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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

SA in SXSW

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.

Interactive

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.

Film

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.

BlueInk
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.

Music

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.

Courtesy/Phillip Wolf/Facebook
Hip-hop artist Phillip Wolf will be part of SXSW Music.
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Where to see the once-in-recorded-history green comet approaching San Antonio

Seeing green

The world is buzzing with news of an approaching astronomical body, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), more often referred to in the news and social media as "the green comet." Its most recent appearance was 50,000 years ago — compared to the about 200,000 years since modern humans emerged.

"While the pictures of it have been impressive, its visual appearance differs greatly," explains Joe Wheelock, public program specialist at the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas at Austin. "Currently you might glimpse it with the unaided eye as a fuzzy patch of light[,] but you would need to be away from city lights. Binoculars or a telescope would improve the view, and you might even glimpse a faint tail."

As tempting as it is — and as much fodder as its made on social media — this experience will not be easy for most Texans to photograph and share. "The pictures that have been posted on various websites were taken by experienced astrophotographers and in most cases cameras designed for astrophotography," Wheelock warns.

Some logistics to note when planning a viewing:

  • The comet will be closest to Earth (thus, likely the most visible) on February 1.
  • Wheelan says placement will also be good in late January and early February, and it will be best viewed after midnight. Since the new moon was on January 21, every day the moon will compete with it a little more.
  • The McDonald Observatory posts daily stargazing tips, so viewers will have a few chances at seeing something special, even if the comment doesn't work out.
  • Getting out of San Antn is the best bet against light pollution.

Those who are willing to make a trip out of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity should consider their best chances at out running the city lights. The closest popular option to San Antonio proper is McAllister Park, which sometimes hosts stargazing events. For a more structured approach, the Curtis Vaughan Jr. Observatory at the University of Texas at San Antonio hosts first Friday stargazing nights after sunset. The McDonald Observatory, although it is an entity of the University of Texas at Austin, is in Fort Davis, about 400 miles from San Antonio.

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) maintains records of some of the world's least light-polluted skies and works to protect them, ensuring that these places stay available for reliable stargazing retreats. There are four IDA-certified Dark Sky Parks in Texas: Enchanted Rock (90 miles from San Antonio), South Llano River (120 miles), Copper Breaks (370 miles), and Big Bend Ranch (490 miles).

In addition to the certified parks, there is a smaller group of Dark Sky Sanctuaries, which are especially dark and carefully protected. There are two in Texas: Devil's River State Natural Area (170 miles) and Black Gap Wildlife Management Area (390 miles).

For more in-depth reading on the comet's trajectory and context, Wheelan suggests an article in Sky & TelescopeSky & Telescope.

San Antonio suburb among the richest places in Texas for 2023, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio suburb cashes in among the richest places in Texas for 2023. Alamo Heights has been renamed the third richest place in Texas for 2023 in a recent study.

2. San Antonio home sales slowed in December 2022, report finds. San Antonio sold 36,477 homes all year, a 10 percent decrease from 2021.

3. Here are the top 5 things to do in San Antonio this weekend. Nina Simone, Pink Floyd, the Beatles and more music-centered events made our roundup of the best things to do in Alamo City this weekend.

4. San Antonio Home & Garden Show returns with HGTV star. Ati Williams will headline the San Antonio Spring Home & Garden Show, which takes place February 24-26.

5. H-E-B opens first location in growing San Antonio suburb. The state-of-the-art facility offers 110,000 square feet of floor space, providing everything from cat food to charcuterie.


Popular Pearl brunch spot remixes with new weekend DJ nights

OONCE OONCE OONCE

Though Full Goods Diner has barely been open for half a year, it has already become a San Antonio staple for working weekday lunches and lingering Sunday Fundays. Now the Pearl eatery is looking to be a hot spot after dark.

Via release, the popular local haunt just announced a new limited-time music series, Full Goods at Night. Starting on February 2, Full Goods Diner will open select evenings throughout the month.

The Full Goods at Night series will feature popular local San Antonio DJs, including El West Side Sound, Hector Gallego, DJ Plata, Steven Lee Moya, and Cami Gee. Guests can enjoy live sets while indulging in a specially curated food and drink offerings.

The menu will include some of Full Goods Diner's best—selling items, such as French toast sticks, barbacoa waffle fries, and jumbo cheesy tots. Libations like the Attaboy Negroni, Royal Bermuda Daiquiri, Pink G&T, and more will fuel the festivities.

In addition to enjoying moonlight brunch, guests can relish some prime people-watching. And, of course, the restaurant is just a hop from other nightlife destinations like Pink Hill, 3 Star Bar, and Summer Camp Bar, making it the perfect party starter.

The series runs every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from February 2-25, 6-10 pm. The complete DJ schedule is listed below.

February 2 — El West Side Sound·
February 3 — Hector Gallego
February 4— DJ Plata
February 9 — El West Side Sound
February 10 — Steven Lee Moya
February 11 — Cami Gee
February 16 — El West Side Sound
February 17 — Steven Lee Moya
February 18 — Hector Gallego
February 23 — El West Side Sound
February 24— Steven Lee Moya
February 25 — DJ Plata