 pm show at 18th Over Austin. Capps is currently working on a follow up to his most recent cosmic release, In The Shadows (Again).

Henry Brun & The Latin Playerz— March 14
Award-winning percussionist Henry Brun & The Latin Playerz perform at Elephant Room at 1 am. One of the most prolific musicians in the region, Brun and his Latin jazz orchestra have been making music together for nearly 30 years.

Christelle Bofale— March 15
Singer Christelle Bofale, a San Antonio native, will offer some alternative soul at The Palm Door at 7:45 pm as part of the Father/Daughter Records showcase.

Creepside — March 15
The Main II will play host to DJ/producer Creepside, interdisciplinary artist Ledef, and DJ/producer Der Kindestod for the evening. Creepside’s sound covers everything from contemporary EDM to early '90s U.K. garage. Der Kindestod, who embraces experimental electronic, recently released his debut EP, God as Daddy the Deranged. Ledef is a founding member of the House of Kenzo, which previously performed at SXSW.

Memories in Broken Glass March 16
Memories in Broken Glass offers heavy metal sounds beginning at 9:45 pm. The band takes over Dirty Dog on Austin's "Dirty" Sixth Street.

Hip-hop artist Phillip Wolf will be part of SXSW Music.

Hip-hop artist Phillip Wolf will be part of the SXSW Music Festival
Courtesy/Phillip Wolf/Facebook
Hip-hop artist Phillip Wolf will be part of SXSW Music.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

San Antonio tops U.S. as 2nd most active real estate market within the last decade

red-hot san antone

A new report has discovered Texas cities hold the top five most active real estate markets in the country, with San Antonio landing in No. 2. The study by storage marketplace StorageCafe reflects the city's resiliency over the last decade after a recent reported plummet in San Antonio's quality of life.

San Antonio had the second highest number of single-family home permits between 2013 and 2022, totaling about 34,000 units. At the same time, the city also permitted over 38,500 new multi-family/apartment units. The massive influx of housing ultimately adds up to an impressive national surge.

On the industrial end, San Antonio also took the No. 2 spot in the country for the most square feet of new industrial space construction. Nearly 23 million square feet was erected in the last decade, and six million constructed for new office space. This further solidifies San Antonio's standing as a top destination for business.

According to the study, the city mainly benefits with its "innovative economy that revolves around healthcare, tech and tourism, but also rooted in manufacturing and international trade."

Outshining Alamo City in the list of real estate growth is Houston(No. 1), with 55,600 single-family homes permitted between 2013 and 2022, and nearly 90,000 multi-family units. Surprisingly, Austin only made it into No. 3, with vastly greater multi-family permits issued in comparison to single-family units: 98,764 versus 37,029.

The real estate markets in Fort Worth and Dallas respectively round out the top five.

The cities that complete the top 10 include:

  • No. 6 – Phoenix, Arizona
  • No. 7 – Jacksonville, Florida
  • No. 8 – Las Vegas, Nevada
  • No. 9 – Denver, Colorado
  • No. 10 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The full report can be found on storagecafe.com.

San Antonians can downward dog with furry friends at puppy yoga class benefitting local pets in need

Puppy Yoga

Limited spots are available for what's shaping up to be the cutest event of the summer in San Antonio. We're talking of course, about puppy yoga. Held at the House of Healing Studio on Sunday, June 25, the cute and relaxing class will feature adoptable pups from God's Dogs Rescue looking for a forever home.

You can purchase tickets to the cutest class of all time here. A portion of the proceeds from each ticket sold will go towards the Puppy Food Bank. The Puppy Food Bank is a virtual food bank whose mission is to provide vital supplies for pups in needs at shelters in San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and Corpus Christi.

Another nice detail about the Puppy Food Bank is the fact that they're dedicated to only working with no-kill shelters across Texas. Did we mention that actor and National Dog Show host John O'Hurley is a Puppy Food Bank ambassador?

There are only 20 spots available for the Puppy Yoga class at the House of Healing, so if you want to attend make sure not to procrastinate and book your spot ASAP! Each ticket is only $35 dollars and includes the chance to do your best downward facing dog with actual cute dogs just wanting love and attention (and plenty of head pats and belly rubs.)

If you aren't able to take a pup home with you after the Puppy Yoga class ends but you still want to help, don't fret. God's Dogs Rescue will be accepting donations at the class in the form of much needed items for their adoptable dogs. Right now, God's Dogs is looking for canned Pedigree puppy food, puppy toys, and soft blankets for the pups to get their well-deserved rest after Puppy Yoga.

The Puppy Yoga class itself begins at 2 pm. God's Dogs will be onsite at the House of Healing from 2-5 pm for anyone who is interested in adopting one of the pups (c'mon, you know you want to).

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled out on the God's Dogs and Puppy Food Bank Instagram pages for future adoption events too if you can't make Puppy Yoga! (But seriously — why miss out on puppy yoga?)

Plan a summer play-cation in Frisco for golf, pools, music, and more

The City That Plays

Looking to take a play-cation this summer? Obviously Frisco, The City That Plays, is the perfect fit. It offers so many activities to fit every interest, from sporting events and unique golf activities to kid-friendly attractions and pools.

Summer sports
Watch a Frisco RoughRiders baseball game like never before from the in-stadium lazy river, or tour The Star, the Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters, to take in some NFL history and see where the pros call home.

While you are visiting The Star, you’ll find shopping and dining, with everything from sushi at Sushi Marquee to sweets at Cow Tipping Creamery.

Pro tip: if you love America’s team, plan your trip in August to get a pre-season glimpse of the Dallas Cowboys at training camp, open to the public at Ford Center.

PGA Frisco awaits with its two championship courses, a short course and putting green that’s lit at night, an entertainment district full of shops and dining options for the whole family, and the newly opened Omni PGA Frisco Resort, where it’s easy to cool off in one of the four pools.

Frisco offers golfers a range of play options, including The Fazio Course at The Westin Stonebriar Golf Resort & Spa, Frisco Lakes Golf Club, Plantation Golf Club, The Trails of Frisco, and the unique indoor option of the Swing Suite Lounge by Topgolf.

Cool tunes
Now that Frisco is officially designated a Music Friendly Texas Community, there’s plenty of live music to enjoy over the summer.

Friday nights in June are for listening to live music at Frisco Square during the free outdoor Summer Concert Series on the lawn in front of City Hall.

Visitors can get into the groove anytime at one of Frisco’s many venues that host live music and entertainment throughout the summer.

Happy 4th
Frisco celebrates the Fourth of July big, too. Mark your calendar for two major events with food, music, games, and fireworks: Frisco Freedom Fest and The Independence Day Celebration at Omni PGA Frisco Resort.

Kiddo time
Escape the Texas heat with a visit to Frisco’s unbelievable new library. The bright, open design has spaces to inspire, create, innovate, and collaborate, plus you can say hi to Rexy, the 20-foot-tall T-Rex dinosaur skeleton.

Check out the high-tech Makerspace and active learning spaces like Tiny Town, for kids up to age 5, and Kid’s Club, for kinder through 5th graders.

Take a dip
Cool down poolside in Frisco. With rooftop views, cabanas, adults-only, splash pools, and the Frisco Water Park, families, couples, and friends can all find the right place to cool down during your visit.

Whatever your summer style is, rest your head at one of Frisco’s 26 hotels while experiencing a weekend play-cation with things to do for visitors of all ages.

Soak up all Frisco has to offer this summer — visit the website for more vacation ideas.

Lazy River at Riders Field in Frisco

Photo courtesy of Visit Frisco

See a baseball game from the water at Riders Field.